Sunday, April 19, 2009

Some thoughts on characters.

I am having so much fun learning about characters in Chinese. I like learning to speak, but now that we've gotten into writing characters, I am SO much more interested. They are sometimes like little logos to me. Not always, though. Most of the time the characters have evolved so much that you can't see a correlation between the form and the word's meaning.

It's so interesting to learn about a language where the written words seem to tell a story. In comparison English has started to feel like math to me.

I just came across this character today, and I think it is so interesting:

It's the character that you add after I, you, he, and she to make we, you all, and them (so to pluralize pronouns). I think it's so fascinating because to me it looks like two people having a conversation in a house, and it's so appropriate that this character's purpose would be to signify more than one person. Whenever I come across characters like this, that tell a story, I can't help but wonder if, thousands of years ago when the language was in development, this character was meant to look like its meaning. Or maybe I'm just assigning the meaning to something based on my own personal interpretation. Either way, I think it is really cool.

Here's a character that does have a correlation.

This is the character that signifies a question (ma). And ma is the same word for horse but with a different tone. It looks like a horse, right? Soooo cool.

Another interesting couple of characters are he and she (ta and ta). In speaking they are the same, but in writing, the characters are different.

They are pretty similar, but the first is "he" because it looks like pants and the second one is the "she" because it looks like a skirt.

It's been really fun learning to write (draw?) characters while I'm teaching people English because I can observe my students' learning experience from the opposite perspective. I had a conversation with one of my students about the characters for "Taiwan." I was kind of baffled by this character because it seems SO complex to me. It almost seems ridiculous that it would be so difficult to write the name of your own country.

It's almost 30 strokes to write "wan" all by itself. And this "tai" is a simplified character for the original "tai" character. So, when I was talking to my 12 year old student about this, she just laughed and said, "You think it's difficult to write 'wan'? It's so easy!" But my students struggle with reading words letter by letter the way we do. It's not really natural for them to sound out words the way it is for native English speakers. The two languages are so different. It's really neat learning about it. I love it.

1 comment:

  1. That's so cool! I love getting the two different perspectives. You are really perceptive about all of that and I am sure that makes you one of the best teachers they have out there. I miss you!