Learn to read Chinese ... with ease! | ShaoLan | Summary and Q&A

May 7, 2013
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Learn to read Chinese ... with ease! | ShaoLan

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In this video, the speaker shares her fascination with the Chinese language and her desire to make it more accessible to others. She introduces a method of learning Chinese characters through a series of radicals, or building blocks. By breaking down the characters and providing visual cues, she demonstrates how even a small number of radicals can help learners understand a large number of characters and build phrases.

Questions & Answers

Q: What is the speaker's personal connection to the Chinese language?

Growing up in Taiwan with a calligrapher mother, the speaker's fascination with Chinese characters was sparked at a young age as she was shown the beauty, shape, and form of these characters.

Q: Why does she compare the Chinese language to the Great Wall of China for outsiders?

The Chinese language can appear impenetrable to outsiders due to its complex characters and unfamiliarity with the language. It is seen as a barrier that is difficult to overcome, much like the Great Wall of China.

Q: What is the speaker's goal regarding the Chinese language?

The speaker aims to break down the wall of the Chinese language so that anyone who is interested can understand and appreciate its beauty. She wants to create a new, fast method of learning Chinese to make it more accessible.

Q: How did the speaker initially learn Chinese characters?

From the age of five, the speaker learned to draw each stroke of every character in the correct sequence. She spent 15 years learning new characters daily. However, she recognized the need for a faster and simpler method.

Q: How many characters does a Chinese scholar understand, and how many are needed for basic literacy?

A Chinese scholar understands around 20,000 characters, but for basic literacy, only around 1,000 characters are needed. With 200 characters, one can comprehend 40 percent of basic literature, allowing them to read road signs, menus, web pages, and newspapers.

Q: What are the eight radicals that the speaker introduces?

The eight radicals are person, fire, tree, mountain, sun, moon, door, and woman. These radicals serve as building blocks for creating more characters.

Q: Can you provide an example of how the speaker links a radical to a character?

The speaker explains that the symbol for fire resembles a person with two arms, appearing as if they are yelling for help. She associates this symbol with the idea of someone being on fire but acknowledges that different associations may work for different learners.

Q: How does the speaker illustrate the concept of combining radicals to create new characters?

The speaker demonstrates how two trees together form the woods, and three trees create a forest. By adding other elements, such as a plank or a mouth, she shows how new characters and meanings can be produced.

Q: How many characters can be built using the first eight radicals?

With the first eight radicals, it is possible to build 32 characters. The speaker suggests that with minimal effort, learners can quickly reach the level of a Chinese eight-year-old in terms of character knowledge.

Q: What is the next step after learning the characters?

Once the characters are learned, the next step is to start building phrases. The speaker gives examples such as combining the characters for mountain and fire to create the phrase "fire mountain," representing a volcano.

Q: Why does the speaker use a slide with a reminder to stop talking?

The speaker jokingly uses the slide to remind herself to conclude her presentation and step off the stage. It serves as a humorous and lighthearted way to bring her talk to a close.


Learning Chinese characters can be seen as a daunting task, but by breaking them down into radicals and providing visual associations, the speaker offers a faster and simpler method for learning the language. With just a small number of radicals, learners can understand a wide range of characters and begin building phrases. By utilizing this approach, anyone can embark on the journey of understanding and appreciating the beauty of the Chinese language.

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