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How to Write Chinese Characters Like a Native

How to Write Chinese Characters Like a Native

For westerners, it’s easy to assume that English or Spanish are the most commonly spoken and written languages in the world. After all, those are the primary languages taught in schools and it seems like everyone has at least a basic knowledge of one of the two. However, the truth is that Mandarin Chinese is almost as popular as both English and Spanish combined. An estimated 955 million people speak it – or 14.4 percent of the entire global population.

While it can take years to learn Mandarin, many people with a casual interest in the language find the idea of learning to write Chinese characters intriguing. If you’re in that cohort, there’s no better time to learn than right now! Within 10 minutes, you can go from having zero knowledge of Chinese to being capable of writing five unique characters.

Grab a pen, snag a piece of paper, and let’s go!

The Chinese Character for “Big”

2

    Let’s start with the Chinese character, Da, which means “Big” or “Adult” in English.

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    This character is very simple and looks like an upside-down “V” with a perpendicular line cutting through the top. To draw it, start at the upward point and draw a sweeping line down and slightly to the left. Then, do the same thing on the opposite side. Finally, draw a line through the top.

    In order to remember it better, you can picture it like an adult stick figure with arms and legs.

    The Chinese Character for “Mouth”

    3

      Kou – or mouth – is arguably the easiest character to draw. It’s essentially a square with two of the lines slightly protruding beneath the base. It looks something like this:

      In order to remember the character’s association with the meaning, you can picture it as an actual mouth, like this:

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      4

        The Chinese Character for “Mountain”

        5

          The Chinese character for “Mountain” – shan – looks a lot like a pitch fork with no handle. You start by drawing the center line in a top to bottom direction. You then draw the line on the left, followed by the line on the right (which is slightly longer than the other two). Finally, you connect the three lines with a perpendicular stroke.

          Here’s a helpful way to remember that the shan character means “mountain.”

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          7

            The Chinese Character for “Moon”

            8

              The character for “Moon” – yue – is pretty simple to draw. You simply start with by drawing two downward lines. The one on the left sweeps out at the bottom, while the one on the right hooks upward on the inside. You then draw two perpendicular lines in the middle to form two rectangles.

              And here’s a visual to help you remember the character:

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                The Chinese Character for “Fire”

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                  “The Chinese character for “Fire” – huo – is one of the easier ones for beginners to draw.” You start with the same two lines as you do with the character for “Big,” and then draw one short line on side, like this.

                  Here’s an easy way to visually remember the character huo:

                  11

                    Don’t Fret – It Takes Time

                    While these are some of the more simple Chinese characters, don’t worry if you don’t get them right away. Even adult Chinese people will tell you that it took a long time to learn and memorize each individual character. However, with consistent practice and a commitment to learning, you can increase your knowledge of written Chinese characters and consistently add new ones to your repertoire. The top three tips for patiently learning Chinese characters are as follows:

                    • Practice every day. The best thing you can do is practice every single day. Whether its 10 minutes or 2 hours is up to you, but making regular and consistent time to practice will help you retain the information you learn and improve accuracy.
                    • Make analogies. Much like the five examples above, it’s important to make analogies to help you remember what each character means and looks like. While you may not rely on these images forever, they can especially help in the beginning stages.
                    • Use helpful resources. Finally, you should use all of the available resources you have at your disposal. Whether this is the help of a friend, books at the library, websites, or mobile applications, it’s important to surround yourself with knowledge.

                    Top Resources for Further Study

                    In particular, you should focus on some of the following resources: 

                    • Best mobile application. The Monki Chinese Class iPad app is arguably the single most valuable tool for learning basic Chinese characters. Check out this video to see why.
                    • Best writing utensil. According to this infographic from PensXpress, a provider of custom pens, the pen has been around since at least 400 BC. But, what’s the best option for practicing your Chinese characters today? Opt for a fine pencil or pen; the finer the better.
                    • Best print resource. You can’t forget about print resources and books. For a comprehensive look at basic Chinese characters, check out Reading & Writing Chinese: Simplified Character Edition by William McNaughton.

                    Everyone has a different learning style, so make sure you use the tools and resources that are helpful and interesting to you. Start with the five characters taught in this article and then feel free to expand your knowledge and tackle even more difficult Chinese characters!

                    Featured photo credit: Popping Pandas via poppingpandas.com

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                    Larry Alton

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                    Last Updated on February 21, 2019

                    7 Natural Memory Boosters That Actually Work for All Ages

                    7 Natural Memory Boosters That Actually Work for All Ages

                    Forgot a name? Misplaced your keys? Taking longer to find the right words? Don’t panic. There’s plenty you can do to improve your memory.

                    You’re probably expecting us to reveal 7 little known and newly discovered herbs from the forests of the Amazon, the peaks of the Himalayas and the Arctic tundra. No such luck.

                    Despite Americans spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on Ginkgo Biloba, Ashwagandha, Periwinkle, Bacopa, Vitamin B’s, Omega 3’s and memory boosting supplement cocktails, there is very little scientific evidence they actually work. [1]

                    Instead, we’re going to offer you 7 completely natural memory boosters, backed up by scientific research. It may take a little more effort than a magic memory pill, but the benefits will transcend your memory and improve your overall quality of life as well, making you more fit, energetic, happy and sharp.

                    How Do We Remember?

                    The first process in remembering is creating a memory.

                    This is where our brain sends a signal, associated with a thought, event or piece of information our mind is processing, over our brains neural pathways, called synapses.

                    Think of our neural pathways like roads and information like trucks. The better the roads, the more trucks can be driven.

                    The second step in remembering is memory consolidation.

                    Consolidation is when the brain takes that thought, event or piece of information and actually stores it in the brain. So now we’re talking about taking delivery of the trucks and storing its contents in the warehouse.

                    Consolidation helps us store information and label it properly, so its organized and easy to retrieve when needed.

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                    The last step is memory retrieval.

                    That’s the step whereby we try to retrieve the information stored in our brains. You know when you have the name of someone on the tip of your tongue.

                    You have the information; it’s been stored, but you just can’t find it. Our memory recall is typically better the stronger the memory is and the more often we’ve used it.

                    Memory decline is a normal part of aging. However, new scientific research is discovering many new ways for us to improve memory creation, consolidation and retrieval–no matter our age.

                    7 Natural Memory Boosters

                    So how to work on memory and boost your brain power? Here’re 7 brain boosters backed by science that you should try:

                    1. Aerobic Exercise

                    Aerobic activity is about as close as we get to a magic pill for our memories. Exercise helps your brain create new capillaries and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which creates new brain cells and connections. To put it in plain english, aerobic activity changes our brains and helps it grow.

                    Studies have shown that exercising increases the size of the hippocampus and improves memory. In fact, even if you start exercising as an older adult, you can reverse cognitive decline by 1 to 2 years and protects against further decreases in the size of the hippocampus, which is essential for memory. [2]

                    In another study, reviewed by Dr. Ian Robertson of the University of Dublin, they looked at a group of people of 60 years and older, who engaged in “active walking” for four months.

                    They compared them with another group of people who only stretched over the same period of time. After testing both groups before and after the 4 month period, the walkers improved their memory and attention considerably more than the stretching group.

                    So which exercises are best and how much do we have to exercise?

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                    Turns out, it doesn’t really matter whether you run, swim, row or bike. What does matter is that you push yourself beyond your current abilities, keep doing more, keep getting better. Set yourself short term goals and keep pushing the goal posts.

                    2. Sleep

                    You need your sleep. The deeper the better. Sleep helps improve your procedural memory (how to do things, like how do I navigate my iPhone) and declarative memory (facts, like what’s my password). [3]

                    Even short naps from 6 to 45 minutes have been shown to improve your memory. In one Harvard study, college students memorized pairs of unrelated words, memorized a maze and copied a complex form. All were tested on their work. Half were then allowed to take a 45 minute nap. They were then retested. Those who took a nap, got a boost in their performance. [4]

                    Another study showed that getting REM (deep) sleep can increase your memory and mental performance by 33% to 73%. Getting a deep sleep helps the brain consolidate memories through dreams and “associative processing”. However, the study also revealed that heart rate variability in deep sleep also contributed significantly to increased memory performance. [5]

                    3. MIND Diet

                    Healthy eating, particularly more dark colored fruit, vegetables and oily fish has been shown to improve memory and stave off cognitive decline.

                    The MIND diet is proven to reduce the risk of dementia. It’s a mix of the popular Mediterranean diet and the low blood pressure DASH diet. [6]

                    The study kept track of the diets of almost 1,000 older adults. They were followed for an average of 4½ years.

                    The study concluded that “people whose diets were most strongly in line with the MIND diet had brains that functioned as if they were 7½ years younger than those whose diets least resembled this eating style.”

                    The study also showed that people who followed the MIND diet in the study reduced their chance of getting Alzheimer’s disease in half.

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                    So what does the MIND diet consist of? Lots of vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, berries, beans, fish, poultry, olive oil, whole grains and wine.

                    4. Relax

                    We all know that stress is bad for our health. It can raise our blood pressure, impact our immune system and interrupt our sleep. Stress also impairs our memory.

                    When our body gets stressed, it releases cortisol into our blood stream, which can cause short and long term physical changes to the brain. While cortisol has sometimes been shown to cause increases in short term memory, it can actually decrease our long term recall memory.

                    To help reduce the stress in your life, try relaxing with meditation, yoga or breathing exercises. Unplug–even for just a few hours. Stop checking your emails, social accounts and news. Release some endorphins with some exercise.

                    Bottom line, the more anxious and stressed we are, the less clearly we think, the poorer our memory works.

                    5. Continuous Learning

                    The mind is like a muscle. The more you challenge it, the stronger it gets. The more you learn, the more you can learn.

                    Research shows that learning can actually change the physical makeup of your brain. Not too long ago, we used to think that you were born with a fixed amount of brain cells, which declined with age. New research now shows that we can actually increase the number of brain cells we have throughout our life.

                    Aside from staying physically active, learning new skills and studying can actually keep our brains healthier. Consider taking a continuing education class, studying a new language, learning a new instrument, playing new card games. [7]

                    Studies show that the more complex the task, the more benefits for your mind. Simply showing up to class is not enough. You need to be actively engaged. Anything that forces you to focus and learn something new and get out of a rote routine will help you sharpen your mind and boost your memory.

                    6. Stay Social

                    The more deep and meaningful social connections you maintain, the more you protect your brain. Bottom line, the more friends you have, the more people you work with, the more you’re forced to use your brain.

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                    Social isolation and loneliness are significant risks of dementia. Without interacting with others, our brains wilt. Isolation and loneliness lead to depression, physical and mental decline. [8]

                    In a 2016 study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, seniors with a full social calendar did better on memory, reasoning, and processing speed tests. [9]

                    What to do?

                    Party! Seriously, get together with friends as often as possible. Have family dinners. Choose social activities or sports like tennis, golf, cards or go for walks with a friend. Bottom line have fun, build meaningful social relationships and stay connected. Not only will it make your mind sharper and your memory better, you’ll be happier, too!

                    7. Wakeful Rest

                    This one is getting harder and harder to do. In a world where we can’t sit on a bus, go up an elevator or go to the bathroom without our phones, doing absolutely nothing to distract our minds is becoming increasingly difficult.

                    But, the results are in. Doing nothing is great for your memory. Quietly resting for 10 minutes, after you learn something will help you remember and help you create more detailed memories. [10]

                    What we do minutes after we learn something new has a significant impact on how well we retain the new information. In another study, it didn’t matter what you did after you learned something new, as long as you weren’t distracted by outside factors. In other words, you could be thinking of your day, making a grocery list, or thinking of a story. In either case, wakeful rest for a period of 10 minutes helped the brain process and consolidate your memories so that you were better able to recall the information at a later date. [11]

                    Conclusion

                    You don’t have to spend a dime on cocktails and supplements promising a quick boost to your memory power. There is very little conclusive scientific evidence suggesting supplements will help improve the memories of healthy individuals–not for Ginkgo Biloba, Vitamin B, fish oils, Vitamin D, Folate or other supplements claiming they a secret formula.

                    There are far cheaper and more effective ways to boost your memory: exercise, rest, eat well, learn, love, laugh and relax. Who wouldn’t want that prescription?

                    More Resources About Boost Brain Power

                    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                    Reference

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