Learn Chinese for Free - Lesson 51
Today's Chinese characters:
On Lesson 49 we introduced briefly the concept of radicals. Today we are going to talk about them and see again how to use our n.1 most common character 的
|Character Knowledge Meter|
Description and Examples
Dictionaries adopt a number of different criteria to classify Chinese characters.
In the body of the dictionary, characters are usually sorted out alphabetically according to their pinyin. But what if you don't know a character's pronunciation? In that case, the pinyin classification alone would be useless. That's why almost all dictionaries contain two specific (and cryptic, as they appeared to me the first time I saw them) tables with all the characters sorted according to their "radicals".
Simply said, a character's radical is a part of the character. It may be a single stroke or a complex figure. For example, the radical of the characters 她
details, and 姓
details is their left part 女
details is radical to itself as well. Or, another example, the radical of the characters 李
details and 林
details is 木
details is also radical to itself.
Therefore, how can you use those two tables?
In the first table you find the list of all radicals sorted by number of strokes. Guess which part of your character is its radical, then follow the reference to the second table page where all characters with that radical (characters with less strokes come first) are listed. Here, if lucky enough, you'll find your character and its pinyin (or the dictionary page number where the character is).
I said "guess" and "if lucky enough" because I know from experience that many times it has been difficult for me to find which part of the character was its radical.
A counsel I can give you is to get acquainted with the list of radicals and to try first the character's left or upper part.
Good practice: Half English, Half Chinese!
What if you don't know how to say in Chinese some words, but you do know the Chinese sentence structure? For example, you already well know how to structure the Chinese sentence for "the radical of 妈
Examples in "Chinglish"
The following dialogue shows how the component parts of Chinese characters are often an object of conversation.
How to say: How do you spell it?
"Smith, ess em i tee aitch!" The surname Smith is made up of five letters. To clear up all doubt on how to write it, we just read it letter by letter. Chinese surnames (actually all Chinese characters) are not made up of letters, but of strokes, figures, parts. How can we ask to and actually "spell" a Chinese character? Chinese people "spell" a character in two ways:
That is: Out of those characters whose pronunciation is hu2, which one?
That is: Out of those characters whose pronunciation is míng, which one?
Use please your dictionary's tables of radicals (you have a dictionary, don't you?) to find meaning and pinyin of tomorrow's characters: 叫
details, and 波
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Chinese Character 97 of 1000
appearance score: # 694
|-||Tree; wood, timber; coffin|
|-||Wooden; plain, simple, honest|
Chinese Character 98 of 1000
appearance score: # 148
|-||Culture; writing; language; literary composition; formal ritual; certain natural phenomena|
|-||Tattoo; paint over|
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Chinese Character 99 of 1000
appearance score: # 509
|-||Antiquity; books of ancient sages|
|-||Ancient; paleo-; archeo-|