How many Chinese characters can you read

The Chinese writing: How many Chinese characters are there - and what is the best way to learn them? (Guest post)

The Chinese script is the oldest script in the world. Almost a quarter of the world's population uses these today.

What is the Chinese script called:

The Chinese script (Chinese 中 文字, Pinyin zhōngwénzì, Zhuyin ㄓ ㄨ ㄥ ㄨ ㄣ ˊ ㄗ ˋ) or Han script (漢字 / 汉字, hànzì, Zhuyin ㄏ ㄢ ˋ ㄗ ˋ) fixes the Chinese languages, especially standard Chinese, with chinese characters.

At first glance seems the Chinese script very difficult to learn. However, in case you have a little more about the origin, development and meaning the Chinese characters can do this facilitate and accelerate the learning process. Find out everything about this ancient script below, their history and peculiarities.

And one thing in advance - there is no such thing as a Chinese alphabet with letters like e.g. in German, but only a multitude of characters. For this reason, among other things Chinese is one of the most difficult languages ​​in the world.

Each Chinese character stands for one syllable. One character alone can in principle form a word. Most Chinese words consist of at least two syllables - speak two characters.

As already mentioned the number of Chinese characters is very large. You will find out how many there are in the first chapter of this article.

Table of Contents:

  1. How many Chinese characters are there?
  2. Learn Chinese characters for a language certificate.
  3. History and development of the Chinese script.
  4. The structure of the Chinese characters.
  5. Other special features: Chinese calligraphy.
  6. Easily learn the Chinese number system (the Chinese numbers).
  7. Conclusion - learn Chinese script and characters.

1. How many Chinese characters are there?

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In Chinese there is a total of over 80,000 Characters. At first glance this is an unbelievable amount, but it will be many of them no longer used today. Instead you come with around 3,000 to 5,000 characters excellent through everyday life.

Self chinese dictionaries contain “only” around 6,000. You can officially see as readable and writable, as soon as you have mastered 1,500 to 2,000 characters. At least that is how it became in 1993 Article 7 of the Chinese Anti-Illiteracy Regulations set.

2. Learn Chinese characters for a language certificate

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What for English the well-known TOEFL is, for Chinese the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK) is. Like the TOEFL, the HSK often required for university admission. One would like for example work as a foreigner in the People's Republic of China, the HSK may also be required.

Once you have registered for the HSK, it means learning vocabulary. Because during the exam you have to prove that you can Hear, write and read Chinese can.

The HSK has 6 language levels. The higher the level, the better vocabulary skills are of course expected from one. The respective levels are composed as follows:

  • A1 = HSK 1 = 150 words
  • A2 = HSK 2 = 300 words
  • B1 = HSK 3 = 600 words
  • B2 = HSK 4 = 1200 words
  • C1 = HSK 5 = 2500 words
  • C2 = HSK 6 = 5000 words

3. History and development of the Chinese script

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The Chinese script is, in addition to the cuneiform script and the Egyptian hieroglyphs, one of the oldest scriptures in the world. However, if you consider that neither cuneiform script nor hieroglyphics are used nowadays, Chinese can rightly do so the oldest still spoken language call.

Although the oldest discovered Chinese characters from 1400 BC (These were found in Henan Province in 1899), the language becomes for around 3,000 years estimated. Due to geographical as well as political circumstances took place within China a different development of the characters instead of.

221 BC Was under the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang Di (Chinese: 秦始皇 帝 - the founder of the Qin Dynasty), the first unification of the Chinese script carried out. He wanted all of his followers to understand his orders and officers to be able to communicate with one another, to ensure smooth operations and obedience in the state.

The development of the Chinese script - from its beginnings to today's modern Chinese abbreviations - took place over several thousand years.

It should be said, however, that this standardization not directly out of good nature Happened: Qin Shi Huang Di was known to have officials who did not follow his orders exactly, make short work of it.

Even his son, who wanted to draw his attention to the fact that his employees should not be killed at the next best possible opportunity, demoted Qin Shi Huang Di. And sent him north to help build the Great Wall there. Qin Shi Huang was due to this and other acts not a particularly popular ruler, which also explains the large number of attacks on his life.

Originally the Chinese script was a picture script, which represented certain objects or actions (so-called ideograms). Such as the image of a sun, the moon or a house. So each character stood for a word. However, over time, more and more characters were developed, in order to be able to represent more complex words. Historically, proficiency in the Chinese script has been highly regarded within China.

At the 23rd plenary session of the State Council of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (in 1956) a simplification of the Chinese characters was decided. The traditional “traditional characters” have been simplified to “short characters”.

ItThe pronunciation did not change, only the spelling was simplified. The symbols, their stroke sequences and serifs changed. Some examples are as follows:

Here you can find one few examples of the reduction of the Chinese script from traditional characters to short characters.

You can see from these examples that not all characters changed were and some, such as the Chinese numbers and digits, in the notation remained unchanged are.

The Chinese script generally follows a clear logic: The characters have a meaning that was often easy to read from the traditional characters. However, this is partly the case the simplification of language has been lost. Nonetheless, the traditional origins of many words can still be recognized there often only small changes have been made for simplicity.

Yet, if you want to learn Chinese, this is usually recommended to start with the traditional script. Because for beginners it is very important a solid understanding of the language to develop.

The Chinese script historically had too Influence on the development of the scripts of other languages. The Chinese script, for example, served as a template for the Japanese scripts Kanji and Hiragana or the Vietnamese script Chữ nôm.

The Chinese script is also used in other countries used due to historical circumstances. For example, in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia uses the traditional script, as well as the simplified form in Singapore.

4. The structure of the Chinese characters

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As already mentioned, in Chinese there is no alphabet with letters, with which a word is written. However, the Chinese script exists from radicals, from which a character is composed. There's about that 212 such radicals, however, is already that Proficiency in eight is sufficient to write all characters to be able to. Play here the direction of writing, the serifs and the order of the characters a crucial role.

In addition, Chinese consists of a spoken and a written language - However, there is no connection between them, as we know it from the German language, for example. While in German the writing helps to pronounce the words, this is not the case in Chinese. Therefore must the characters are learned independently of the spoken Chinese.

There's a short one here Learn to write Chinese video:

5. Other special features: Chinese calligraphy.

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The Chinese writing is special worldwide known from Chinese calligraphy, which is considered an art. Calligraphy is a special font (calligraphy) called the "written" with a brush becomes.

Chinese calligraphy (calligraphy) is an art that few have mastered.

Chinese calligraphy shapes an important part of Chinese culture and is taught in every Chinese school these days. Artists who have mastered Chinese calligraphy, be it within China or often even internationally, continue to gain a lot of prestige in the artistic world.

6. Easily learn the Chinese number system (the Chinese numbers)

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The number system belongs to one of the simpler aspects of the Chinese language. The Chinese numbers follow a very clear system as explained below. Anyone who starts to learn Chinese will therefore often recommended to start with the numbers (here you can find one Basic Chinese vocabulary with the most important words and vocabulary):

Here you can see the characters for the Chinese numbers from 1 to 10.

The numbers 1-10 in particular are often used in Chinese. With these you can too already form almost all of the remaining numbers in the number system. To make the numbers higher than 10, just put them together continuously:

Here you can see the characters for the Chinese numbers from 11 to 20.

And here's another great one Video - this time too the Chinese numbers from 11 to 1000:

7. Conclusion - learn Chinese script and characters:

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Learning the Chinese language may take some patience, especially at the beginning. Often you search in vain a connection between what is written and what is spoken, as you know it from most other languages. In addition, you will then also confronted with the simplified and traditional script.

Chinese is certainly not the easiest To learn language. But certainly one of the most useful (especially for work and career).

But don't let any of this discourage you! Not every aspect of the Chinese language is difficult to learn. So are for example theNumbers are comparatively easy. And mastering these can already of great use in everyday Chinese life be. And one thing is just as certain - Chinese is a language with a future.

Here are instructions on how to best learn a foreign language with a different alphabet or script.

We thank Shannon from the blog Lebe Now for the great contribution.

If you have any comments, additions or questions about this article, please leave us a comment.

And here is the interview with the hyperpolyglot Vladimir Skultety, about his experience of learning Chinese.

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