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Learn radicals prior to Chinese characters

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When I first came to China, the idea of a radical was just as foreign as I was and being able to use them to read had never even crossed my mind.

刚到中国的时候,我对汉字的部首很陌生,就像中国人对我这个外国人感到很陌生一样,我从没想过自己可以利用它们来阅读。

I remember the class when my Chinese teacher said we were going to do some writing. She gave my friend and I one of those books with the grids they give to school children and I just thought: "I have no idea what I'm doing!"

还记得课上老师说要让我们写点什么,并给我和我的朋友一人一本他们给学生用的田字格本子,我只是想,“我都不知道自己要做什么!”。

You can call it defeatist, or a bad attitude, but I honestly thought that it was just too complicated for little old me. Even as we started I felt like I couldn't even hold the pen properly to make a stroke. Actually by the end of the class I quite enjoyed myself, but it wasn't until after a few weeks that she began to teach us about radicals. That was when I got really excited about learning to read and write Chinese. 

你可以说我是失败主义者或者态度差,但写汉字对我于我这样稍微上了年纪的人来说真的太难了。刚开始的时候我甚至握不住笔写上一划。然而,到快下课的时候我已经写得相当自如了,但是直到几周后老师开始教我们部首,我才真正喜欢学习中文读写。

The fact that characters had a meaning, that they weren't just lots of lines that sometimes made pretty pictures was amazing! The penny dropped (from a great height), a light bulb went on after a long power cut and I realised that maybe I actually 'got' it and that even I had a chance to learn to read and write Chinese.

汉字的线条有时可以构成好看的画面,但它不仅仅是线条,还有具体的含义,这让我感到惊讶。我突然间恍然大悟,犹如经历长久的黑暗之后重见光明,我意识到我可能真的明白了,我还是有希望学习中文读写。

Learning radicals is important in order to further your Chinese.

学习部首位对于进一步学习中文很重要。

So let's start by having a look at the following characters:

先来看看这些字:

休, 你, 们, 作

Now let's have a look at the left side of all four characters. You can probably see that what they all have in common is this: 亻(rén). This is a radical meaning 'person'. The 'person' radical is also the stand alone character 人, the radical is just turned slightly on its side.

看看这四个字的左边,你会发现他们都有一个相同的“亻”,它的意思是人,“人”字旁也是一个独立的汉字,把“人”稍微翻转,就成了“亻”。

So what does that mean?

什么意思呢?

It means that these 4 characters (xiū), (nǐ), (men) and (zuò) are all related in some way to people.

意思就是 “休 、你 、们、作 这四个字在一定程度上跟人有关。

I guess what we need to remember is that this written language has existed for thousands of years and has gone through many transitions, not all of them particularly sympathetic to the meaning of a character. The result is that sometimes, the meaning of a radical in relation to a character is a little hard to understand, because it is based on a traditional meaning. However, in this case the four characters have a direct connection to the 人 (rén) radical.

我们要记住的是,汉字有几千年的历史并不断进化,进化过程中有些汉字的意思也发生了变化,因此,某些部首的含义和其对应汉字之间的关联有时有点难以理解,因为这些部首保留了传统的含义。但是,在这个例子中,四个字都跟“人”有联系。

(xiū) is a pictographic character so it can literally be taken apart. We have "亻"meaning person and 木 (mù) meaning tree. So what would a person be doing stood next to a tree? Having a rest of course! After hours of working in the fields, he sits down in the shade of the tree and relaxes.

休(xiū)”是一个象形字,可以按字面意思进行分解。“亻”的意思是人,“木”的意思是树,所以当人靠在树旁的时候是在做什么?当然是休息!田间劳作数小时后,一个人坐在树荫下休息。

The meaning of 休 (xiū) is to have a rest.

“休”的意思就是休息。

The meaning of the next three is less obvious, but because of the radical you can tell that they must have something to do with people.

后面三个字的意思就不那么明显了,但是从部首上来看,你可以知道它们一定跟人有关。

你  (nǐ) – You  你

们 – (men) Plural marker for pronouns or nouns  放在代词或名词后,表示复数

作 – (zuò) To do 做

A radical usually indicates the meaning or pronunciation of a character.

部首通常都能提示我们汉字的意思和读法。

Radicals are not only important to help us understand the meaning of the character, but it also helps when using a dictionary. Now, I know most of us are using online dictionaries and Chinese dictionary apps, but there are still people using those things made of paper (shock!). Basically, in order to use a  Chinese Dictionary you need to have a good knowledge of radicals to find a characters.

部首不仅能帮助我们理解汉字的意思,也能帮助我们使用字典。我知道我们当中的大部分人都在使用在线字典和APP,但是仍然有人在使用纸质的字典(震惊!)。基本上,要用汉语字典查汉字,你就要对部首有很清楚的了解。

Here are some basic instructions for using a Chinese Dictionary:

这是一些关于汉语字典使用的基础说明:

1. First you need to know which radical the character was indexed under. You can probably guess by using the element on the left or on top of the character.

1. 首先你要知道根据哪个部首来索引汉字,可以试一试汉字左边或上边的部分。

2.Find the section of the dictionary related to that radical.

2.在字典中找到跟这个部首相关的部分。

3. Count the strokes in the remainder of the character (not including the radical strokes)

3. 数一数这个汉字除部首外其它部分的笔画数。

4. Find the pages that include the radical that also have the number of additional strokes.

4. 找到显示除部首以外的笔画数的部首所在页。

5. Find the character you're looking for, or repeat steps 1-3.

5. 找到你要找的汉字,如果没找到,重复第1到第3个步骤。

Let me give you an example.

举个例子

I want to find this character 晚 in the dictionary. So following my steps, first I need to know which radical to look for…

我想在字典里查“晚”这个字,按照我说的步骤,首先我得知道要查哪个部首。

1. I looked at the left of the character, and found 日 (rì), the sun radical.

1. 我看到它左边的这个字“日”,并在部首里找到了“日”字旁。


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2. Now I know that this character has the radical 日, I can find the pages in the dictionary.

2. 我现在知道“晚”的部首是日,我可以在字典里找到出现“日”字旁的所在页。


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3+4. Now, I have to find the section with the 日 radical and +7 strokes. I should check out page 634 for the character ‘晚’.

3+4. 现在,我要找到“日”的部分中笔画为7的字,翻到到第634页就可以找到“晚”。


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5. There it is at the bottom of the page!

5. 就在这一页的底部!


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If you weren't sure, 晚 (wǎn) means evening or night. So, grab yourself a dictionary and get searching!

如果你不确定“晚”的意思是傍晚或晚上,就赶紧拿起字典查一下。

 

We all know that learning Chinese is a challenge, but what's important is not to feel defeated. Learn at your own pace, with tools that work for you and most of all enjoy it and treat it like an adventure!

我们都知道学中文是一项挑战,但重要的是,不要有挫败感。使用适合的工具,按自己的节奏学习,最重要的是要体验其中的乐趣,把它当成是一种探险。

Translated from: writtenchinese.com

2016-06-21

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