04_Shao Lan_Learn to Read Chinese with ease_2013


04 Learn to Read Chinese ... with Ease!

By Shao Lan

Growing up in Taiwan as the daughter of a calligrapher, one of my most treasured memories was my mother showing me the beauty, the shape and the form of Chinese characters. Ever since then, I was fascinated by this incredible language.

But to an outsider, it seems to be as impenetrable as the Great Wall of China. Over the past few years, I`ve been wondering if I can break down this wall, so anyone who wants to understand and appreciate the beauty of this sophisticated language could do so. I started thinking about how a new, fast method of learning Chinese might be useful.

Since the age of five, I started to learn how to draw every single stroke for each character in the correct sequence. I learned new characters every day during the course of the next 15 years. Since we only have five minutes, it`s better that we have a fast and simpler way. A Chinese scholar would understand 20,000 characters. You only need 1,000 to understand the basic literacy. The top 200 will allow you to comprehend 40 percent of basic literature -- enough to read road signs, restaurant menus, to understand the basic idea of the web pages or the newspapers. Today I`m going to start with eight to show you how the method works. You are ready?

Open your mouth as wide as possible until it`s square. You get a mouth. This is a person going for a walk. Person. If the shape of the fire is a person with two arms on both sides, as if she was yelling frantically, "Help! I`m on fire!" -- This symbol actually is originally from the shape of the flame, but I like to think that way. Whichever works for you. This is a tree. Tree. This is a mountain. The sun. The moon. The symbol of the door looks like a pair of saloon doors in the wild west.

I call these eight characters radicals. They are the building blocks for you to create lots more characters. A person. If someone walks behind, that is "to follow." As the old saying goes, two is company, three is a crowd. If a person stretched their arms wide, this person is saying, "It was this big." The person inside the mouth, the person is trapped. He`s a prisoner, just like Jonah inside the whale. One tree is a tree. Two trees together, we have the woods. Three trees together, we create the forest. Put a plank underneath the tree, we have the foundation. Put a mouth on the top of the tree, that`s "idiot." (Laughter) Easy to remember, since a talking tree is pretty idiotic. Remember fire? Two fires together, I get really hot. Three fires together, that`s a lot of flames. Set the fire underneath the two trees, it`s burning. For us, the sun is the source of prosperity. Two suns together, prosperous. Three together, that`s sparkles. Put the sun and the moon shining together, it`s brightness. It also means tomorrow, after a day and a night. The sun is coming up above the horizon. Sunrise. A door. Put a plank inside the door, it`s a door bolt. Put a mouth inside the door, asking questions. Knock knock. Is anyone home? This person is sneaking out of a door, escaping, evading. On the left, we have a woman. Two women together, they have an argument. (Laughter) Three women together, be careful, it`s adultery.

So we have gone through almost 30 characters. By using this method, the first eight radicals will allow you to build 32. The next group of eight characters will build an extra 32. So with very little effort, you will be able to learn a couple hundred characters, which is the same as a Chinese eight-year-old. So after we know the characters, we start building phrases. For example, the mountain and the fire together, we have fire mountain. It`s a volcano. We know Japan is the land of the rising sun. This is a sun placed with the origin, because Japan lies to the east of China. So a sun, origin together, we build Japan. A person behind Japan, what do we get? A Japanese person.

The character on the left is two mountains stacked on top of each other. In ancient China, that means in exile, because Chinese emperors, they put their political enemies in exile beyond mountains. Nowadays, exile has turned into getting out. A mouth which tells you where to get out is an exit.

This is a slide to remind me that I should stop talking and get off of the stage. Thank you.


From: http://www.ted.com/talks/lisa_bu_how_books_can_open_your_mind.html

Bio of Shao Lan Hsueh

Born in Taipei and now living in London, ShaoLan is an entrepreneur, investor, writer, traveller and dreamer. ShaoLan has had several dramatic changes of career in the past. While studying for an MBA she wrote four best-selling books on software, awarded "book of the year" in Taiwan. In her second semester she co-founded her first venture, pAsia Inc. Under her leadership pAsia became a major player in the internet sector in the Greater China area in the late 1990`s. After moving to London she began investing in and advising young technology companies through Caravel Capital, which she founded in 2005 whilst studying at the University of Cambridge. She has also been a director of five UK-based technology companies.

After taking a sabbatical, she is now focused on sharing a new method of learning Chinese: Chineasy, described as "a visual-based learning system that teaches Chinese characters, simple stories & phrases. Our aim is to bring down the great wall of Chinese language."

ShaoLan is a member of several management and advisory boards of nonprofit organisations in the UK, including the Saïd Business School of Oxford University, The Victoria and Albert Museum, Asia House, and the New School Network, an organisation backed by the British Government promoting educational reform.