How to talk about Chinese characters in Chinese – Hacking Chinese

There are two problems when talking about chinese characters in chinese :

  1. How do you identify a written character using only spoken language?
  2. Once identified, how do you describe how that character is written, again using only spoken language?

For newfangled learners, it might not be clean why these are problems. Talking about words in English is very merely after all, you precisely need to spell out the words. Spelling “ receive ” might be crafty, but it ’ s not catchy to talk about .
chinese is unlike. The trouble is that chinese characters are built out of hundreds of building blocks and that those build blocks often have the lapp pronunciation. In other words, you can ’ thyroxine “ spell ” a chinese fictional character .
however, it is of path still potential to talk about characters without writing them down. This is in fact common, particularly when it comes to names, which often contain unusual characters without much context.

Identifying which character you mean

When you want person to think of a specific character, such as one of the characters in your name, you need to give them clues. If your name is in truth park, you might not have to do this, but most people still need to be able to describe the characters in their names to enable early people to write them down. You will besides come across situations when you know how something is pronounced, but you want to ask which character is used to write it .
What clues you offer is wholly up to you ; whatever gets the message across. The most common way of doing it is to include the character in a common news. While there are many, many characters that are pronounced the same way, there are many fewer two-character words that are pronounced the lapp manner, normally only matchless that is frequently used. By referring to that bible, you remove any gamble of ambiguity and the hearer knows which character you ’ re talking about .
here is the general formula, where ten is the character you want to talk about and Y is just another fictional character that forms a common discussion with x :

  • XY 的 X (or YX 的 X)

For example, here ’ randomness one room of helping people identify my taiwanese family name :

  • 凌晨 的 凌

therefore, I ’ molarity saying that it ’ s the líng in língchén. This helps people identify the right character and besides avoids confusion with another surname, 林, which is much more common and is pronounced in a like manner ( lín ) .
I said above that there are no fixed clues, but that ’ s not constantly the case. For example, 林 is a identical common surname and the character is frequently called 双木林 ( the lín that has two 木 in it ). Characters that actually have names like this aren ’ thyroxine very common, though, and largely limited to names .
here ’ s another example ; see if you can guess what common family name it refers to : mù zǐ lǐ .

Describing how a certain character is written

The above methods are very coarse among native speakers when identifying characters. For them, the job is merely to figure out which character it is, not how that character is written ( they already know that ) .
For moment language learners, it ’ randomness virtual to be able to discuss how individual characters are written without writing them down. Some teachers insist on teaching students the names of all the individual strokes, frankincense being able to describe how the character is written by listening all the component strokes .
I powerfully dislike this approach. As a novice, you have a short ton of useful words to learn, so learning the names of brush strokes is a waste of time, specially since no-one will describe characters to you that direction except your teacher .
rather, the best way to describe how characters are written is to identify the components that comprise them.This doesn ’ t actually work for accomplished beginners since you need to know some components first, but I don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate think complete beginners should spend time learning how to describe written words orally anyhow .
You can identify a part either by directly naming it ( all the coarse radicals have colloquial names, for example ) or by referring to another character that shares the same component ( “ the bottomland region of that character ” ) .
here are a few examples :

  • 单人旁(亻)
  • 提手旁(扌)
  • 竖心旁(忄)
  • 三点水(氵)
  • 走之旁(⻌)

In my list of the 100 most normally use radicals, I have included the colloquial names .
naturally, if you ’ re using this method to ask about how a certain fictional character is written, the more characters you know, the more likely you are to understand the answer. It doesn ’ thyroxine help a lot when person says “ the penetrate region of X ” if X is a character you haven ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate hear of. It should besides be noted that some characters are in truth hard to describe, even among native speakers, so preceptor ’ t expect this method acting to work for all cases !

Challenge: Guess the character

What follows are descriptions of characters written in Pinyin. If person said this to you, would you be able to guess what character the person was talking about ?

  1. zuǒbiān yígè nǚ, yòubiān yígè zǐ
  2. liǎng diǎn shuǐ jiā yígè shuǐ
  3. fāngkuàngpáng lǐmiàn yígè yù

You can of course besides refer to other characters when necessity :

  1. yígè bìngqiě de bìng, jiā yígè wǎguàn de wǎ
  2. yígè huǒ jiā yígè jiǎyǐbǐngdīng de dīng
  3. yígè jīnzìpáng, yígè zhēnshí de zhēn

If you think you know the right answer, please leave a remark !

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