The most common question when learning Chinese is “How on earth will I memorize thousands of characters!?” On one hand you will memorize many characters, but on the other hand you will use radicals to help you distinguish the meaning of a new word.
Radicals are context clues within a character that hints at the meaning of the whole character.
Chinese is a building blocks language, if we learn the basic radicals well then we will more easily and quickly grasp new vocabulary later.
This is the radical for water 氵
These are the characters for river 河 and ocean 海洋.
Do you see the radical for water in these characters? Great, all the characters above do contain the radical for water, because both a river and an ocean consist of water. If you came across these characters, but did not know what they meant you would at least know their meaning involved water because of the radical located to the left of each character.
Which of these characters means lake?
湖 对 熊
Vocabulary list consisting of well-known characters/ radicals.
Character Pinyin Meaning
水 氵 shuǐ water
火 灬 huǒ fire
口 kǒu mouth
田 tián field
心 忄 xīn heart
大 dà big
工 gōng work
月 yuè moon
日 rì sun
马 mǎ horse
人 亻 rén person
*I suggest over exaggerating your tones while studying. This will further enforce your memory of which tone is assigned to each word.*
As shown in your vocabulary list above, some characters have separate radicals and others can be used as both individual characters or radicals themselves.
水 – can stand alone
氵- cannot stand alone
Look at the sentences and phrases below. Can you find 水 being used as a full character? Can you find 氵 being used as a radical? Can you find 水 being used as a radical?
Last but not least, check out the characters for sun, tài yáng. What radicals do you see?