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  • 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

  • at 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.

  • (Applause)

Growing up in Taiwan

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B1 TED tree sun chinese mouth fire

【TED】ShaoLan: Learn to read Chinese ... with ease! (Learn to read Chinese ... with ease! | ShaoLan)

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    VoiceTube posted on 2013/05/21
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