年 – Nian2 – Year
As of today, I’ve been doing word of the day for one year. It all started with 豬.
Here’s the mind boggling thing. To have basic literacy in Chinese, you need to know about THREE THOUSAND characters. So if I did word of the day for EIGHT YEARS, and learned every single character, I’d be there. At that level you can read a newspaper. To know enough to be able to read classical books, and be considered well educated, you need to know even more — about four or five thousand. And a really good dictionary contains tens of thousands of unique characters.
There’s hardly any system to the characters, they just have to be memorized. To somebody like me who only had to learn the 26 letters, it barely seems possible, but of course it is. I’m not sure how long it takes to recognize a single character, but it seems that a fully literate reader of Chinese can read a text at about the same speed as an English reader. Even when the text is displayed on a computer screen (like the one you’re using now) that doesn’t have enough resolution to display each individual stroke in a complicated character, and approximates it with a square-shaped blur, the brain’s pattern matching ability keeps rolling along at full speed.
I had thought about ending word of the day after a year. Even after doing this every day, I can only regonize a handful. And I can’t write any. But, word of the day has been a fun way to learn more and more words, and the connections between them. At least I remember how to say a few of them. And it sort of keeps me “immersed” in Chinese, or at least it keeps my toe in the water. I don’t always get the words right the first time, but of course Jenny has been helping me, as well as some kind people around the Internet (especially zonble and isis… 謝謝你們!) As I mentioned above, I’m not going to run out of words any time soon. So… let’s keep going!