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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”

    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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        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

                    Business Consultant

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                    Last Updated on October 17, 2018

                    7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

                    7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

                    How is your memory? Is your cognitive function as strong as you’d like it to be?

                    If not, then you’re definitely going to be interested in the memory improvement tips I’ll be sharing with you in this article.

                    Despite what you might think – or have been told – improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it. (Don’t worry, as you won’t need to make any significant lifestyle changes.)

                    So how to improve memory? Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve your memory significantly.

                    1. Meditate

                    We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts and figures into our conscious minds.

                    Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

                    Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. And research suggests that the more information and distractions, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory.[1]

                    Fortunately, meditation can help you out.

                    Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

                    If you need help in shifting into a meditative state, I recommend trying an app like Headspace – which can assist you to achieve this in a convenient and structured way.

                    And don’t forget, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

                    2. Get plenty of sleep

                    If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then I’m guessing you’re not remembering well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

                    If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities – including your memory.

                    How much sleep should you be getting?

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                    Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation, you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things.

                    Now, I’ll be honest with you, maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!). But if you care about improving your short-term and long-term ability to remember things, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

                    Are there ways to hack the sleep cycle?

                    Yes, there are.

                    Try these three things:

                    • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
                    • Don’t eat too late
                    • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

                    Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

                    However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory…

                    3. Challenge your brain

                    When was the last time you challenged your brain?

                    I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or undersleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku and memory games.

                    To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

                    Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself, has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-thinking ability and memory.

                    There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

                    • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
                    • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
                    • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

                    If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live – while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

                    Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it, try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

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                    4. Take more breaks

                    When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctively remember working all the hours under the sun – and many under the moon too!

                    At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat and tears.

                    However, I was wrong.

                    Taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

                    Let me explain.

                    Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it – in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

                    Namely, extended study sessions are rarely a good thing, as your ability to retain information naturally declines after a certain period of time.

                    It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

                    It’s the same with your brain. If you overload it with information, you’ll suffer from mental fatigue.

                    What’s the answer?

                    Make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

                    If you don’t want to be as regimented as that, then take breaks as soon as you find yourself losing the ability to focus on the new material. Your brain will thank you – and your learning aptitude will move up a level.

                    5. Learn a new skill

                    I love this quote, as it’s 100% true – but frequently overlooked:

                    “Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo da Vinci

                    From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

                    Let me give you an example of this:

                    Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day – many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

                    Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

                    The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you – rather than letting you work in your own way.

                    Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like, and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction in to learning a new skill (computer coding). It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career – and the ongoing learning made the call centre job much more bearable.

                    Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking our new information. And when learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly, becomes a habit too.

                    6. Start working out

                    If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

                    Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory.

                    Regular exercise increases blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. And a well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

                    “But I just don’t have the time?,” I hear you say.

                    Not a problem.

                    A research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise, offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines.[2] So, if you’re short on time – now you know what to do.

                    Interested in getting started?

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                    Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

                    • Join a gym
                    • Join a sports team
                    • Buy a bike
                    • Take up hiking
                    • Dance to your favorite music

                    7. Eat healthier foods

                    I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

                    This applies to your brain too.

                    The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health too.

                    Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery and dark chocolate. But anything high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory.

                    Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain – leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

                    Want to be mentally healthy? Then eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

                    • Turmeric – helps new brain cells grown
                    • Broccoli – protects the brain against damage
                    • Nuts – improves memory
                    • Green tea – enhances brain performance, memory and focus[3]
                    • Fish oilfish oil supplements can increase your brain power

                    Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

                    Final thoughts

                    I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be of help to you.

                    You don’t need to implement them all. I suggest just trying the ones that appeal to you.

                    But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested. I’m confident you won’t regret it.

                    Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

                    Reference

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