As the world tends to become more and more connected thanks to technology, there’s an increasing interest, especially with some looking to go into business, to learn how to speak and write basic Chinese. Chinese characters have also become very trendy as a tattoo design of choice, but as some people have found out, the symbol they had didn’t match up with what they were told it meant.
Whether your reason for learning how to write in Chinese is purely for knowledge, for pleasure, for making sure you don’t get a questionable tattoo, or for business purposes, there are many ways to go about learning the basics of writing in Chinese but there are also several important points to know first.
First, understand that there are two very different types of acceptable character types to use. There is a modern script, which tends to use easier to remember and more simplified characters, and then there is the traditional system which is more extravagant and tends to be the choice for artists and formal work.
If your biggest concern is functional literacy, then learning the modern characters should be enough for most needs. While the fact that there are over 80,000 different characters can be intimidating, knowing how to read and write only 1,000 of these covers about 90% of all words that are common in conversation. China’s standard for literacy is knowing/recognizing 2,000 characters, so don’t be overwhelmed.
When learning to write in this language, as always starting with basics is a good way to go. Learning to write numbers introduces you to relatively simple characters to write in addition to numbers above 10 being a great introduction to how multiple characters are needed for many basic words or concepts.
For example, the Chinese character for 11 is the character for 10 combined with the character 1. 14 is the character of 10 combined with the character of 4. Getting used to this method will be good for getting into converting your writing of basic Chinese characters into strings of characters that develop into words and ideas.
Another good rule of thumb is to learn how to write in Chinese as you are also learning to speak it. Hearing recordings of the character being spoken in actual Chinese will help reinforce the visual symbol in your mind. As you’re just starting out with simple words and phrases, the same applies. Hearing the words spoken in whatever Chinese language you’re learning whether Mandarin, Cantonese, or a different dialect, will help your mind more clearly remember the meaning and the appearance of the symbols as you write them.
There are many basic free lessons to be found on beginning to write Chinese from scratch, but if you want to become fluent you will need to look for guidance with more advanced materials. English speakers and speakers of most Western languages are used to a Latin alphabet, but the Chinese language simply is not put together the same way. You’ll want better guidance as you become more fluent in reading and writing this language.