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Learn to read Chinese … with ease! | ShaoLan

Learn to read Chinese … with ease! | ShaoLan


Translator: Joseph Geni
Reviewer: Morton Bast Growing up in Taiwan as the daughter of a calligrapher, one of my most treasured memories was my mother showing me the beauty, the shape and the form of Chinese characters. Ever since then, I was fascinated by this incredible language. But to an outsider, it seems to be as impenetrable as the Great Wall of China. Over the past few years, I’ve been wondering if I can break down this wall, so anyone who wants to understand and appreciate the beauty of this sophisticated language could do so. I started thinking about how a new, fast method of learning Chinese might be useful. Since the age of five, I started to learn how to draw every single stroke for each character in the correct sequence. I learned new characters every day during the course of the next 15 years. Since we only have five minutes, it’s better that we have a fast and simpler way. A Chinese scholar would understand 20,000 characters. You only need 1,000 to understand the basic literacy. The top 200 will allow you to comprehend 40 percent of basic literature — enough to read road signs, restaurant menus, to understand the basic idea of the web pages or the newspapers. Today I’m going to start with eight to show you how the method works. You are ready? Open your mouth as wide as possible until it’s square. You get a mouth. This is a person going for a walk. Person. If the shape of the fire is a person with two arms on both sides, as if she was yelling frantically, “Help! I’m on fire!” — This symbol actually is originally from the shape of the flame, but I like to think that way. Whichever works for you. This is a tree. Tree. This is a mountain. The sun. The moon. The symbol of the door looks like a pair of saloon doors in the wild west. I call these eight characters radicals. They are the building blocks for you to create lots more characters. A person. If someone walks behind, that is “to follow.” As the old saying goes, two is company, three is a crowd. If a person stretched their arms wide, this person is saying, “It was this big.” The person inside the mouth, the person is trapped. He’s a prisoner, just like Jonah inside the whale. One tree is a tree. Two trees together, we have the woods. Three trees together, we create the forest. Put a plank underneath the tree, we have the foundation. Put a mouth on the top of the tree, that’s “idiot.” (Laughter) Easy to remember, since a talking tree is pretty idiotic. Remember fire? Two fires together, I get really hot. Three fires together, that’s a lot of flames. Set the fire underneath the two trees, it’s burning. For us, the sun is the source of prosperity. Two suns together, prosperous. Three together, that’s sparkles. Put the sun and the moon shining together, it’s brightness. It also means tomorrow, after a day and a night. The sun is coming up above the horizon. Sunrise. A door. Put a plank inside the door, it’s a door bolt. Put a mouth inside the door, asking questions. Knock knock. Is anyone home? This person is sneaking out of a door, escaping, evading. On the left, we have a woman. Two women together, they have an argument. (Laughter) Three women together, be careful, it’s adultery. So we have gone through almost 30 characters. By using this method, the first eight radicals will allow you to build 32. The next group of eight characters will build an extra 32. So with very little effort, you will be able to learn a couple hundred characters, which is the same as a Chinese eight-year-old. So after we know the characters, we start building phrases. For example, the mountain and the fire together, we have fire mountain. It’s a volcano. We know Japan is the land of the rising sun. This is a sun placed with the origin, because Japan lies to the east of China. So a sun, origin together, we build Japan. A person behind Japan, what do we get? A Japanese person. The character on the left is two mountains stacked on top of each other. In ancient China, that means in exile, because Chinese emperors, they put their political enemies in exile beyond mountains. Nowadays, exile has turned into getting out. A mouth which tells you where to get out is an exit. This is a slide to remind me that I should stop talking and get off of the stage. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Learn to read Chinese … with ease! | ShaoLan

  1. the way she combines visualization and imagination only works for a small set of Chinese characters, which are mostly those nouns and some verbs combined by simple nouns. But most of Chinese characters are just much more complicated, that even a native Chinese kid would feel frustrated while learning them.

  2. This was such a nice video, I really like the visual styls of Chinese it isn't as difficult as I thought! I appreciate her showing it this way👍

  3. Well, her explanations are fun though not accurate. Pity that she omitted why the so-called "8 building blocks" were in their shapes, which would help many Westerners to understand Chinese characters better.

  4. This is only about reading, pronouncing them is a whole other novel. There's 4 ways to say each pronunciation like mā má mǎ mà and extra if you put some words next to each other

  5. Here's lesson… If you're going to marry multiple girls, you better have more than 2 or you get them arguing all the time… but 3? DAMN.

  6. If you REALLY wanna use Chinese characters well enough, this method is not good for you. Though it’s a good way for the ppl who’s interested in Chinese character for the first time.

  7. My high school physics teacher was beautiful, so I was great in physics. This girl is beautiful and I now wonder if I could learn Chinese.

  8. An amazing teaching process with a fabulous instructor !!! I love this process of learning… Chinese in it's most simplified form…

  9. Really Really Interesting!
    Im so shook of the Japan one cause I always wondered what that Kanji always meant.
    Now I know!

  10. As I finished a call with a friend in which we discussed that learning #Chinese #Mandarin was perhaps the best investment we could make, got this in my feed.
    Don't be fooled guys, as long as you are doing legal things, just take advantage of what Google can do for you, don't block them!

  11. ShaoLan, the simplicity of your learning method is absolutely genius. We humans have always experienced and expressed our world primarily through our sense of sight and internal vision. Many written languages were developed by using our creativity and interpretations to integrate shapes and patterns found in nature and in our local environments — it makes sense that the best way to learn these written languages would involve the same visual observations and creativity.

  12. So what you are saying is there is no logic in Chinese… just all memorization. Big is the same as tree with a line through it! Makes absolutely no sense. A person with little side lines is fire… again no sense. Maybe the problem with the reason why Chinese is so hard is because there is no logic in it??

  13. Not even sure why I'm watching this video. Figure I should learn to speak it before reading it. But I have no interest in doing so. So now I'm hear exerting my human trait to find a problem and fix it. On that note, I shall take those words and apply them to myself. See that! Baby steps!

  14. Students of japanese use a very similar technique to remember kanji called the Heisig method….the same idea she has of creating stories to help you remember the meaning of the character

  15. I love this presentation. ShaoLan seems to be a very lovely and sharing person.
    I think this is a great introduction… but to say a few things for people wishing to become advanced in the characters,..
    I do agree that learning the Chinese characters in terms of similarity makes things much easier than, for example, learning in order of common usage. However I've found over the course of learning 2000+ of these characters that these pictographic combinations can only take you so far. Soon you will get characters like say 言 and justice 義 put together to make deliberation 議 (at least this is in Japanese, pardon me if the traditional characters are different). In this situation not only is it difficult to make a logical association between the two components and the compound character, but also the meanings are rather abstract and/or ambiguous, which can make the process even trickier.
    For those interested in learning the characters, I think it's important to find a method that can be applied to the learning of any character. I find that using imagination (a very strong mental quality in many westerners) can allow you to make stories out of the elements within a character, that enable memorisation of a compound even if made from abstract or entirely unrelated components. The weirder the story, and the more vividly it can be imagined and played with in the mind, the better it sticks. This can stimulate the deeper layers of imaginative memory, and also can be much more fun than repetition. When things are fun, they work better for sure

  16. Don't waste your time with learning to read and write Chinese characters. Rather focus on speaking the language, and then on the way you will learn also some characters. That brings you further.

  17. I love the way she teach ..it became easier to memorize it…may someone suggest is there any online book or app or anything for beginner like me to memorize Chinese characters…

  18. She refers to traditional script, not the simplified script of mainland China. This is why I don't like the simplified characters. You cannot get the context for many characters anymore as words are simplified and even replaced by homonyms. I hope China can revert back to the traditional script but it's not likely. China becomes like Japan and Korea where only scholars would need to know the traditional script to have a connection to history. It's only Taiwan that retains the traditional script.

  19. Actually this is just a super simplified explanation of chinese characters based ONLY on a specific category of writing characters: the compound ideograms…but the writing rules of chinese characters are much more complicated …and of course don't forget that many of these characters are not words ,but just syllables with a specific meaning …besides some of them are archaic pictograms like 口 and cannot be used in modern chinese writing system as a complete word itself…

  20. She doesn't seem to know that 'plank under a tree' is meant to be 'roots' as in 'origin'. Japan is not translated as foundation of the sun, but origin of the sun.

  21. Seriously? Why would I want to learn PICTOGRAMS?! It's a barbaric, primitive, superstition-laden language. One that anybody with a grain of sense avoids like the Plague.

  22. It’s good to see how many Kanjis I know already, although different pronunciation as I learned Japanese, same meaning for the most part.

  23. I'm currently learning Mandarin and from my experience the best way to learn is repetition writing and speaking constantly.

  24. So a person needs to learn almost 3000 characters to do the same thing that the Roman alphabet achieves in only 26. Sorry, but that tells me the Chinese aren’t so bright after all.

  25. In 2000 I began studding Russian with a Russian professor who was born in 1916. One of my fondest memories of that period of my life was laughing with her about the impossibility of studying Chinese. We were laughing trying to figure out how ever could a dictionary exist. At that time the Russian/English dictionary was my closest companion.

  26. Sorry if I sound like a idiot tree.

    But is this mandarin or Canto? Or are they the same thing lol.

    Again sorry sorry for stupid question.

  27. It's fascinating to realize that this is exactly how I have been trying to make sense of and memorize Chinese characters ! Ditto ! The same visualizations suggested in this video ! Glad my mind works the same way shown by the speaker.

  28. Doesn’t seem like a very efficient language to me. Imagine we had a letter for every single word we have.

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