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sthubbar

Hanzi is a religion

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Hofmann

in 瓏攏矓隴嚨瀧, 龍 is a phonetic, and some people differentiate phonetics from radicals. Still, 龍 is an element that contributes to the character.

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Charged_Ion

I know that dragon is giving its sound to these words. In the system I've learned we call these sound modules or just SM for short. The purpose of the dragon demonstration if you read it, is not a demonstration of etymology although I did throw that in there for fun, its not the real purpose. It was explaining how Chinese has a finite number of roots that compose it's characters. Thus if you learn all of these roots you will be able to write any Chinese character after just a single glance. The demonstration of dragon was to show how despite the fact that there are a limited number of roots, each new character can then become a radical of another word. And here you saying dragon is not really a radical but a phonetic tag is really just a matter of how you define the word 'radical'. I have always considered a radical as a part of a word that has it's own meaning weather that radical contributes to the meaning of the character as a whole or not. So in a sense Dragon has just become a letter of our alphabet if you want to compare it to English.

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roddy

Well don't keep us in suspense, where can we buy this miraculous system?

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imron
It was explaining how Chinese has a finite number of roots that compose it's characters. Thus if you learn all of these roots you will be able to write any Chinese character after just a single glance.
This is about the only thing you have written that I agree with :mrgreen: And in fact it's one of the reasons why I learnt to type using 五笔, because it helps you learn to break down characters into their component parts and this is a very useful skill to have when learning Chinese.
I am sorry, but you are incorrect here. Little heart 小心 is very much a word phrase and should not be learned as a word.

It makes perfect sense for little heart to translate into be careful because someone who is not brave (i.e. who has a little heart) is always being careful.

I disagree with this strongly. What you have done is map a meaning back on the word that isn't there originally. By this logic it would make "perfect sense" for 小心 to also mean "scared" because someone who is not brave is always feeling scared, plus any other of a dozen other meanings you could map on to this. Don't get me wrong, using techniques like this to help remember characters and words can be a useful tool, but it's important to realise that as Renzhe said, many of these explanations are just made up and are not the actual origins of the words.

Examples are too numerous to mention, but take for example the word 东西 (note, this is a word, and not a word phrase). If as a learner of Chinese you have learnt the characters 东 and 西 but not the word 东西 then you will have no way of knowing what it means just by trying to analyse the word itself. Even more confounding are words like 好容易, which if you try to analyse from the meaning of the characters, you're almost certain to get wrong.

Anyway, in summary: Yes it's important to learn how to break a character into component parts. Yes it's important to understand the meaning of individual characters that make up a given word, but, it is also equally important to learn words as words rather than trying to divine meaning from the characters that make up the word as this is not always possible and in many cases will be misleading.

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anonymoose
What that person was thinking of are not 'words' but 'word phrases.' 小心 (little heart - be careful) these two words mean to 'be careful' when put together but mean little heart seperately. This is not a new 'word' but merely a 'word phrase'.

Following this line of argument, we could also say that many words in English and other languages are not 'words' but 'word phrases'. Take "newspaper" for example. This is clearly derived from "news" and "paper", and therefore by your argument, "newspaper" is not a word, but a word phrase.

And if we take this further, consider "ladybird". This can obviously be split into "lady" and "bird", but the meaning of the word as a single unit must be learned separately as there's no way it could be guessed by considering its two components individualy. Yet your definition would still call it a word phrase.

I think your argument is a bit pointless because in the end it comes down to what your definition of a word is. Originally the concept of a "word" applies to languages such as English, where words are clearly demarcated by surrounding spaces. But this definition cannot apply to Chinese. From your argument, it sounds like you are trying to define a Chinese word as a single character, from which it follows that any combination of more than one character is a 'word phrase'. Fine. But I think most people wouldn't agree with this definition. To most people, if the concept of "word" must be forced on Chinese, then it would refer to a discrete semantic unit, in which case '小心' must be considered a word, as its meaning is distinct from those of the individual characters that compose it.

Edited by anonymoose

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OneEye
Examples are too numerous to mention, but take for example the word 东西 (note, this is a word, and not a word phrase). If as a learner of Chinese you have learnt the characters 东 and 西 but not the word 东西 then you will have no way of knowing what it means just by trying to analyse the word itself. Even more confounding are words like 好容易, which if you try to analyse from the meaning of the characters, you're almost certain to get wrong.

Anyway, in summary: Yes it's important to learn how to break a character into component parts. Yes it's important to understand the meaning of individual characters that make up a given word, but, it is also equally important to learn words as words rather than trying to divine meaning from the characters that make up the word as this is not always possible and in many cases will be misleading.

I don't think anyone is saying we shouldn't learn words. If that mnemonic "little heart=careful") helps him remember the meaning of the word, then there's no problem with that. It doesn't have to be academically correct to be effective (same goes with hanzi mnemonics).

There seems to be a trend on this board for people to preach, "learn words," and I really don't know what is being argued against when this happens. I've never seen anyone say that you shouldn't "learn words." Some people prefer to learn the characters first, and separately, and if that method works better for them, then what is the use in saying it won't work, or it's wrong, or that you should "learn words" (as if they weren't planning on it)?

Some people prefer to learn words and grammar through the use of sentences. Some people prefer to learn words after they've learned a lot of individual characters. Some people prefer to learn only words (詞), whether they know the individual characters or not. If a person's chosen method works better for them than the others, who is anyone else to say that they're doing it wrong? Especially when there is plenty of research and academic writing (this applies to each of those approaches) to support it.

Sorry, just something that has irritated me for a while. This board's overall attitude is very dogmatic and "you must do it this way using these textbooks or you will not learn correctly," when there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. There are more ways to learn than one, and not all of them involve using dry textbooks for 5 years before you can hope to understand any native material. But several people here tend shut down at the mention of anything "outside the box" or significantly different from they way they learned/are learning. And some people tend to be very "I know better than you and I'm smug about it." That isn't directed at you, imron, your comment just sparked something that has bothered me for a while.

I think the board would be better served by discussing different language acquisition theories and having open minds about them than by shooting down every new idea that doesn't involve NPCR or David and Helen. It does no good to newbies to join the board, ask a question, and get what may be a legitimately useful and helpful response, only to see another member laugh at their idea or poke fun at it. They could have found something that works very well for them, but they may never try it because they saw a member with a higher post count shoot it down and propose some tried and true textbook that's missing 30 years of new language acquisition thought.

So rather than poke fun at the guy who claims to have an effective way of learning characters, why not ask him about the method that he's talking about, generate a real discussion, and maybe learn something new or useful rather than taking the chance to demonstrate your "superior" knowledge and then high five your friends? Again, not directed at anyone specifically, just the general attitude I've noticed on the board.

Rant over.

Edit: I wanted to re-emphasize that this isn't directed a anyone specifically. I quoted imron, but it was just because something about his post triggered the whole rant. The rant itself has been building up inside me for a while and isn't about anyone in particular. I just think that I and others would probably be more willing participants in the discussions here if there were more openness about differing methods.

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imron
I don't think anyone is saying we shouldn't learn words.
No phrase should be learned as a word 'if possible.'
Where 'phrase' here is being used to describe what people generally describe as being a word.
If that mnemonic "little heart=careful") helps him remember the meaning of the word, then there's no problem with that. It doesn't have to be academically correct to be effective (same goes with hanzi mnemonics).
I agree, and said as much in my post. If the poster finds this method works well, then more power to him. However, what I take issue with is the poster suggesting that these are the original etymologies of the words, rather then just mnemonic devices, and that to learn Chinese all you need to do is just learn the individual characters, and that then from this you can derive the meaning of all new words just by 'learning more about Chinese culture.' That is something I disagree with, and something I think is misleading and misinformed.
This board's overall attitude is very dogmatic and "you must do it this way using these textbooks or you will not learn correctly,"
Actually, I thought there's quite a variety of different opinions expressed on what people find is the 'best' way of learning Chinese - although perhaps I never really paid much attention because I belong to the 'learn-words clique' :wink: although I know various other regular posters whose opinion I respect hold different views about the 'best' way of doing things. Also, in my defense I will say that I've never used either NPCR or David and Helen :mrgreen: and to be honest, before you mentioned them by name I wasn't sure which books you were referring to.

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querido

Where is the original poster?

To the original poster:

Your post is very interesting.

Obvious: photo-realistic painting of a flower

Non-obvious: Van Gogh's Sunflowers

I admire the technique of photo-realistic painting, but *as art* it seems sterile. The Van Gogh is a flower, plus, a flourish of his personality. The former depicts a flower with maximum truthfulness, while the latter strives to project a piece of a man's life-force on canvas- a vastly higher ambition!

Obvious: classical physics

Non-obvious: quantum physics

Newton and others mathematized their intuitions about the physical world. As long as it worked, it was a search for truth, and this caught my attention when I was younger. When I learned about non-intuitive, non-obvious, quantum physics, I rebelled in the name of what I had known as a classical elegance, purity, and truth. But, quantum physics works in the real world whether I like it or not. And so I was forced to accept it, despite what had been so obvious and virtuous before.

So, let's accept the world-rocking potential of the non-obvious.

What has this to do with Hanzi?...

It is obvious to me that Hanzi is the world's most ridiculous writing system.

In the context of what I wrote above, the above statement can be described as a rejection of even the possibility that there is some non-obvious virtue in Hanzi that you simply aren't aware of yet.

That is irrational. Think about it

How can I find a way to like my self selected religion?

Believe in the possibility of revelation; believe that some day some unexpected beauty or utility will dawn on you, that explains why the hanzi were invented, developed, and retained by the Chinese civilization.

And now I will tell you about my own revelation, my hanzi-studying brother. I'm kindof old, so this Chinese study isn't sticking as well as I'd like. Yet, just the other day, I got my first glimpse of what the Chinese language, living in my mind, might be like some day. This is why your post caught my attention, and why I mentioned art. I saw, very briefly, a big, vivid language painted in bold strokes. Beside it, English looks very micro-overspecific and restrained, even tedious. Take that for what its worth, which is probably nothing, because true revelation is incommunicable.

Can something true really be incommunicable?

Edited by imron
combined with previous post, and added quote tags.

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realmayo

In my experience the "learn words" thing has been presented by people here as very well meant advice which they wish they'd known themselves before going through the process of memorising a load of characters only to find they should have spent some more time learning words because without having done so they found their many-memorised characters to be of less use than they'd assumed they would be.

The "learn words" thing is also pushed I think to discourage people from believing the cliche that if you have learned 3,000 characters or whatever then you can read a newspaper.

Personally, because I'm now doing very well at learning new characters quickly and easily, I tend to race ahead and learn 100 or 200 characters or so and then go back and find what the most useful words are that these new characters now allow me to write.

However: I also think some scepticism is reasonable with some of the less conventional theories. I'm reminded of the people who say: "Eating seeds is very healthy because seeds have all the basic materials needed for a plant to grow ... so they much be good for humans to eat too" which is a nice-sounding argument until you remember that humans, unlike plants, tend not to photosynthetise.

Similarly, Rossetta Stone: I've never used this thing at all but it seems to me an example of a "method of learning" which is very seductive on the surface, but which may not have any robust thinking or methodology behind it.

So: nothing wrong with following the latest learn-characters fad or whatever as long as it is not to the exclusion of more long-standing, grounded and successful methods. Nothing wrong with eating seeds as long as that's not to the exclusion of fruit, veg, and whatever else....

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OneEye

Exactly. I don't think anyone is saying that you shouldn't learn words (maybe with the exception of Charged_Ion) after learning characters. For instance, the AJATT method has you learn the meaining and writing characters first (a la Heisig), while focusing on listening comprehension. But after that, you do learn words and grammar through the use of sentences.

Learning sentences is one of those things that tends to get scoffed at here for some reason, but it's really effective. It's not like you simply learn the meaning of the entire sentence. You look up each word in that sentence, and any grammar points, and put the definitions and/or grammar explanations on the answer side of the flashcard. I really don't see why anyone could take issue with learning this way rather than using a textbook. Sure, it's different than the convention, but people say "learn words!" as if we weren't planning on it. We just prefer to wrap it all up into an example sentence, which allows us to learn words, grammar, usage, and context all in one.

imron, again, most of that post wasn't even directed at you. I don't even disagree with what you were saying. Your post for some reason just triggered a rant that I had been saving up.

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anonymoose

With regard to learning characters versus learning words, I think I fall into the word camp, though I fully accept that others may have other preferences. But actually, I don't think these two methods contradict each other - characters can be learned at the same time as words. I often see an unusual character that I'd like to remember, but rather than memorize it in isolation, I'll try to find a word that contains it, and then memorize it as part of that word.

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renzhe

I also didn't get the impression that this forum was dogmatic.

I have argued with people to no end about the benefits of rote memorisation of thousands of characters, whether you should learn from vocabulary lists or only through reading, whether you should learn to speak before learning to read, or the other way around, and many other issues. Some things worked for me, other things worked for others.

We've also had threads on Heisig, T.K.Ann, Charged_Ion's system, De Francis' purely phonetic theory, and a number of others, and people held different opinions on these.

If things work for you, it's great, and I'd like to know how it worked. But so far, I don't know anyone who learned Chinese (not Japanese) using Heisig or 10,000 sentences, or tapes with no reading/writing needed, or just podcasts, or just learning characters and devising word meanings through logic, or a number of other revolutionary approaches. I'm sure they have some use, and as soon as masses of people start having revolutionary results using these new methods, I'm sure people will listen more closely. Until then, I can only say that there is the "old-school" method, and it also works :)

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renzhe
In any case, if you are still non-believers, I will very happily break down ANY character you feel like throwing at me. Please just one per person if you guys decide to take me up on this offer.

:wink:

If that's too easy, maybe you could try 杯, but I'll stick with the first one for the time being.

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atitarev
If that's too easy, maybe you could try 杯...

I am not Charged_Ion but from ABC dictionary:

From 木 (mù) 'wood' and 不 bù ('not') phonetic.

Everybody knows that cups are 不 NOT made of 木 WOOD.

:)

The phonetic similarity between bēi and is very distant, of course.

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OneEye
I also didn't get the impression that this forum was dogmatic.

I may have reacted a little strongly. It was a rant, after all. :mrgreen:

I've been PMing imron since I made that post, and after some further thought it does tend to be a few people with high post counts that tend to be set in their ways, versus some of us with lower post counts that bring up some alternative methods. Veterans and people with high post counts tend to carry more weight in their comments though, so I think those people should (ideally) have a responsibility to foster open discussion whether they agree with the ideas being presented or not. Again, I point out that a newbie may miss out on a method that will work for him just because someone with 3000 posts makes fun of it after the guy with 200 posts recommends it. Or points out that "it isn't correct etymology," or whatever it may be.

I happen to really enjoy the AJATT method, and it works better for me than anything else I've used. And Khatzumoto is using it very effectively to learn Chinese (Cantonese). He's better already in Cantonese than I am in Mandarin, and I've been studying it (using conventional methods) for much longer than he has. He came to Chinese already knowing the 漢字 in Harbaugh's book, but no pronunciations (only the Japanese ones). And that doesn't seem to be a hindrance to him, as some here suggest it would be.

It's like learning Chinese as a native Japanese speaker. You already have a solid grounding in 漢字, but you don't know how to pronounce them or put them together to form words and sentences. But you're still a long way ahead of somebody who has absolutely zero knowledge of anything in Chinese. And if it takes you 5 months (20 漢字 per day) to finish Heisig's books, while practicing listening and speaking using pinyin resources, I'd be willing to bet you will be way ahead of someone that tries to learn using more conventional methods like NPCR or Integrated Chinese during the same time period. And then you can break into native material and start really learning, because you won't have tons of unknown characters staring you in the face, just unknown combinations that you can easily look up and learn.

Anyway, I'm over it. Rant over (for real this time :wink:)

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renzhe

You will agree, though, that there is a difference between stating "This method may help you learn characters, here are my results using it" and stating "5000 years of studying Chinese is all wrong, and I have the only correct understanding of the Chinese language and culture, that the Chinese people themselves have long forgotten". It's the second statement people have a problem with. I'm not necessarily referring to this thread, but there have been a few bombastic threads in the past which you'll probably remember as well.

I personally have used rote memorisation and mnemonics intensively to learn characters, so I agree that it can be a good way to get ahead. It's a bit late for me to try Heisig method or Katzumoto's method (of which I admit to being skeptical towards) because I achieved many of their goals through other methods, but I'm interested in hearing people's experiences and results using such methods. Perhaps I'd try a more Heisig-y approach if I were to start all over again, but doing it the classical way also worked.

Still, I think that it's good to try to differentiate between useful strategies and correct etymologies. This doesn't mean that clever mnemonics aren't a great learning tool, but I think that everybody profits if we try to get the facts right.

In any case, whatever tools or methods you're using, as long as you're making progress, it's great.

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atitarev

It's good to have an etymology, some mnemonics behind each character but in reality, it's quite difficult to check each character you come across, it's just too many of them! Me too, I just focus on rote memorisation.

As for the topic of the thread, it's more emotions, traditions and habits rather than practicality behind hanzi, at least for a big number of currently used characters but that's a reality and we just have to accept, no matter how difficult it is to learn hanzi.

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sthubbar
Where is the original poster?

Still here. I like querido's post.

@Roddy, I am studying sentences and also study words. I have substantially increased my actual reading of books.

Just today, I was reading a children's stories and came across the word "lazy" 懒惰。 For some reason I couldn't figure it out. I want to scream with this happens. How can such a common word be forgotten by my eyes? This is something that happens on a daily basis. It is this sort of daily struggle that drives me mad.

BTW, I do have and use an SRS. I know I'm making progress it is just like 10 steps forward, 9 steps backwards progress. Frustrating! :help

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tooironic

I think the answer to all these debates is simple. If you are truly passionate about learning Chinese, then you're likely to try any and every method you can to better yourself. At the end of the day, there isn't just one way of learning Chinese which is the best - a combination of all these ways of learning is the best approach.

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querido

(I posted this for someone who needed an explanation of my previous post, above.)

Edit:

All quotes are the words of the original poster.

End edit.

*In the context of this forum* and *in the interests of this forum* the most important point in the original post is this:

Hanzi is the world's most ridiculous writing system.
This is an opinion, and he has a right to it, but his stated unhappiness with his Chinese studies called for some *helpful reply* to be constructed.

Ordinary replies might have been blocked by this important detail:

It is obvious to me.
So, I illustrated with two examples the idea that non-obvious things can be beautiful and even compelling, forcing the abandonment of what seems obvious. Within this (necessarily) non-religious context, I then destroyed the foundation under his central thesis, at least to the extent that he could or would or should let himself rethink it.

He asked a question:

How can I find a way to like my self selected religion?
(He offered this context (religion) in a humorous way.) This is an important question for the forum! But any reply might be blocked *in his mind* by his other important claim:
any debate about this subject has the same result as debating religion
useless

Therefore, I let my reply stand as a statement of faith, that is, without attempting proof: Granting the benefit of the doubt to the accumulated wisdom of the Chinese civilization, the system of hanzi *must* have some redeeming qualities. I then "testified" about my own sense of their beauty and unexpected efficacy in some ways. (I worked hard to try to extend this theme further in the following post: http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/2-favourite-chinese-musician8977)

Lastly, I asked a rhetorical question:

Can something true really be incommunicable?
Well, it can be hard when someone can't understand what you're saying, or more likely, isn't really listening. But gazing at Van Gogh's sunflowers, I say to his ghost: "I feel you man." Don't you? Edited by querido

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