Learning Written Chinese for foreigners


I have been learning Spanish for a couple of years. Although Spanish is difficult, at least the writing and the sound of a Spanish word are connected. It is not the case for Chinese. Pinyin has helped serve that problem to a certain extent. For foreigners, who are mostly casual learners, Pinyin is no fun at all. It is because one has to memorize the Pinyin of a great number of words, which are totally unrelated to the words those Pinyin represent. It is easy for Chinese mainlanders as they usually learn Pinyin at a very young age.

For me, I am a Chinese Hong Konger. I learned Chinese by means of the traditional Chinese characters. I have a hard time learning Pinyin and I think it is more so for foreigners. I am thinking of putting the fun back to learning Chinese for foreginers by introducing Pictographs 象形文. However with Pinyin and simplified characters dominating the Chinese language scene, we have to go with the flow.

I think “Chinese Radicals 部首” is the key to solve the problem. The bulk of the simplified characters still keep the Radicals of the traditional characters which are based on Pictographs. My idea is to help beginners to learn a number of basic Radicals such as 木,火,人,女….and put those frequently used words under the relevant Radicals under one category and with the related Pinyin next to it. This will give meaning to the Pinyin. For instance, the word 姨 (sister in law) in Pinyin is “yi”, but it can be the Pinyin for a number of words in Chinese,such as 二, 意. 以,衣 etc, which could be quite confusing. However if the word 姨 is learned as a word with a Radical 女 together with the Pinyin “yi”, this would at least give one an idea that the word is associated with “woman”, thereby differentiating it from the other “yi(s)”.

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2 Responses

  1. Hola amigo, yo tenia la idea de aprender en pinyin primero y luego los pictogramas, pero ya me confundi, eso esta bien?

    Disculpa que recien postee, pero recien tengo algo de tiempo libre =(

  2. I’ve been learning Mandarin(using pinyin) for six months in Hong Kong. I am looking for a good language school because my aim is to speak and write REAL chinese language fluently. I am very interested because I studied English and FrenchLinguistics and general phonetics in the University in France. URGENT ADVICE NEEDED please.

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