Here are 5 ways to embrace Chinese characters:
**1. Traditional or Simplified?** There are two writing systems, Traditional (繁体 fántǐ) and Simplified (简体 jiǎntǐ). Mandarin in mainland China uses Simplified Characters while Traditional Characters are used In Taiwan and in Cantonese, which is spoken throughout southern China and Hong Kong. I only encourage character recognition to help with texting and typing. To type Chinese characters, add a Mandarin keyboard, type the Pinyin (the pronunciation of a character) and choose the corresponding characters. (edited)
**2. The construction of a character.** Characters are thoughtfully put together through strokes and radicals. Strokes are lines that make up a character and in writing there is a specific sequence to follow (another reason why I encourage just recognition). Radicals, on the other hand, help with organization of characters in a dictionary and also make “categories” for words. An example of this is 口 (kǒu) , the mouth radical, which can be seen in words such as 吃 (chī) to eat and 喝 (hē) to drink, all categorized under “mouth.” (edited)
**3.** **Characters tell a story!** The visual stories that characters tell initially drew me to the language. I really appreciate the strokes and radicals used to build a character that attach a story to the meaning and this also helps me in my memorization with the language. An example of this is the word 马上 (mǎshàng) meaning “immediately.” To break it down 马 (mǎ) means “horse” and 上 (shàng) means “on” which is how you would get somewhere immediately, by horse! Again, use these stories to your advantage in learning Chinese and memorizing characters.
**4. Use associations!** Another way to help remember characters is to make associations, relate the character to an idea or image that can assist you in memorizing. Any association can work! An example of this is with the character 忙 (máng) which means “busy.” To me this character looks like a person at a desk working and is very “busy.” I strongly encourage this method!
**5. Characters are an art form.** Characters are used as an artistic expression and can be seen on scrolls, integrated into landscape paintings and even calligraphy is considered as an art. My friend’s father practices calligraphy and recently won a first place award in China. He wrote a phrase that I have hanging on my wall in my living room that says, 畅叙幽情 (chàngxù yōuqiíng”) meaning “deep and cheerful conversation with old friends.” A great saying to hang just above my couch.