Introduction to Chinese
Pin Yin v Chinese Script
It is worth the effort to learn to read Chinese script. Pin Yin is useful for sounding out the words, however it is very limited for reading. Many words, even in the same tone, have different meanings.
Whereas the context will help give the meaning, it is cumbersome and often inadequate.
In Chinese script a word generally has one meaning (this at times may be broad and have subtle variations, but there is generally one understood and accepted meaning).
So, the extra effort of learning to read in Chinese will be rewarded. Particularly in China when you are confronted with signposts in Chinese only.
Most important of all, the best way to learn a language, even your own native language, is to read, read, read.
People who are used to writing English have no idea, at first, how to write a Chinese word (or character - I will refer to them as ‘words’). It seems to be a never-ending series of small pictures, which, originally, it was. Over time those pictures have been standardised and have evolved into writing.
Video showing how Chinese Characters are formed from the shapes of animals
Understanding and writing Chinese isn’t as difficult as it first appears.
Chinese is similar to English in two fundamental ways.
i) An English word is made from the alphabet. A Chinese word is made from the Bi Hua strokes. There are 26 letters in the alphabet and 31 strokes in the Bi Hua. The major difference is that letters give guidance to a reader as to how a word could be pronounced. Whereas the Bi Hua strokes give no guidance as to how a word can be pronounced for that we need Pin Yin).
The alphabet and the Bi Hua are the building blocks of each language, the foundations.
ii) A word in English is then grouped into syllables, which are easily recognized and occur regularly. Similarly there are ‘syllables’ in Chinese writing. These are characters that occur regularly and are easily recognized. They are called the Pian Pang Bu Shou.
These are often called Radicals
We write Chinese words from top to bottom, then from left to right.
The top usually is “bu shou”, below is usually a simple word. The other configuration is from left to right - usually left is “pian pang” and right is a simple word. Of course, these are general rules and, like English, there are exceptions.
Learning to write Chinese words is the same as learning to write in English. At first the words are formed slowly and laboriously. We learn to print words first. Then, when we have gained facility and confidence, we progress to cursive writing, or ‘running writing’. At first you will slowly and laboriously print Chinese words. That will teach you how they are formed. You then progress to cursive writing so you can write with speed and facility.
A good teacher of Chinese, will show you how to use the bi hua and the pian pang bu shou to learn to how write with speed and facility in Chinese.
You can type Chinese in most computers now. To type in Chinese you need to type the word in PinYin, then select the right character from a selection that will appear. Remember, a word in pinyin can relate to many Chinese characters. It is not as difficult or cumbersome as it sounds. With practice it becomes second nature.
Prof Chen: Practice Standing Script Calligraphy Master Copybook: The Orchid Pavilion
Using: Basic Wolf Hair Brush; Bottled Sumi Ink plus Ground Tung Oil Ink
This Video is a good example of how to write Chinese Character simply using a pen or pencil rather than a calligraphy brush. It probably looks complicated at first, but when you learn the Bi Hua and the Pianpang BuShuo it will all make sense.
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