Explaining how easy Chinese is to others pt.1

Written Chinese

The written Chinese language is very intimidating and/or confusing to most who do not know how it actually works. Here is a very brief explanation of how Chinese characters are a very efficient and easy system, arguably easier than languages that use the Roman alphabet.

Over 97% of all Chinese characters have only 2 parts, a meaning part and a pronunciation. When looking at a character that you don’t know, you can use these parts to know a lot more about it.


Imaginary example

Let’s pretend that the words “maple”, “mother”, “river”, “hate”, “silver”, “shout”, “grab”, and “leg” are all pronounced “foo” in an imaginary language. They are all homonyms. However, when written each one has a little note next to it giving you a hint to its meaning.

Maple = wood-foo
Mother = woman-foo
River = water-foo
Hate = emotion-foo
Silver = metal-foo
Shout = sound-foo
Grab = hand-foo
Leg = bodypart-foo

This is essentially how Chinese works. Each character has a specific sound, which is given to us by a specific group of strokes that is known to the reader. In addition, there are 214 standard meaning parts which give us hints to characters’ meanings.


Real-life example

The phonetic part 辟 (bì). I’m going to ignore the tone for now, but just know that all of characters that follow are pronounced the same way and with the same tone.

bi new

This phenomenon is much like suffixes in the English language, except that it is only used in the written language. Imagine if almost all words in the English language used a list of standard suffixes.