Friday, December 03, 2010

56000 Chinese characters 汉字

Read an article recently in (article in Chinese) about Chinese characters. Here are some interesting facts / point of views from the author:

- There are 56000 Chinese characters in one of the Chinese dictionaries (howly cow I didn't know that)
- During the nine years mandatory education in school, every Chinese student is introduced to around 3500 characters (I had 14 years of Chinese classes but I'm not sure I know as much characters)
- The Chinese government considers someone who knows less than 1200 Chinese characters as illiterate (YAHOO I'm not illiterate in the Chinese government's eyes)
- People who know more than 4000 characters are most likely working in the literature industry, eg reporters, writers (Gosh that means I won't be able to be a writer, it was my ambition during my childhood)
- People who know more than 5000 and above Chinese characters are usually expert in the language and they are rare in the society (how can someone be considered as an expert when he or she only knows less than 10% of the total Chinese characters?)

The author concluded that it is not uncommon for a Chinese to not know certain Chinese characters. He gave some example of some rarely used characters here and I know none of them!

This is considered one of the most complex character to write. 57 strokes and it took me close to one minute to finish writing it. It doesn't exist in most of the Chinese softwares. It means one kind of noddle in Shanxi.

It all makes sense to me now that every night I had to practice Chinese characters during my primary school years. There is no shortcut, you just need to learn them one by one and memorize them. I'm glad I learn it since I was little, one should not have problem learning to speak Mandarin when they are adult, but to master the writing part it will need a lot of effort and perseverance.

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