Guessing Chinese Words


I chatted with a Mexican friend of “italki.com” (let’s call her Maria) on MSN yesterday. Maria was very nice and taught me quite a lot of Spanish. I tried to reciprocate and offered to teach her Chinese. Maria said she did not know a single Chinese word and did not think she could learn such a difficult language. I told Maria Chinese is the easiest language in the world. She did not believe me. I challenged Maria that in two minutes she could learn at least five Chinese words (actually it could be infinitive). I scribbled on my MSN writing pad the following five words “一二三四五” and asked her to guess. In less than a second, Maria told me it was “one two three four five“. I asked Maria what language she could learn five words in last than a second. She could not answer me.

I think a lot of you could have guessed it right too if you did not already know them. It is easy to guess 一 二 三, which are self explanatory. With a little imagination anyone could guess 四 and 五. It is the beauty of Chinese pictographs (every word is a picture!) Of course, when I said Chinese is the easiest language, I exaggerated big time. However, it is certainly not a difficult language. Nowadays, if you learn Chinese, academicians would tell you to start with Pinyin. With no disrespect to Pinyin (as I am seriously learning it too), I think you have to learn the Chinese Radicals and Pictographs in conjunction with the Pinyin so as to increase your Chinese vocabularies.

Personally, I think if you were to learn Chinese solely by Pinyin,you could not go very far. Further, if you wanted to learn to write Chinese, or appreciate Chinese, you have to learn the Radicals and the Pictographs, which would help you guess the meaning and, to certain extent, the sound of a Chinese word.

Let’s not get bogged down by Pinyin, let’s learn Chinese by guessing and have fun.

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