1 year ago




CHINESE BLOCKBUSTER LAST WORDS Learning Chinese is a complex endeavor and it must rely on a few parallel activities to be successful. Learning to recognize and pronounce Chinese characters is arguably the hardest part in learning Chinese for a foreign person, but also the most important if you want to become fluent in the language. Thankfully, the book you are reading right now takes good care of that part. Once you have crossed that hurdle, the rest is relatively smooth sailing. Fluency will not come to you magically, though, without effort on your part. You will still need to come back to the stories occasionally to make them stick. You will need to review, review and review some more, as with any other languages you wish to learn. But the first time you realize that you can read and understand Chinese texts, the feeling is amazing! A Chinese proverb often cited says that ‘A trip of one thousand miles starts with the first step.’ Likewise, a trip of a few thousand characters starts with the first one. Come aboard! As an aerospace engineer, I am here to prove to you that learning Chinese is not rocket science! 12 十 二

USER GUIDE This book is the first of a series that intend to cover the top 3500 characters of the Modern Chinese Character Frequency List produced by Jun Da 笪 骏 , Director of the Media Center for Language Acquisition Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at the Middle Tennessee State University 9 . The list was generated from a large corpus of Chinese texts collected from online sources. If you add to that number the building blocks further down the frequency list as well as a few ‘non-characters’ (building blocks that are no longer used on their own as a stand-alone character) that are needed to make up these characters, we arrive at more than 4000 characters covered by this series. These are essentially all you need to be able to recognize the characters you are likely to come across in modern Chinese. You may still tumble over a few characters not covered in this series if you read ancient or very advanced texts, but you will have at your disposal all the building blocks needed to create your own mnemonics. The characters are presented in a logical order, roughly following the order of their frequency of use. I say roughly because a character is composed of other characters or building blocks that may be further down the frequency list. These building blocks logically need to be introduced first. Also, characters with similar shapes or having a similar role (like numbers) tend to be presented together. This is what I mean by ‘logical order.’ The book you are holding introduces the first few hundred characters necessary to set you on your way for mastering Chinese. If you are impatient to learn, you can jump immediately to the section dealing with characters and building blocks on page 23 as the presentation of each character follows a standardized approach that is relatively easy to understand. The first few characters will include some details on the system (grayed-out text between parentheses) to get you started. As exceptions are often the rules in any standardized approach, especially to address a language as complex as Chinese, I recommend that you first go through this User Guide that describes the various sections in the presentation of each character. Part 1 introduces the character itself with its definition, pronunciation and its building blocks; Part 2 acts as the glue between the various elements with its mnemonics and stories; and finally, Part 3 provides examples of use for the character and additional interesting facts, in case you ‘want a little more.’ Now let’s look at each part with its various sections by using four characters which together present most of the different arrangements you may encounter. 9 Da, Jun. 2004. Chinese text computing. 十 三 13

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