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Lesson Transcript

Welcome to Introduction to Chinese.
My name is Alisha and I'm joined by...
Hi everyone! I'm Rui
In this lesson, you'll learn the basics of Chinese writing.
The Chinese Characters
Unlike English, which is an alphabetic language, Chinese is written with characters. These represent both sound and meaning.
Each 汉字 (hànzì) has one syllable. One or more syllables make up a word. So in Chinese, a word can be made up of one or more 汉字 (hànzì). For example, the word 汉字 (hànzì) is made of two syllables. The first one 汉 (hàn) means "Chinese," or "the Han people," which is the majority ethnic group in China. The second syllable 字 (zì) means "word." So 汉 (hàn) and 字 (zì) together means "Chinese characters."
Although there are more than 50,000 characters in Chinese, you only need to know 2-3 thousand to be considered literate.
Still, memorizing 3000 Chinese characters sounds like a huge challenge. But it's actually easier than you may think! All Chinese characters are made up of smaller components that are used over and over again in other characters. This means that by learning just one component, you can effectively learn multiple characters at the same time. Let's look at this aspect in more detail.
Basic Chinese Radicals
Most of the Chinese characters are pictophonetic. They consist of a radical and a phonetic element. These are the technical terms for the components we just talked about. The radical often suggests the meaning of a character. The phonetic part indicates the original pronunciation, which may or may not be the modern pronunciation.
For example, let's look at the character 饭 (fàn), "rice” or “meal."
Its radical is 饣, which indicates that this word is related to food or eating. The second part 反 is a phonetic element. It suggests its pronunciation is close to the pronunciation of the character 反 (fǎn), meaning "opposite".
To be able to recognize and write Chinese characters, you should know the basic radicals. Now we'll give you a few of the most commonly used radicals.
人 (rén),or its variation 亻, means "man or person." It's present in words like 你 (nǐ), "you." 他 (tā), "he." 众 (zhòng), "the masses."
女 (nǚ), meaning "woman." It's in words like 妈 (mā), "mom." 姐 (jiě), “older sister." 姑娘 (gūniang), "girl."
心 (xīn),or it's variation 忄, means "heart." 想 (xiǎng), "to think." 忆 (yì) "to recall."
手 (shǒu),or its variation 扌, means "hand." It usually appears when the word describes an action using hands, such as 打 (dǎ), "to hit." 拉 (lā), "to pull." 推 (tuī), "to push." 拿 (ná), "to grab."
口 (kǒu),means "mouth." Characters with this radical often involve using your mouth. Such as 吃 (chī,) "to eat." 唱 (chàng), "to sing." 吞 (tūn), "to swallow."
目 (mù) means "eye." 看 (kàn), "to look or see." 睡 (shuì), "to sleep."
言 (yán),or its variation 讠, means "speech." 说 (shuō), "to speak” or “to say." 请 (qǐng), "please, or to invite." 谢 (xiè), "to thank."
水 (shuǐ), or its variation 氵, means "water." 海 (hǎi), "ocean." 河 (hé), "river." 洗 (xǐ), "to wash."
火 (huǒ), or its variation 灬 means "fire." For example, 烧 (shāo), "to burn." 灯 (dēng), "light." 热 (rè), "hot."
衣 (yī), or its variation 衤, means "clothing." 衬衫 (chènshān), "shirt." 袋子 (dàizi), "bag."
Most radicals are at the left or bottom of a character. By identifying radicals, it should be much easier to decode the meaning of new characters. For the phonetic elements, it takes time and effort to memorize their pronunciations. The more you study them, the easier it will be.
Stroke order
When writing in Chinese, it's important to know the order of strokes. Knowing the number of strokes is also important when you look up a word in a radical-based dictionary. Some characters can have many strokes, and they can get very complex. If they're not written in the correct order, some characters may even be unreadable. So learning the proper stroke order is quite important.
Remember, write from left to right.
川 (chuān), “river." 人 (rén), "person."
From top to bottom.
三 (sān), "three."
Horizontal then vertical.
十 (shí), "ten." 土 (tǔ), "soil."
Outside then inside.
月 (yuè), "moon." 用 (yòng), "to use."
Inside then close
回 (huí), "to return." 田 (tián), "farmland."
The middle then the sides.
小 (xiǎo), "small." 水 (shuǐ), "water."
OK. Let's wrap up this lesson by recapping what we've learned.
In this lesson, we introduced you to the basics of Chinese characters.
You also learned that Chinese characters are comprised of radicals.
Finally, you learned some of the most common stroke patterns when writing 汉字 (hànzì).
In the next lesson, you'll be entering Chinese boot camp, where you'll learn useful beginner phrases to get you speaking Chinese right away!
We'll see you in the next lesson! Bye.