How many Characters Make up the Chinese language?
Technically, it is uncertain how many Chinese Characters are there. The numbers change depending on the source of information. I did a little research, and if I should answer this question, I will confidently estimate that there are 60,000 plus Chinese characters. The Chinese Variant dictionary has 106,230 characters. General Standard table contains 8105 characters, and along 6500 characters are common.
How many Letters in the Chinese Alphabet do you need to know in order to communicate or study in China?
But do not get frightened because Chinese schools teach only about 7000 to 8000 characters. If you know 2500 to 3000 characters, you are good to interact with the native Chinese people. These fun facts make it enjoyable to learn Chinese Language.
In English, we count alphabets as there are 26 letters. The letters are combined to make words/sentences. But the scenario is different in the Chinese language because only the characters are counted, and each represents a word. We cannot put characters together to create a word as we do with the English alphabets because Chinese characters represent words themselves.
Chinese is a tonal language that means a single character can pronounce in many ways, and each pronunciation tone has its meaning. Thousands and thousands of Chinese characters are there that even sound similar. That’s why its tricky to answer the question of how many Chinese characters are there.
People feel scared to learn the Chinese language because of countless Chinese characters. But if you learn Chinese in china, you will learn Chinese faster. Because when you communicate with a native speaker, your vocabulary will increase naturally. Moreover, you will discover historical facts, traditions, and acquire the right accents. A Gap year in China will surely get you closer to fluency in Chinese mandarin
History of Chinese Characters:
To understand the question “how many Chinese characters are there”, you need to study the history behind the evolution of the Mandarin Language. The Chinese language is considered as one of the oldest languages. Unlike other languages, the Chinese language is not based upon numbers or letters. It is based upon pictures that are transformed into characters. They converted image into characters represents sounds and meanings. The scripts of Chinese characters are almost 2000 years old. The Chinese characters are continued to develop until 1950.
There are two types of Chinese character one is known as traditional characters, and the other is named as a simplified character. Traditional characters are still used in Taiwan, and Mainland China focuses on the simplified characters only. Mandarin is considered as the official language of China and spoken in different cities of China. Many students learn mandarin from different qualified institutions in China. There are numbers of Chinese language learning schools in China that offer scholarships to international students.
Common Chinese Characters:
• 人 (rén) — person
• 吃 (chī) — eat
• 车 (chē) — car
• 山 (shān) — mountain
• 头 (tóu) — head
• 好 (hǎo) — good
• 下 (xià) — down
• 火 (huǒ) — fire
• 上 (shàng) — up
Let’s get a little practice with the Chinese characters above. You will realize that learning Chinese is not difficult. Using the above mention Chinese characters, you can make the following words.
• 火山 (huǒ shān — means “fire mountain”)
• 上山 (shàng shān — means “up mountain”)
• 吃人 (chī rén — means “eat people” (taking advantage of people)
• 好吃 (hǎo chī — means “good eat”)
• 上车 (shàng chē — means “up car,”)
• 火车 (huǒ chē — literally “fire car,”)
How to start learning Chinese characters?
If you want to speak Chinese like a native, it is important to get familiar with the basic Chinese Characters. Start learning Chinese characters from the very beginning. You can take 10 to 20 Chinese characters and make a variation from these characters.
In the Chinese language, there are no alphabets but characters that are joined to make a word. Consider the following example to gather better understanding,
Now, what does the above word means?
In the above example, two Chinese characters are joined together to make a complete word. 一 means one.
共 means together.
一共 (Yī Gòng) (the complete word means “altogether”)
Are you getting my point? It is so easy, with no complicated rules or grammar patterns
Okay, let us try another example:
时区: Shí Qū
There are two different new Chinese characters hat combine to create a new word.
But what does that word mean?
时 means time
区 also means area
We are combining two different characters that show time and area.
The complete word means 时区: Shí Qū time zone.
Types of Chinese Symbols:
Pictographs and Hieroglyphs represent syllabus, words, and sounds. Symbols are used that represent the characters with deep meaning. Two or more pictographs combined together to make an abstract concept.
Let us examine the following examples.
本 (běn, “root”) is from 木 (mù, “tree”) and 一 (yī, “one”) drawn low
明 (míng, “light”) is from 日 (rì, “sun”) and 月(yuè, “moon”
末 (mò, “tip”) is from 木 (mù, “tree”) and 一 (yī, “one”) drawn high
Chinese Characters developed in several different styles that include the following:
• Oracle Bone
• Lesser Seal
• Greater Seal
• Modern Simplified
A basic list of Chinese Characters
There are six basic types of Chinese characters that are the following:
1. Phonetic Compounds
4. Loan Characters
5. Combined ideographs
6. Transfer Characters
Understand Chinese Characters Logics:
If you are a beginner in learning Chinese characters, it would be a plus if you read the daily newspaper and stare at novel words to understand how you can combine one or more characters. You can learn daily 5 to 10 characters and create several new variations. It will help to increase your vocabulary, and you will understand the true logic.
Consider the following new words:
• 影 yǐng means Shadow
• 视 shì means Vision
• 电 diàn means Electric
• 脑 nǎo means Brain
Now you can see that each of the words has a specific new meaning. Let’s logically combine two characters to form a new word.
电+ 影 = 电影（diànyǐng） (Electric + Shadow = Cinema)
电 + 脑 = 电脑 （diànnǎo） (Electric + Brain = Computer)
电 + 视 = 电视 （diànshì） (Electric + Vision = TV)
Isn’t it interesting to understand?
Radicals in Chinese:
First, understand the exact definition of radicals in Chinese; a radical represents the graphical component representation of Chinese characters. The radicals are traditionally listed in the Chinese dictionary, and the radical graphical component is a semantic indicator.
Let us consider the radical water representation:
• 泡 – pào means bubble
• 液 – yè means Liquid
• 河 – hé means River
I know your what would be your next question,
How many radicals are there in the Chinese Language, Right?
There is a total of 214 radicals in the traditional radical system.
Common Radicals in the Chinese Language:
门 (mén) means door
亻(rén) means door
冫(bīng) means ice
The next important thing to learn:
Introduction to Pinyin
The creation of Pinyin has made Chinese learning easier. I must say it is a blessing for foreigners to learn Pinyin and understand the context of Chinese learning.
For the standard Chinese, Pinyin represents the romanization system. It is used to teach the standard mandarin Chinese. It was introduced in 1950.
• 门 mén
• 影 yǐng
• 视 sh
Now, understand how Pinyin works for foreigners. In the above example, the left word represents the Chinese character, and the right represents the Pinyin (that how the Chinese character will pronounce). For an international student, it is easy for them to learn the pronunciation.
There are two main parts in Pinyin.
One represents the ‘initials,’ and the second represents the ‘final.’
说 shuō (initial (sh) and final (uō)
分 fēn (initial (f) and final (ēn)
In Pinyin, there are 21 initials and 37 finals.
Traditional and Simplified Chinese Characters:
One of the Chinese language’s main changes is the traditional and simplified Chinese character changes. In Taiwan, teaching traditional characters is part of the syllabus, whereas, in Mainland China, simplified Chinese characters are used.
Understanding the traditional character’s value is essential if you are in Taiwan and want to explore China’s cultural side. It provides the deeper comprehensive meaning of different characters, and learners can learn the correct pronunciation.
Most Common Chinese Characters
Learning and mastering the Chinese language is mainly dependent upon mastering the interplay of the characters. Let us understand the most commonly used Chinese characters.
的 (‘de’ is A grammatical particle)
It is the most used Chinese character that shows possession. 的 It does not have the exact translation or meaning. Let us understand from the following examples:
我们的老师 wǒmen de lǎoshī
means Our teacher
我的手机 wǒ de shǒujī
means My mobile phone
不 (bù – not) how to use 不 in chinese
It is the Chinese character used for something negative, and the literal meaning IS NOT.
Consider the following examples:
我不是学生 Wǒ bù shì xuésheng
I am not a student
我不是澳大利亚人 Wǒ bù shì àodàlìyǎ rén
I am not Australian
人 (rén means person)
This character is used to remember the good things and is mostly used in the Chinese language.
It is used when a person resembles another person walking.
三个人 Sān gè rén means Three people
我 (wǒ means my, I, or me)
This character is used to refer to I, and you can use this character in combination with other characters to create a complete sentence.
The following example will make your concept clearer.
我喜欢吃比萨 Wǒ xǐhuān chī bǐsà means I like to eat Pizza
我很好 Wǒ hěn hǎo means I am good
有 (yǒu means there is, have)
You will commonly see this word in many places and can use for diverse purpose. It is used to show possession.
我们有三个女儿 Wǒmen yǒu sān gè nǚ’ér. This means we have three daughters.
日本有很多中国人 Rìběn yǒu hěn duō Zhōngguó rén. Means, there are many Chinese people in Japan.
今天你有课吗？ Jīntiān nǐ yǒu kè ma? Means, do you have classes today?
他 (tā means him, he, his)
The concept of tā is used for the male. Learning Chinese characters is not difficult if you have a logical understanding of character creation. Here are some examples you can use in Chinese sentences.
他上周去了上海 Tā shàng zhōu qùle shànghǎi means, He went to Shanghai last week
他几岁了 tā jĭ suì le means How old is he?
Counting in Chinese Characters:
1. 一 (yī) means “one.”
2. 二 (èr) means “two.”
3. 三 (sān) means “three.”
4. 四 (sì) means “four.”
5. 五 (wǔ) means “five.”
6. 六 (liù) means “six.”
7. 七 (qī) means “seven
8. 八 (bā) means “eight.”
9. 九 (jiǔ) means “nine.”
10. 十 (shí) means “ten.”
HSK Examination Format
HSK officially means Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi which is the standard measure of the Chinese Mandarin Proficiency level. You may only study up to a little below 3000 characters in order to reach the apex of Mandarin. Which means with about 2000 characters, you can study in China, communicate proficiently and also read newspapers or do business with Chinese
Do you know how to say thank you in Chinese? Well, I have a nice article on various ways to say thank you in Chinese. You can also read more about Chinese Movies, Apps to study Chinese, Learning Chinese in Shanghai, and many more
In conclusion, the best way to study Chinese is to start learning online with other native speakers, spend a summer studying Chinese in China or even take on an internship program in China. You may also enroll in our comprehensive University Chinese language Program. Always practice and spend more hours speaking with native speakers. If you want to learn Chinese in China, Intern or work in China, reach out to our consultants and they will assist you to select the be programs.