Learning tips: Learning to pronounce Chinese Characters

Discussion in '中文+方言 (Chinese)' started by linguist786, Jun 8, 2006.

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  1. linguist786 Senior Member

    Blackburn, England
    English, Gujarati & Urdu
    Chinese has always been, for me, a language which would be so difficult to learn. The sounds, tones and written script is so foreign and strange to me, that I am actually thinking of learning it! (Just as a challenge, say)

    Anyway, the question.

    The way Chinese is written (characters) is something very strange to me. How can somebody pronounce a word according to "what it looks like"??
    The thing is, I am used to pronouncing a word according to what I "see on the page". Even Hindi and Gujarati script is very simple - because its very phonetic - "you say what you see".

    So for example - the following is "wo de ming zi zhou..": 我的名字叫..

    But how can you tell just by looking at, say, the first character that it is "wo"? Where does the "w" sound come from? Similarly for the last character, what is it about the character which tells you it is pronounced "zhou"? I just can't get my head round it!

    Can somebody explain to me in a simple way?
    Xie Xie! 谢谢
  2. parakseno

    parakseno Senior Member

    Romanian, Romania
    I'm at the very begining too, so I'm not a Guru... but from what I've read, it seems that there are some characters which have a part that tell you the meaning (the radical) and another that give you a hint on how it should be pronounced. But there are characters that don't follow this rule.
    But it seems there is no general rule like with an "alphabetic" or "syllabic" language. So, it would seem you would have to memorize the meaning and pronounciation of the characters. (Hope I'm wrong on this one :p).
    I have found a very nice lesson on Chinese characters: http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Written_Chinese/Lesson_1
  3. MingRaymond Senior Member

    HK Cantonese
    It should be 'jiao' , not 'zhou'. 'Zhou' is the surname 周.

    Parakeseno is right. 'Some characters which have a part that tell you the meaning (the radical) and another that give you a hint on how it should be pronounced.' It is called 形聲字 (xing sheng zi) in Chinese. 形 means the shape and 聲 means the sound.With 象形(xiang xing),指事(zhi shi),會意(hui yi), 轉注(zhuan zhu),假借(jia jie), this six is called 六書(liu shu). You can find some information here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_character_classification

  4. melop Member

    Guangzhou, China
    Cantonese/Mandarin China
    Hi! The most difficult thing for a foreigner to learn about Chinese is that Chinese is not a phonetic language, which means for some characters you'll never know how to say it if you don't look it up in a dictionary.
    Raymond( actually my English name is Ray too ,lol) has listed six ways of constructing a Chinese character. Most combined characters are built base on these 6 means.
    If a character is constructed base on Xingsheng(shape-sound), you can most of the time guess the approximate sound of the character. For example, “柱”(Column) is combined with "木"(wood) and "主"(master)。You can notice that "主" which means master doesn't have much to do with a column, actually, that's just an indicator for sound. Thus "柱" use the same sound of "主" zhu, but with a different tone.

    And another thing to know, there're many characters share the same sound(and tone), so it's important to memorize words instead of single characters.

    Hope it helps!
  5. longxianchen Senior Member

    i can teach u chinese if will. my qq numeber is 245016984
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