What form of Chinese does Chineasy teach?
In Chineasy I teach a mixture of simplified and traditional forms - whichever we think makes the most sense according to the system I designed. However, 90% of Chineasy is in traditional Chinese as this is what we use in Taiwan. If you read carefully, I always point out the counter part (either simplified or traditional) so that you can learn both.
Please don't worry which system you are learning. It’s like knowing the difference between British spelling and American spelling. For instance, in the UK you spell ‘flavour’ like this, but in the US you spell it without the ‘u’, like this ‘flavor’. In real life you tend to come across both around the world.
In general, people from Mainland China and Singapore use simplified Chinese, whereas people in Taiwan and Hong Kong use the traditional form. In Chineasy, we focus on teaching you Chinese characters (both simplified and traditional) but I also mark ‘Japanese Kanji’ so you will know how useful each character is!
Simplified Chinese 正体字/簡體字; Pinyin: Jiǎn ti zì
Traditional Chinese 正體字/繁體字; Pinyin: Fántǐzì
What is the Difference between Building Blocks/Compounds/Phrases?
In the past years, I broke down thousands of common Chinese character and analysed how they are constructed. The process is just like a little boy breaking down lots of Lego ™ models (a fire station, a boat and maybe a space shuttle). This boy then starts classifying Lego ™ bricks. He then realised that no matter how fancy and complicated the models are, they are all built out of the same set of Lego ™ bricks.
The same as Chinese. Most characters are built out of circa 100 ‘building blocks’. I designed a programme on my computer and then started prioritising the most common and useful building blocks. In my computer programme I identified the correlations between each character until my screen was full of thousands of lines and tiny characters.
I then start using charming illustrations to help you memorise the ‘building blocks’. Please don’t be horrified by the terminology here. In Chineasy ‘building block’ means some basic and common character you need to learn.
After knowing how to recoginse those ‘building blocks’ you can then carry on ‘constructing’ loads of more characters. I called those newly constructed characters ‘compounds’, meaning the characters which are composed of two or more ‘building blocks’.
Both ‘building blocks’ and ‘compounds’ are characters.
An independent Chinese character is the smallest grammatical unit in Chinese language, but many characters can never occur alone, always forming compounds with other characters. For example, when we put fire (火) and mountain (山) together as a phrase, it means volcano (火山). By putting fire (火) and mountain (山) and mouth (口) together, we create ‘crater’ (火山口).
This is where most westerners get confused. In English ‘crater’ is one word but in Chinese, crater is made out of three characters.
mountain = 山
What you should do is to treat building blocks, compounds and phrases as part of the vocabulary you need to accumulate when learning Chinese.
In Chineasy, you will see illustrations across building blocks, compounds and phrases. I also tell you historical and cultural stories to help you understand and remember how those words were formed and used.
What is difference between Simplified/Traditional/Kanji?
Written records of the Chinese language have been discovered as far back as the 14th to 11th centuries BCE during the Shang dynasty in their use of Oracle Bone Script. Since then, Chinese characters have spread to its neighbouring countries including Japan. Japanese Kanji share an incredible number of characters (approximately 2,000 to 3,000) with Chinese, sometimes there is slight variation in meaning, but most of the time the meaning is either identical or differs only slightly. I managed to get around Japan over the years without knowing how to speak a word of Japanese because I could read their Kanji!
Over the past few thousands years, Chinese's spoken dialects have evolved at different rates depending on their geographical location, whilst written Chinese has, comparatively, changed very little. However, starting in 1949 in an attempt to promote mass literacy the Communist party started simplifying Traditional Chinese characters. This process involved removing or altering the number of strokes comprising Traditional characters, making them easier to read and write. To date, about 2,000 characters have been simplified. Any character altered or substituted after 1949 is considered Simplified Chinese.
Traditional Chinese characters are comprised of all characters which predate the Communist party's reforms. The modern shapes of Traditional Chinese derives from the emergence of the Clerical Script during the Han Dynasty, and has been more or less stable since the 5th century (during the Southern and Northern Dynasties).
Kanji, on the other hand, are the adopted logographic Chinese characters (Hanzi) that are used in the modern Japanese writing system, alongside: Hiragana (ひらがな, 平仮名), Katakana (カタカナ, 片仮名), Hindu-Arabic numerals, and occasionally the Latin alphabet. The Japanese term Kanji (漢字) referring to the Chinese characters literally mean "Han characters" and is written using the same characters as the Chinese Hanzi (漢字).
Simplified Chinese: 简体字/簡體字; pinyin: jian3 ti3 zi4
Traditional Chinese: 正體字/繁體字; Pinyin: Fan2 ti3 zi4
Japanese Kanji: 漢字; Pinyin: kandʑi
Mandarin Chinese: 漢字; Pinyin: hàn zì
Your definition of a character is different to mine. Why?
Firstly, as I have said, many building blocks never occur alone, they are always used to form compounds with other characters. So although an independent character may have its own meaning when it is partnered with another to become a compound, the whole meaning of the character will change.
Secondly, the meaning of independent character can change depending on its use, eg. Noun, verb, measure word, pronoun etc…. The same situation exists in English. For example, vocabulary ‘light’ could mean ‘something weighs very little’, ‘someone who is not important', or ‘the electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye’ depending on the context. The same as Chinese!
Finally, Chinese is very similar to English in a lot of ways. We have multiple words for the same thing. For instance, in English you can call a toilet a loo, bathroom, ladies, gents, water closet (alright that one isn’t as common) and restroom. All of them have the same basic meaning, but their use is dependent on the speaker’s age, location, upbringing etc. The same is true of Chinese. Our language has evolved and developed over thousands of years and so apart from Simplified, Traditional or Kanji we also just have a very large vocabulary. If you know a different way of writing a certain character it is most likely correct, but so is ours.
What is Pinyin and where is it on the site?
Pinyin refers to the official phonetic system for transcribing the sound of Chinese characters into Latin script in China, Taiwan, and Singapore. I include the Pinyin to every character on my site so that you can learn to pronounce it. In time, I hope to also be able to add sound to the site so that you can hear the Pinyin as well as just reading them. You can find the Pinyin on the top left hand corner of every building block, compound and phrase in the Basic's section. I also include them at the end of any Chineasy Life post, so keep your eyes peeled.
You will notice that each Pinyin has a number beside it. This number is a tonal marker and indicates how the characters should be pronounced.
1 indicates the the first tone = Flat or High Level Tone. It can alternativley be depicted by a macron (ˉ) above the pinyin's vowel: ā (ɑ̄) ē ī ō ū ǖ Ā Ē Ī Ō Ū
2 indicates the second tone = Rising or High-Rising Tone. It can alternativley be depicted by an acute accent (ˊ) above the pinyin's vowel: á (ɑ́) é í ó ú ǘ Á É Í Ó Ú
3 indicates the third tone = Falling-Rising or Low Tone. It can alternativley be depicted by a caron (ˇ) above the pinyin's vowel: ǎ (ɑ̌) ě ǐ ǒ ǔ ǚ Ǎ Ě Ǐ Ǒ Ǔ
4 indicates the fourth tone = Falling or High-Falling Tone. It can alternativley be depicted by a grave accent (ˋ) above the pinyin's vowel: à (ɑ̀) è ì ò ù ǜ À È Ì Ò Ù
5 indicates the fifth tone = Neutral Tone. Its vowels have no markers: a (ɑ) e i o u ü A E I OU
Will you use this system to teach different languages?
Hopefully! At the moment Chineasy aims is to teach everyone to read Chinese, but in the future who knows! Perhaps we will launch Japaneasy as well. Only time will tell.
Are there flashcards and/or other learning materials available?
Yes, we have Chineasy Flashcards and Postcards available. Check out ‘where to buy’ to see where you can purchase them from our international stockists in different countries!
Is there a Chineasy book?
Yes! The Chineasy book is available in 6 different languages: English, Dutch, French, Italian, German and Spanish languages. The English edition is available in both UK and US English. The publisher for our UK edition is Thames & Hudson and the US edition is published by Harper Design.
You can also purchase the Chineasy ebook on iTunes and Amazon. You can check out ‘where to buy’ to see where you can purchase them from our international stockists in different countries!
Is there a Chineasy App?
There will be! We know that we live in a digital age and the plan is to get an App out as soon as possible. The Chineasy App is scheduled for release in Autumn 2014.
Who else is involved?
Chineasy is not a one-man band. We have received a lot of help from a lot of talented individuals and companies. Every time I have a new idea, I first discuss with my little girl MuLan. She is also the gatekeeper for all the creative ideas. My little boy MuAn is only interested in car and animal related characters so he is considered part time.
In addition to them, I have a wonderful team working with me, together with:
Noma Bar: Israeli illustrator, Noma Bar, has created Chineasy’s signature illustrative style. For more information about him, please click here.
I also receive advice from all of you, my friends, acquaintances, Chinese and China experts, and most importantly, Chineasy fans. I am truly grateful with your involvement. Without you, this project would be meaningless.
Can you recommend any online dictionaries?
There are a lot of great online dictionaries. Though, they are rather different in terms of their approach and user interface.
Is a Chineasy curriculum available for language schools?
Not at the moment I am afraid. But I may consider.
Website / Social Media Questions
How can I follow you?
You can follow us in so many different ways! We have daily updated Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Spotify accounts, as well as a weekly newsletter. To go directly to our other social media sites just scroll down to the bottom right hand of the screen where you will see links to all of our pages. To register to our newsletter simply click here.
How can I contact you?
You will notice on the top right hand corner of the website that we have a Contact Us button. If you would like to get in touch just fill out the handy form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Alternatively, you can just email email@example.com.
What is the difference between Chineasy Life and the Newsroom?
You will notice on the site that we have two regularly updated blogs - the Newsroom & Chineasy Life. Newsroom is where we post all of our updates relating to Chineasy, such as site updates, events & press. Chineasy Life is our cultural blog. It will show you interesting & fun snippets of Chinese culture and will allow you to put some of your learning into practice!
Questions for ShaoLan
Can I interview you?
I am always thrilled to receive requests for interviews, though unfortunately, I cannot accept them all (although I do try). To request an interview, simply fill out a Contact us form on the website. We will do our best to get back to you as quickly as possible.
Can I work with you?
Chineasy is a project created and funded by ShaoLan. It is not backed by any financial institution or wealthy individuals. It is a social environment for people to learn and enjoy. To keep creative control of Chineasy, we unfortunately, at this time, do not intend to partner with any third parties. However, if you would like to send us a proposal via our Contact us, we will always read & consider it.