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Radical Mandarin

Characters that proved the most pain for you to learn

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Flickserve

In this thread, people are referring to learning characters. Would be character recognition or being also able to write the character?

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Radical Mandarin

I think we are talking about either, depending on one's goal.

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Demonic_Duck

The characters that are going to prove difficult for each are going to be different, though. For example, I can't imagine anyone having excessive trouble with “声” as far as recognition goes, but you mentioned it yourself as being difficult to remember how to write.

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tooironic

Some characters that I often suffer 提笔忘字* with:

旅游 and 游泳: I think these two words were among the first I ever learnt in Chinese, and because they seem so similar I never paid much attention to how they're written. As a result I often mix them up when writing. Probably the best mnemonic would be 游 has a 三点水 which helps you remember its meaning of "swim", while 泳 has 永远的永(yǒng) in it as a phonetic.

昆虫的昆(kūn) and 比比皆是的皆(jiē): The former has a 日 on the top and a 比 on the bottom; the latter has a 比 on the top and a 白 on the bottom. Sounds relatively simple but I often mix them up. Need to remember also that 皆 appears as a component in 谐 (xié, 和谐的谐), 偕 (xié, 偕同的偕) and 楷 (kǎi, 楷书的楷). In traditional script there is also 階 (jiē, 階級的級, simplified: 阶级).

逐渐的逐(zhú), 隧道的隧(suì) and 未遂的遂(suì): The first one has 豕 in it (shǐ, "pig", but is rarely used as a character on its own), while the second and third ones have 豕 plus two strokes on top for no apparent reason which often confuses me when writing. Note 豕 also appears as a component some other characters such as 家, 象, 蒙, etc., and the "dotted" 豕 appears in a couple of other characters like 墜 (zhuì, simplified: 队) and 邃 (suì, 深邃的邃).

到底的底(dǐ) and 降低的低(dī): I think someone else just posted about this. I find it hard to remember which is which, and the fact that their meanings ("bottom" and "low") and pronunications (dǐ and dī) are similar makes it even more confusing. Need to remember that 底 has a 广字头 and 低 a 单人旁, while both are made up of the 氏 (shì, 摄氏的氏) phonetic with a 丶 dot at the bottom.

幸福的幸(xìng) and 辛苦的辛(xīn): I don't actually find it too difficult to write these two, but I often forget which 横 it supposed to be longer than the others.

 

I think this kind of "complaining" thread can be useful. We might be able to learn a few tricks to help us a remember our hanzi better along the way.

* I like how 提笔忘字 is translated on Wikipedia... "Character amnesia".

 

EDIT 1: By the way, my way of remembering the difference between 左 and 右 is that 右 yòu has a 口 kǒu at the bottom, and they sound similar.

 

EDIT 2: One more pair of characters that used to trip me up: 冬天的冬(dōng) and 修改的修(xiū). It's what follows the 夂, aka the 冬字头 - it's two 点 in the former, but three 撇 in the latter.

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Lu

逐渐的逐(zhú), 隧道的隧(suì) and 未遂的遂(suì): A mnemonic I read elsewhere: a pig doesn't have horns. Hence, 逐 is with the pig. It was something like that, I'm afraid I forgot the details.

For 底 and 低, it helped me to realise that 底 only means 'bottom', not much more. 低 is the verb and 形容词.

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Auberon

 

Need to remember that 底 has a 广字头 and 低 a 单人旁, while both are made up of the 氏 (shì, 摄氏的氏) phonetic with a 丶 dot at the bottom.

 

How about, in 底 the 氐 is at the bottom of the character, and in the 'bottom tone'? In 低, in the high tone, both components stand equally high.

 

From my very brief research, 氐 seems to have been the original semantic component in both; not a phonetic, but a pictogram of a man (氏 shi3, nondescript honorific) bowing towards the ground (vertical line that's abbreviated to a dot in some fonts and not in others), hence low, lower, bottom, etc. Here's the 小篆:

s09385.gif

 

 

 

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tooironic

Another pair of tricky characters that just occurred to me today:

 

即 jí

&

既 jì

 

As you can see, they are written and pronounced similarly. What also makes them annoying is the fact that they have no discernible components. I would have no idea how to instruct someone to write them without resorting to saying 横、竖、撇、点, etc.

 

Some character compounds to take note of:

 

即 jí

即使 jíshǐ: even if; even though (see also: 即便 jíbiàn)

立即 lìjí: immediately (see also: 随即 suíjí)

即将 jíjiāng: to be about to

 

既 jì

既然 jìrán: since; this being the case

既成事实 jìchéngshìshí: accomplished fact; fait accompli

既得利益 jìdé lìyì: vested interest

既......又...... jì... yòu...: neither... nor...

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Demonic_Duck
既......又...... jì... yòu...: neither... nor...

Surely the most basic translation is “both… and…”, it would only be “neither… nor…” in the negative.

 

Also, just to make things more confusing, “即” is often pronounced [jì], even though that's not the “correct” dictionary pronunciation.

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Radical Mandarin

 and 既 can be quite easy to remember..

 

The first part in both is the same - corrupted - food.

What makes them different, is  (kneel) in ABOUT TO, and  (burp) in ALREADY.

 

ABOUT TO (meal, kneel). You kneel, about to have a meal.

 

既 ALREADY (meal, burp). Since have already eaten, you burp.

to remember the tones, think of eating on top of a hill. you go up jí as you're about to eat, and you go down jì when you have already eaten.

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Altair

 

The first part in both is the same - corrupted - food.

 

I interpret 艮 as 食 with the lid (亽) removed to show the person has begun to eat or already has eaten.

 

Here are two images to help in visualizing:

 

Kneeling and sitting down on your heels to eat: %5B1%5Djia%281%29.gif  

 

Kneeling and burping with open moth away from the food: %5B1%5Djia%281%29.gif 

 

I think the original meaning of 即 was something like: "approach" or "go ahead to."

 

即使 jíshǐ (go ahead and make it, ....still......): even if; even though (see also: 即便 jíbiàn)

立即 lìjí (standing up and go ahead to): immediately (see also: 随即 suíjí)

即将 jíjiāng (go ahead and be leading to): to be about to

 

I think the original meaning of 既 was something like: "complete(d)" or "already."

 

既然 jìrán (it already being so): since; this being the case

既成事实 jìchéngshìshí (already accomplished fact): accomplished fact; fait accompli

既得利益 jìdé lìyì (already obtained interest): vested interest

既......又...... jì... yòu... (already........and again.........): both....and.....; neither... nor...

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tooironic
Surely the most basic translation is “both… and…”, it would only be “neither… nor…” in the negative.

 

Thanks for correcting my mistake Demonic_Duck.

 

Another group of characters I thought of today that I still have trouble with:

 

袁世凯的(Yuán)

悲哀的(āi)

由衷的(zhōng)

 

Of course, when reading, context gives away the intended word pretty easily, but when writing I often forget which is which, probably because they all contain 衣, though in 哀 (āi) and 衷 (zhōng) the 衣 is split in half by 口 and 中 respectively. Ah, gotta love the complexity of Chinese characters.

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Meng Lelan

世凯的(Yuán)

悲哀的(āi)

由衷的(zhōng)

 

 

I seem to recall roddy had a similar situation with those characters some time ago. 

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Demonic_Duck

Don't forget 衰老的 (shuāi).

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tooironic

Ah yes, thank you, I had a feeling there was one I left out.

 

袁、哀、衷、衰

 

They almost look pretty standing all together like that.

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Altair

This is how I remember these characters:

 

衣 is "clothing."  I envision--stroke by stoke--a clothed neck + shoulders + left arm + left leg and foot + right arm + right leg.

 

袁  is "long robe."  The top is apparently a corruption of a repositioned hand that might have been needed to hold up the long folds of the robe.  I envision shoulder puffs + a clothed neck + shoulders + round collar + left arm + left leg + right arm + right leg.  Assuming  that 口 =  员 helps with the reading and also in recalling the voluminous, rounded folds of the long robe.  It is also the component in the tradition version of 远/遠 ("far") and probably suggests length of distance in that character, in addition to suggesting the reading.

 

哀 is "sorrow/grief."  I envision the same as for 衣, except with 口 added to indicate a repositioned wailing mouth or a hole in clothes rent in grief.  I think of "ai" as a common exclamation or protest and so don't need a clue as to the basic reading.  This is different from the proceeding character because there is absolutely nothing to suggest increased length of the clothing.

 

衷 is "inner feeling."  I envision the feelings you keep inside (中) your breast hidden under your clothing (衣).  中 also gives the reading.

 

衰 is "decline/become feeble."  I understand it to be the original character for 蓑 ("straw rain cape").  I envision 衰 as a clothed neck + shoulders + left, top, and right edges of the straw cape + binding string + bottom of cape + left arm + left leg + right arm + right leg.  I think of "decline/become feeble" as equal to "dried up and withered like a straw rain cape."  I just remember the reading and don't bother with a mnemonic.

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tooironic

Here's another batch of characters that are really similar to each other:

戌 xū (地支的第十一位)
戍 shù (军队驻守的意思)
戊 wù (天干的第五位)


I like the note given in the 现代汉语规范词典, it can help you remember how to write them:

“戌”中间是一短横,指地支的第十一位;“戊”中间没有点,也没有横,指天干的第五位。可记住如下口诀:“横戌点戍空心戊”。

The good news is that these characters are not common in everyday life. :)

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tooironic

Not to mention this one which also looks similar and has a very different pronunciation:

 

茂 mào
①形茂盛。
根深叶茂 | 茂林修竹 | 茂密
②形丰盛美好。
声情并茂

 

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OneEye

Yeah, but 戊 is the sound component in 茂, and from a historical perspective their pronunciations aren't really all that different. ;)

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tooironic
How similar were they?

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xiaokaka

Baxter and Sagart reconstruct them both in Middle Chinese as muwH (m- + -uw 去声).

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