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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”

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    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”

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      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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        The Chinese Character for “Mountain”

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          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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            The Chinese Character for “Moon”

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              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:

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                    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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                    Published on April 16, 2019

                    How Self Care Can Help You Live Your Best Life

                    How Self Care Can Help You Live Your Best Life

                    When was the last time you did something for yourself?

                    Whether it was deciding to treat yourself with a little something or travel for some R&R, how often do you practice self-care?

                    Well, as good as above sounds, there’s a common misconception that many of us have about self-care: that it’s only about indulgence and enjoyment.

                    However, self-care goes far beyond indulgence. It’s actually about respecting your mind and body, understanding its limits, and being able to take care of every part of yourself, in a holistic way.

                    And, you really don’t have to go to extreme measures or do anything specific–like meditating or following a plant based diet–in order to practice self-care. You just have to make sure that what you’re doing is in your best interests.

                    So how can you make that happen?

                    Below are a few proven methods that will help you become a better version of you. Follow through with these regularly and you’ll be well on your way to living your very best life.

                    Listen to Yourself

                    The bulk of self-care is knowing yourself.

                    This means knowing your body’s limitations, and being in tune with your feelings, emotions and thoughts. So it’s important, then, to know who you are and what you want to do in life, in order to truly say that you know yourself. 

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                    What is your purpose?

                    Have you ever thought about this question?

                    Your purpose doesn’t have to remain the same throughout your life. What you found a purpose in at age 19 would likely be different at age 49.

                    In your current situation, think about the different roles that you have – as a working professional, a spouse, a partner, a parent, etc.

                    Do you feel like you are fulfilling your purpose through any of these roles?

                    All you have to do is ensure that what you’re chasing is meaningful to you; this will bring focus and motivation as you strive to achieve your goals.

                    If you have your purpose defined, then that’s awesome! You know what drives you and why.

                    But, if you don’t feel like you have a purpose nailed down, it’s good to start by asking why.

                    For example, why are you working in your particular job or industry? If the reason is vague or unclear, then your motivational energy will be the same. In which case, you may find yourself not having a direction for where you’re headed in life.

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                    If you’d like to learn more about finding your purpose, then I recommend you check out this article:

                    How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

                    Seek Out Continuous Education

                    Now, this may seem less common when you think of self-care, but lifelong learning is incredibly useful and an important component of taking care of yourself.

                    It’s Super Practical

                    Lifelong learning is extremely practical these days and does not require as much effort as it may have in the past. Long gone are the days when you could only find information on something by visiting a library. In this day of the internet, anything you can imagine is at your fingertips.

                    You don’t need to physically go to a learning institution to learn. You can watch Youtube videos to learn new skills, take online courses to earn a degree, and scroll through an endless amount of articles, books and journals from reputable news and informative sites.

                    When you’re constantly pushing yourself to learn and take up new things, your mental health also improves. Research shows that an active and engaged mind is responsible for diminishing age-related memory loss and improves overall cognitive abilities.

                    Your Confidence Will Skyrocket

                    You’ll also have improved self worth as it teaches you to step outside of your comfort zone, which will undoubtedly improve your confidence.

                    You’ll also connect better with others by expanding your knowledge base. Learning exposes you to a multitude of new ideas and perspectives that you may have otherwise never considered. This also increases your adaptability. Whether it’s at work or just wanting to adapt to society, your peers, and loved ones, life long learning prepares you to take on new challenges.

                    You’ll Be More Desired in the Job Market

                    Another obvious reason for continuous education, is that your employability will also increase.

                    With the ever changing economy, and huge influences from technology, social media, science etc., job descriptions today are moving targets. Assignments and roles change so quickly in response to changing business demands, it becomes a Herculean task to keep a job description database current.

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                    In years past, stability was a characteristic of the world of work. Procedures, information, jobs, and organizations were established and provided continuity. Education was completed in the first 14 to 22 years of one’s life, followed by a long career occasionally punctuated by short-term job training.

                    Today, however, jobs, companies, and technology are disappearing and being created simultaneously. To remain current and maintain a competitive advantage in the human capital marketplace, an individual is challenged to continually learn.

                    People return to school at every age to enrich their skills and knowledge for their current positions. Some even prepare themselves for new jobs or career changes, moving them forward into new opportunities and technology.

                    We can be assured that we will be challenged to continue to learn new tasks and information throughout our lives. Successful careers belong to flexible, curious learners who are prepared for opportunities because they know themselves and where they make their best contribution. As Peter Drucker, the father of modern management stated,

                    “Knowledge is choice.”

                    Lifelong learning also increases social awareness and perspective. To genuinely understand and empathize with others, increase social awareness, and foster strong interpersonal relationships, it’s important to seek out new perspectives. Enhancing the skills that positively impact emotional intelligence can bring even greater happiness and success, both personally and at work; and, this is all part of self-care.

                    Improve Your Habits (Both at Work and at Home)

                    Now, the last piece of advice I want to introduce to your self-care regimen, is to improve your habits.

                    Habits define who you are, and are built up over time. You are what you eat is a great example of this. If you make it a habit to eat foods that nourish your body, rather than make your body feel bad, then you will be much healthier overall.

                    Good Habits Allow You to Reach Your Goals

                    Since habits dictate your days and nights, such as waking up every morning to get to work before a certain time, or brushing your teeth before bedtime every night, they play a major role in whether we do or do not reach our goals.

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                    When you form habits that allow you to progress towards your goals, you’re automatically living a purposeful day, everyday.

                    Habits Make Your Time a Priority

                    How do you spend your free time? Do you opt to lounge on the couch watching Netflix passively, or do you engage in activities that support your purpose in life?

                    It’s natural to waste a lot of time during the day, but fostering good habits will make you set a pattern for how you spend your time and give you the choice of what you choose to spend your time on. By improving your habits, you’ll find that you can be a LOT more productive. When you create good habits, you become more efficient with your time and a lot less is wasted.

                    This in essence creates an overall positive influence on your life, allowing you to treat your mind and body well, which is why improving your habits are so important to self-care.

                    Your Well Being Comes First

                    We live in such a fast-paced society, where we are often so caught up in our work, families, maintaining our social lives, our studies and everything in between. It’s an understatement to say that life can get a little overwhelming at times.

                    If you’ve ever watched the safety video onboard a plane, you’ll know that they always ask for a parent or adult to put on the safety mask first, before tending to the child. This may sound selfish, but the fact is that if you truly want to ensure the child’s safety, then your safety needs to come first so that you can protect and care for the child without complications from your end.

                    The same goes for self-care. We need to ensure that our well being is priority, so that we can be the best for the people around us.

                    Listening to yourself, practicing lifelong learning and improving your habits are steps that you can take to ensure you’re constantly in the best state of mind, alongside the indulgence and rest that you reward yourself with.

                    Featured photo credit: Photo by Raychan on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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