Learn to read Chinese … with ease! | ShaoLan

Learn to read Chinese … with ease! | ShaoLan

Translator: Joseph Geni
Reviewer: Morton Bast Growing up in Taiwan as the daughter of a calligrapher, one of my most treasured memories was my mother showing me the beauty, the shape and the form of Chinese characters. Ever since then, I was fascinated by this incredible language. But to an outsider, it seems to be as impenetrable as the Great Wall of China. Over the past few years, I’ve been wondering if I can break down this wall, so anyone who wants to understand and appreciate the beauty of this sophisticated language could do so. I started thinking about how a new, fast method of learning Chinese might be useful. Since the age of five, I started to learn how to draw every single stroke for each character in the correct sequence. I learned new characters every day during the course of the next 15 years. Since we only have five minutes, it’s better that we have a fast and simpler way. A Chinese scholar would understand 20,000 characters. You only need 1,000 to understand the basic literacy. The top 200 will allow you to comprehend 40 percent of basic literature — enough to read road signs, restaurant menus, to understand the basic idea of the web pages or the newspapers. Today I’m going to start with eight to show you how the method works. You are ready? Open your mouth as wide as possible until it’s square. You get a mouth. This is a person going for a walk. Person. If the shape of the fire is a person with two arms on both sides, as if she was yelling frantically, “Help! I’m on fire!” — This symbol actually is originally from the shape of the flame, but I like to think that way. Whichever works for you. This is a tree. Tree. This is a mountain. The sun. The moon. The symbol of the door looks like a pair of saloon doors in the wild west. I call these eight characters radicals. They are the building blocks for you to create lots more characters. A person. If someone walks behind, that is “to follow.” As the old saying goes, two is company, three is a crowd. If a person stretched their arms wide, this person is saying, “It was this big.” The person inside the mouth, the person is trapped. He’s a prisoner, just like Jonah inside the whale. One tree is a tree. Two trees together, we have the woods. Three trees together, we create the forest. Put a plank underneath the tree, we have the foundation. Put a mouth on the top of the tree, that’s “idiot.” (Laughter) Easy to remember, since a talking tree is pretty idiotic. Remember fire? Two fires together, I get really hot. Three fires together, that’s a lot of flames. Set the fire underneath the two trees, it’s burning. For us, the sun is the source of prosperity. Two suns together, prosperous. Three together, that’s sparkles. Put the sun and the moon shining together, it’s brightness. It also means tomorrow, after a day and a night. The sun is coming up above the horizon. Sunrise. A door. Put a plank inside the door, it’s a door bolt. Put a mouth inside the door, asking questions. Knock knock. Is anyone home? This person is sneaking out of a door, escaping, evading. On the left, we have a woman. Two women together, they have an argument. (Laughter) Three women together, be careful, it’s adultery. So we have gone through almost 30 characters. By using this method, the first eight radicals will allow you to build 32. The next group of eight characters will build an extra 32. So with very little effort, you will be able to learn a couple hundred characters, which is the same as a Chinese eight-year-old. So after we know the characters, we start building phrases. For example, the mountain and the fire together, we have fire mountain. It’s a volcano. We know Japan is the land of the rising sun. This is a sun placed with the origin, because Japan lies to the east of China. So a sun, origin together, we build Japan. A person behind Japan, what do we get? A Japanese person. The character on the left is two mountains stacked on top of each other. In ancient China, that means in exile, because Chinese emperors, they put their political enemies in exile beyond mountains. Nowadays, exile has turned into getting out. A mouth which tells you where to get out is an exit. This is a slide to remind me that I should stop talking and get off of the stage. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Learn to read Chinese … with ease! | ShaoLan

  1. I know Japanese fluently, so when I try to read in Chinese (been learning off and on for a while, but more seriously recently) I want to naturally read something in Japanese….
    It's ultra hard for me to retrain my brain to read these another way…remembering the shapes isn't so bad or the meanings because the majority are the same or I know around 2500 in Japanese, but the correct pronunciation with the different tones for all of these is pretty brutal lol

  2. So easy that by the third character I firgot the first one 🙂

    Big respect for the people that can memorize this after learning a westernian language

  3. ShaoLan super teacher. Inspired me keep learning and writing books .
    Basic Chinese: Restaurant, Eat, Drink, Go, Buy, Nouns. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07WW2MDMF/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_ZJbFDbPWZHWW5

  4. 3:31 well I dont see MY mouth on top of a tree! 🤨! But if I did, however it got there, at least some of it had to do with my idiocy.

  5. But whole symbol system is confusing and pretty hard to learn for non natives. Using alphabets is far easier to use and learn. And is more logical dahh

  6. I appreciate the method and it's a good way to learn the meaning, but to me learning to read would also include pronunciation… I was really hoping that this would be some tips and tricks on how to actually read Chinese :/

  7. This is nonsense and is only true for a handful of characters. For many characters the radical is only there as a pronunciation guide.

  8. Wow can anybody tell me what not looks like? It’s a trip if you learn about their language and it may be a link to our past

  9. Not be a hater but unless a Chinese person is telling me that the saloon doors are on a fire and two people are arguing over which is more beautiful the sun or moon while sitting under a tree.. i won’t know what they’re writing about …. 😂

  10. As a native speaker of Chinese, i felt it a bit of dwarfing the Chinese language by depicting the connotation of characters in such a miniature way. an okay but not decent intro to the empty-minded learners though. But if you do want to learn the gracious, brightening, dynamic and highly terrific Chinese language, i think you'd better try CS or maths.

  11. Since my chinese friend tought me some chinese characters when i was 13. I always have interest in chinese writing. Because all the other writings i learnt, all based on alphabet to compose sound, but not chinese. But my struggle was because the language is phonetic (to simplify, kind of like groot language, different sound different meaning). So i end up learning japanese instead. Which is pretty interesting too. Because consist of character type n alphabet type combining together. Just sharing my thought thats all. Thank you for reading. Heres a potato.

  12. I mean, why youtube recommended this video to me lol. Her method is great for only A SMALL PORTION OF CHINESE CHARACTERS, those are called hieroglyphics. Like 山 looks like a mountain, 火 looks like a flame. For other characters, referring to her another video at Google, you can't just draw a character on a random person's face. She drew a 西 on a cow boy's face, a 北 on Kim Jong-un's face. Come on man, what the shoot is that? Those are how you can have fun with Chinese characters, NOT HOW YOU LEARN. Just trying to sell her classes her books. 2/10

  13. 05:16 this isn’t correct 木(ki) means a tree but 本(moto/hon) means a book so go off.
    Btw 日(hi, nichi) means also day
    Ugh this woman is just misinformation

  14. I am starting a free vlog for teaching you 10 characters and their usage in every episode that runs from 5 mins to 15 mins. Please check out my youtube channel.

  15. 我认为这个视频不太帮了。我夏天了住在了苏州还有我上课的时候,我老师不教了这个方法因为她找到了这个不很有用

  16. As a native Chinese whos working in New York sometimes teaching my friends Chinese, I have to say, this is not helpful. Maybe good to let ppl to be interested in the first time, but not a comprehensive way to learn Chinese at all. Be careful my western friends, if you really want to dig into it.


  18. Since each Chinese character is literally a illustration which known as hieroglyphics. so it has another dimension other than just pronunciation and meaning. Whereas most modern languages only have two dimensions. That’s why Chinese is not easy to learn since it carries more information.

  19. Wait wait wait wait 3:17 there is a big problem:她的「從」跟「眾」都是用簡體字,但是簡體字根本不是用六書造字的啊?難道符合文字的規則嗎?那個例子只是湊巧,可能會誤導外國人文字之間的關係。

  20. It is still the second most difficult language in the world. Whatever you try to do to simplify it, a lot of difficulties will still be facing the students, without forgetting the fact that it's a tonal language too.

  21. This lecture is a good lecture that teaches the origin of kanji to English-speaking people in an easy-to-understand manner.

  22. read Kanji in China, it ’s 本→foundation, but if you ’re reading in Japan, it ’s a book.
    book→本(Hon)ほん もと
    faundation→ 基礎(Kiso)きそ
    in Japan's case However, the meaning of the original kanji remains the same.


    if Italians want me to learn their language, they have to pay me 1 million dollars as compensation for wasting my time, energy and my efforts.

    Germans have to pay me 5 million dollars.

    French have to pay me 10 million dollars.

    Russians have to pay me 25 million dollars.

    Arabs and Persians have to pay me 50 million dollars each.

    Spaniards, Israelis, Chinese, Japanese and Koreans have to pay me 100 million dollars each in order to convince me to learn their language.

    just think about it. why else would I waste my time and energy learning a language that has no use outside the specific country or region it is spoken in? I would rather use my time to master a language that can be used around the globe. English is that language and that is why I encourage everybody to master the English language.

    I would sell my house, my business, my property, my farm even one kidney in order to be able to send my kid to an English medium school. a child's mother tongue is an exception. the child must never abandon his or her mother tongue. but the child must still be educated in the English medium in order to prepare him or her to compete and succeed in this global economy. Mother tongue can be taught as a subject.

    Zulfiqar Tareen, a friend of all, the enemy of none.


  24. 中文这样教呢的确有点意思,但是很多说错了很容易造成误解,而且有些词汇根本用不着。

  25. No thanks. I'll choose to stay in a practically reasonable languages with ~30 letters in their alphabets,
    Than spend half of my life just to learn an alphabet that has hundreds or thousands letters. Grow up and develop – it's 21st century. Your culture is good at museum, but not in a practical everyday life.

  26. Great talk, very encouraging to a new learner like me. i don't feel as apprehensive about the character part now : ) Thank you ShaoLan

  27. I went Chinese school for eight years, I can only write one character and I also can only read 4 characters (three being my name) and can’t understand any of it except for the bad words as well as when I try to speak it, my cousin tells me I sound like a foreigner and the pronunciation gives him aids. This is coming from a Chinese person (but I live in Australia), you’ll get there kids.

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