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Key Chinese Characters

Build Vocabulary Fast

building chinese vocabulary

Understand how the Chinese words are structured, so that you can build up your vocabulary quicker.

The basic building blocks of a Chinese word are the Chinese characters, or syllables in the spoken form. Each character or syllable is combined with others to form Mandarin words.

A word can consist of only one character, such as rén 人, which means a person.

Very often, it consists of more than one character. The most common are dual characters. An example is rénlèi 人类, which means human being. Of course, it can also consist of multiple syllables. An example is zhōngguórén 中国人, which means Chinese from China.


Learn the Key Building Blocks

Since the building blocks are the Chinese characters, find out what the most frequently used characters are. Make sure that you know them well. This will allow you opportunities to multiply your vocabulary fast and fury.

For example, rén 人is among the top 10 most frequently-used characters and it is a good mandarin character to learn.

It can combine with 类 to form words like rénlèi 人类. 类, however, is not among the most frequently-used Mandarin words. It is good to know, but you should spend more effort in getting to know the Mandarin character人.

The moment you have mastered the character rén 人, you'll get to hear it, use it and read it again and again, enhancing your learning experience in the process. 

These are examples of other words derived from the keyword rén 人: 

Nánrén 男人, which means man; 
nǚrén 女人, which means woman;
rénrén 人人, which means everyone;
rénmen 人们, which means people:
rénmín 人民, which means the people;
hǎorén 好人, which means a good person;
huàirén 坏人, which
means a villain.

The list can go on and on.

Learning key characters that can help you multiply vocabulary fast is therefore something you cannot afford to overlook when learning Chinese.


Don’t worry if you don’t know how to choose the key characters to learn for the moment.  It is the principle that you should be aware of at this stage. 



Read about learning Chinese word frequency.

Read more about learning Chinese.

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