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How to look up Chinese characters in a dictionary

Looking up Chinese characters in a printed dictionary can be an ordeal for the uninitiated. Where do you start when you do not know how to pronounce that character you have never seen before? Just follow the following steps and you will soon know how to do it.



1  Familiarize yourself with how Chinese is written. Examine the character and identify its radical. For the sake of this example we will pretend we are looking up the character that means home (but we do not know that yet). Count how many strokes the radical has. In this case it has three.

1.      熟悉汉字的写法。看下汉字,认识它的部首。比如,我们要查汉字“家“,但我们不知道这个字怎么念。先数清部首的笔画(3个笔画)。


2  Turn to the radical look-up section of the dictionary, and go to the section with the appropriate number of strokes, namely three. Here you have to skim down the list of radicals until you find the one that is in this character (it looks a little like a roof). There is a number next to it, let's say it is 73.



3  Now turn to section 73 in the index. You will see under this radical many characters listed, grouped by the number of strokes. Count how many strokes in the rest of the character, in this case it has seven. Go to the section with seven strokes and skim through until you recognise the character we are looking up. There is a number next to it which is the page number in the main part of the dictionary. You can now turn there and find the character, where you will at last see its pronunciation ('jia1') and meaning: 'home' or 'house'.



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