Chinese Fever

Today is a quiet day at work so I thought I’d try and count how many hanzi 汉字 (Chinese characters) I know. It’s around 300 and speaking to a colleague it seems I’m going to need another 1500-1700 to really be able to make sense of a newspaper. These 300 hundred have been tough to learn but the more you learn the more you get to understand the look of the other characters and they begin to become less scary somehow. The first time you begin to study Chinese it seems impossible that these squiggles and marks really mean anything at all but after a while they begin to become old friends and new words may contain elements of the new words you already knew.

The best example of this is the first few hanzi that I could memorise. The first is easy: 日. This is the sun. I could draw this baby in a few minutes but don’t be deceived, even this one has to be drawn in the correct stroke order and its harder than you may think to get it all to look nice. Anyway, this 日is the sun. Then I mastered the moon. This 月 is the moon. Like the sun but with hooks at the bottom. Going back to my original point using both of these together you get 明: Bright. The sun and the moon equals bright as in bright light or to be mentally bright (聪明) or it can be just a name. So when you know a few more then you can begin to piece together the meanings although some have no logic – you just have to know them. Right now I am in the midst of a Chinese language obsession that seemingly grows stronger by the day. I spend every spare minute pouring over dictionaries and I am now at the stage where I am reading Chinese websites trying to piece together the meanings. It’s like an illness. In the morning on the way to work I read the Chinese text book that forms the basis of my trice weekly lessons. At work I study the internet and spend a lot of time on NCKIU which is a brilliant resource. I intersperse this with some heavy flash card action (up to level 3) on Mandarin tools. At lunchtimes I have conversational practice with my work colleagues and in the evenings I try and engage taxi drivers with conversation. The best bit is at night. Once everyone is asleep I get out my electronic dictionary (词典) which is kind of like a DS for Chinese students, and try and learn my characters off by heart under the duvet. Its driving my wife mad as you can imagine but I am now ‘in the zone’ and I can’t shake it off. I was waiting for the novelty to wear off when I was in Hong Kong having my weekly lessons but, if anything, it has got stronger much to my surprise. It’s an addiction and I get a rush when I understand something on the TV or when overhear a conversation in a lift. Sad I know.

3 Responses to “Chinese Fever”

  1. Minyeong says:

    Glad the article is of use to you Meg. The same is true for many other words in Chinese that can have nunaced meanings, so it’s always better to double check that the tattoo design you found actually expresses the meaning you want.

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