Tag: hànzì


I am doing Chinese and I have two points to collect for 2 major homework sessions. I am concentrating on learning Chinese characters and expanding my vocabulary. I will go and put new content on the Chinese blog when we have rounded up all our points here.

It was my Mom’s birthday the other day. I taught all my siblings how to sing Happy Birthday in Mandarin, then we sang it to her. It was fun. Here she is on the big day in a Chinese restaurant, being enjoyably worn out by the young grandchildren.



Chinese: New Horizons

I went to school and earned 1 Chinese point.

I think I am going to change my learning style for a while and get a private tutor, perhaps in a reciprocal Chinese/English tuition arrangement. I’m starting to realise that learning Mandarin Chinese is something that takes several years, not just a couple or a few, but several, and that all learners will experiment with different media and resources as they continue on this long, long journey. I do know that I need a change of scene.

I’m also going to use ChinesePod, having read a number of reviews of various online Chinese language programmes. A big criticism of the hugely popular Rosetta Stone programme is that while it may be great for English speakers who want to learn French or Spanish or another Western language, the content does not translate well into Chinese. As one reviewer put it, you will find yourself in a parallel universe where the language is Chinese but all the cultural content is Western, so you will find yourself engaged in dialogues where you’re trying to buy a cowboy hat and some foods that don’t exist in China from someone called Sally Smith. That is really not going to cut it for me. I’ve got a Chinese-English children’s dictionary that is like that, and it is really annoying. I already know what Western homes and foods look like. It’s a shame because I can see that the Rosetta Stone interface is really slick and nice to use.

So anyway, that’s my plan. I like Chinese characters, or hanzi, and I’m a very visual learner. Given the chance, I could be good at reading and writing Chinese, so I am going to enjoy some multimedia online content and find a Chinese speaking buddy who can help me achieve the things I want and help me read and write in Chinese about the subjects that I find interesting. I need a change from sitting in the classroom learning how to exchange money at the bank. I want to learn how Chinese culture and language addresses topics such as psychology and emotions, society and social change, politics, art, the internet. Just writing that makes me feel excited about Chinese again. Maybe it’s like what they tell you at the gym about how you should swap your preferred exercise method for something new every so often, to wake up your body or in this case your brain.

A couple of nice links that I just discovered, I haven’t read them yet, I’m just noting them for myself here.

Peckish Laowai

Hey readers, we know what Laowai means, right? It is ‘foreigner’, remember? When we were enjoying Gangnam Style? And we watched that video of the Chinese-speaking American guy who’d done a cover version, dà gē shì Lǎowài Style.

The World of Chinese

Write about how someone in your family has changed.

Because I am staying in on a Saturday night doing my homework. And this is indeed the life I want, it really is. I will be super happy if Marcel and I can keep something going for a while because not having to get dressed up and go out every evening is amazing.

Right, so part of this week’s Chinese homework is to write a couple of sentences on a given topic. Last week the topic was weather and I wrote a very boring story about snow. So let’s try to liven things up this week. The set topic is ‘how someone in your family has changed’. I hope I got the grammar correct.


Chinese points

I’m claiming three Chinese points for one class plus two homework sessions, one of which was a huge amount of study this evening. I’m only stopping now because I’m too tired to go on.

Here’s some evidence of what I’ve been doing:

Nǐ chī le ma?

Have you eaten?

Hěn gāoxìng rènshí nǐ.

Very happy to make your acquaintance; pleased to meet you.

Zhù nǐ shēngrì kuài lè.

I don’t need to translate that, do I.

Making sense of hanzi

Q: Gloria, sometimes it seems from the context that you must be writing in Chinese, but all I can see is little boxes. Why?

A: Your web browser is substituting little boxes in place of the Chinese characters. It does this because your version of Windows has not been configured to display Asian fonts. Here is a step-by-step guide to making it work. You will need your Windows installation disk. In the meantime, I’ll try to use gifs and jpegs where I can instead of typing, so that everyone can see.

Now, on to the fun stuff. Hanzi means ‘written Chinese characters’. They are very beautiful and, at first, very hard to read. As of now, I can recognise about 100 Chinese characters, and like most beginners I have laboriously tried to commit them to memory one by one. This is okay when your vocabulary is only about 20 words, but after that it gets very confusing indeed, because a lot of the characters seem to look the same and it constantly trips you up.

Despite this difficulty and confusion, it seemed obvious to me that there must be some sort of system lying within. It couldn’t just be random. It had to be like cracking a code. I think I have begun to make some headway with that code, so let me share with you some of the things I’ve learned. Shards of light and clarity are appearing in the dark, confused mess that is my brain.


Radicals are components of Chinese characters. They have their own meanings and quite often they helpfully resemble their meaning. If you understand radicals then you can begin to understand whole characters and perhaps even guess at the meaning of characters that you haven’t seen before.

This symbol means tree. It is a character in its own right, meaning that it is the word for ‘tree’ and it is also a radical, meaning that it forms part of some other words.

See how it looks a bit like a tree?

Guess how you write ‘woods’.

Two trees!  The character is formed from the radical ‘tree’, which occurs twice.

Here is the character for plum:

That is a tree you see at the top there and underneath is the radical ‘child’. The fruit is the child of the tree. The plum dangles from the tree.

Let’s have one more example just because I am so enthralled to find this finally making sense.

This is a radical, ‘sun’, and also a word or character: ‘day’.  The sun rises and sets, making one day.

Immediately below and on the right is the radical ‘moon’ which is also the character for ‘month’. A month being one cycle of the moon. The images to the left show how a picture of the moon slowly evolved over time.

The sun and the moon together make the character for ‘bright’:

Number four followed by ‘month’ spells ‘April’.

Number five followed by month spells May.

Isn’t that delightful. That’s what I’ve been doing this evening. Learning about radicals. Cracking the code. 1 Chinese point.

王先生是英国人. Mr Wang is British.

At least, I think that’s what it says.

That was a big lot of Chinese homework tonight (1 Chinese point). I can recognise approximately 80 Chinese characters now. I am good at understanding their meaning. Pronunciation is my weak spot, so that’s what I’m practising this week.

I am recovering from my big allergy attack.  I still have a nasty red spotty rash and red scratch marks but the swelling is going down, thanks to large doses of steroids, which are having the side effect of making me very sleepy. Also, I can wear clothes comfortably now and that is so welcome, I feel I will be able to get into bed and sleep normally tonight. Spoke to L’Oreal on the phone this morning and I have to go to a dermatologist to isolate the exact ingredient that made me so ill, which L’Oreal will pay for. They are writing to me about it.

That’s all for tonight! I have eaten very well today, loads of salad, no sweets and obviously no coffee. I even had porridge for breakfast and I never have breakfast. Pretty soon I will be blogging about food and diets, so watch this space. See you soon!  再见!