Chinese Character Lesson

The objective of this section is to make you comfortable with looking at and working with Chinese characters.

For the following, you need to have Chinese characters installed on your computer. If you are using WindowsXP, follow these instructions:
From the Control Panel, select Regional and Language Options.
On the top of the popup, click the Languages tab.
Click Install files for East Asian languages. If you are going to look at the Thai examples, also click on Install files for complex script and right to left languages (including Thai)
Insert your WindowsXP disk, and click OK.
The language files are installed from the disk, then the computer needs to be restarted.

Begining to recognize Chinese characters, is as easy as 一 二 三.

Chinese Characters EnglishComments
3Did you already guess this one?
一○10Numbers are written from left to right, same as English
三○30Like you could not have guessed this one.

Exercises for the reader to start working with Chinese characters:
1. Open up a document in an editor such as StarOffice, OpenOffice, NetBeans, or Creator.
2. Copy and paste the above characters from this webpage, into your document to make the number 50.
3. Copy and paste the above characters to make the number 73.
Click here for answers.

This is only an exercise because on a Chinese web site, you are more likely to see 26 rather than see 二六.

Combining Characters

Chinese characters can be combined to create other words.

Chinese Characters EnglishComments
MoonAlso used to signify month of the year.
一月JanuaryAlso written 1月.
二月februaryAlso written 2月.
星期日SundayThe exception to the rule, is Sunday.
The SunAlso used to signify day of the month.
YearExample, this year is 2006年.

Exercises for the reader:
1. Copy and paste the above characters to make Friday.
2. Copy and paste the above characters to make December.
3. Translate to English: 2006年7月4日
4. Translate to Chinese: December 25, 1998
Click here for answers.

On the web, it is more common to see 7月4日, than see 七月四日.


Chinese characters are made from strokes. Some strokes are more complicated then others.
Example strokes:

Chinese Characters English
一, 口, 月1, mouth, moon

From a fundemental set of 26 strokes, it is possible to make most every Chinese character you would use in conversation.
Below are samples of building Chinese characters from fundemental strokes:

Chinese Characters EnglishComments
MouthThe origin of the characters are often from picture drawings.
4The Chinese character 4, is Chinese character 8, inside the Chinese character for mouth.
The Sun
starThe Sun combined with born, is star.
WomanNotice the curves like a woman?
ManThe angles of a man.
GoodGood is made by combining the character for woman with man. The Chinese saying is: A woman and man together is good.

It maybe useful to note, 男, the character for boy, is used to signify the boy's room, or the men's room, the restroom for men.

Simplified and Traditional Chinese

Simplified Chinese characters came after Traditional Chinese characters. The idea is to simplify the more complicated characters in simplier characters that are easier to write.

Chinese Characters EnglishComments
CountrySimplified Chinese
CountryTraditional Chinese
Center or central
中国ChinaThe central country
中国人Chinese person, also written 中人
美国America, "America the Beautiful"
Signify a questionSimplified Chinese
Signify a questionTraditional Chinese
YouSame in both Simplified and Traditional Chinese
你好吗?How are you?Simplified Chinese
你好嗎?How are you?Traditional Chinese

Exercises for the reader:
1. Translate American person into Simplified and Traditional Chinese.
2. What is your best guess this, 中國美丽, translates to in English?
Click here for answers.

Web sites I used to help create the above:
* Ming Pao - Chinese newspaper
* Google's translation tool

人 人 高 或 明 心 電話 大 文 山 電腦
是 時 提

End of lesson.