read in chinese

How to Read in Chinese

The word read in Chinese is 读 (dú) or 阅读 (yuèdú).

However, most of us would like to know how to read Chinese and not rely on the dictionary. We can always look up a single word in the dictionary. But when it comes to reading paragraphs and sentences, using the dictionary will take too much work. The only way to read in Chinese fluently is through learning. Our brain can be the best dictionary there is for us. With the right approach, you too can make your brain a powerful Chinese dictionary.

Before starting to learn Chinese You should gain better understanding of the components within the Chinese language. You can take a look at these articles to help you out 🙂

Is learning Mandarin hard? 

1. Learn Pinyin

Pinyin is the reading of Chinese characters written in roman letters. Without pinyin, you will not be able to grow a strong foundation in learning Chinese. Especially when you want to advance your vocabulary list. With pinyin, you’ll be able to read in Chinese using these roman letter guides as a way to pronounce the words correctly and to distinguish between one word and another. 

2. Start learning Hanzi, step by step

After learning the basics of pinyin, you can start learning Hanzi step by step. There are multiple resources available on the internet that can help you with this, whether based on the language proficiency test or a lesson module based on the language learning purpose.

Learning Hanzi can be hard as one character will need multiple strokes. The longest record for the most strokes in a Chinese character is 58 strokes for one character! 

The character biáng is an onomatopoeia. It is the sound of the noodle dough being made when it is slapped and pulled on the table. The dish is named after this sound and is called Biang Biang noodles. Originating in Xi An city, this dish now has international fame for its unique flavor and the complicated Hanzi character in its name.

Reading characters in Chinese can seem overwhelming, but there are several ways we can use to make learning Hanzi a lot easier.

2.1 Start from the radical

Radical is an element of a Chinese character. Radicals can help you broadly categorize the words based on the radicals the words are made of. Take, for example, the radical mouth. 

An example of Pandanese’s radical flashcard

Words that contain the radical mouth can be connected with speaking, the mouth, or words.

2.2 Build your words

Word characters are made up of one or multiple radicals to form the character. Take, for example, the word card below.

An example of Pandanese’s character flashcard

The word card 如 (rú) is made out of the radical woman and the radical mouth next to it and means 如 (rú).To make it easier to understand, we can use mnemonics to help us understand and memorize the word better. 

Mnemonic for the word reason can be something like this: 

“Since you were young, your dad has been giving you advice about women like, “Rupert (rú), if you read books, girls will like you.” However, that wasn’t always the case. It was just a simple ruse to get you to read.”

To remember the meaning of the word, you can use this mnemonic:

IF you listen to everything that comes out of your WOMAN‘s (女) MOUTH (口), you’ll live a happy life, your dad said to you when you were 10.”

3. Build your vocabulary base

After learning the words, you can combine some of those words and start building your vocabulary base. Using the word 如 (rú) as another example, you can combine the word if with the word wasp to make the word 不如 (bù rú).

An example of Pandanese’s vocabulary flashcard

不如 (bù rú) means not equal to. The word 不 (bù) means “don’t” or “not,” and 如 (rú) means if. Combining these two words together, and the meaning becomes not equal to or implies the meaning no better than.

The bottom line

To read in Chinese fluently, you will need to put in the effort of building the correct foundation. The steps above are some of the steps you can take. By learning the characters from the radical to words and vocabulary, you are sure to build your Chinese reading skills strongly. 

Once you have a strong foundation, you can start developing your skills more by using them more frequently. This can be looking into Chinese social media, taking the HSK test, or simply finding books to teach yourself Chinese.

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