October 12, 2018

Understanding Chinese Characters

Learn to understand 70% of Chinese characters in a few weeks

  • Do you want to learn Chinese characters, but don’t know where to start?
  • Have you ever studied Chinese characters, but found them difficult to remember?
  • Does knowing the structure and history of Chinese characters help you remember them?
  • Are you looking for academic preciseness without the academic language and clutter?

This book is hopefully for you:)

There is a flood of resources when it comes to learning Chinese characters, it is however unfortunately very difficult to find a good book which would cover everything you need precisely and in a reader-friendly way.

Books about Chinese characters are either very difficult to read, because they've been written by researchers and are not intended for the everyday learner, or are very reader-friendly and appealing like Chineasy, but are also very imprecise, incomplete, impractical and just frustrating.

When I started learning Mandarin, as a student of the Chinese department, my research specialization was Chinese character etymology. I was very frustrated too, because the books we were using, were the former of the two I mentioned: albeit precise, they were cluttered with academic data and very difficult to read. I also however noticed that my friends who were learning Chinese outside of the Chinese department on their own were learning from the latter type of books: albeit pleasant to the eye, they were critically imprecise.

After years and years of research and after becoming proficient in Mandarin Chinese and Classical Chinese after having read more than 100 books in Mandarin and Classical Chinese a friend of mine asked whether I could recommend a solid Chinese characters book for him. A book that would cover everything a learner would need in a very fast and functional way yet would be precise and even visually appealing. To my surprise, there still was no book like that on the market.

I first started building up a list of characters I could recommend to my friend and any beginner learning Chinese characters and started to write a short science-based structural description for each character, its main functional pronunciations and meanings. This soon turned into a massive project, taking more than 5 years involving a team of more than 20 people.

Even thought we are self-published and had a very minimal budget, I honestly do believe that the result of this effort is the best book about Chinese characters on the market to this date. It is academically precise, reader-friendly and functional. We wrote it with great professionalism and attention to detail with one goal in mind: to let the reader understand and learn Chinese characters as fast as possible in the most pleasurable and functional way.


Understanding Chinese characters is a book that compiles years of Chinese character study in a concise and understandable way for the learner. Learn to understand Chinese characters for what they really are with a book that is easy to use, combining the best modern Chinese character academic research with the best learner experience.

Written by Vladimir Skultety, a graduate of Chinese studies specialized in Chinese character etymology and a polyglot speaking 15 languages working as an interpreter of Mandarin Chinese, English and Slovak.


Buy now for € 14.99 (+VAT)


Free Character practice sheets included

Download a FREE 50 page preview



Key features

  • suitable for anyone looking to understand and learn Chinese characters quickly and effectively
  • simple enough for beginners, detailed and accurate enough for advanced learners
  • characters in the book cover up to 70% of most modern texts written in Chinese
  • contains both Traditional and Simplified characters 
  • free printable character practice sheets with correct stroke order included
  • based on years of extensive and very detailed academic research, but written in a way which avoids academic clutter
  • high quality color images
  • custom designed illustrations
  • custom painted Oracle bone characters
  • licensed beautiful Seal Script font
  • 273 pages

Testimonials

"The author clearly put a lot of thought into this book and specifically tailored it to make it easily accessible to the masses of people who are interested in finding out more about the Chinese language and the history of how Chinese characters came about. 

The book is written in a very down-to-earth style and addresses a lot of frequent questions people have as they embark on their long journey of learning Chinese and coming to grips with the seemingly insurmountable writing system."

"This book is a very 'clean' and precise piece of work. It presents the information you need without any waffling. (I find that many other books in the same field resort to complicated back-stories and interpretations of characters that don't necessarily help you to remember them). 

The explanation of how different Chinese characters are constructed is very clear and useful. The focus on only the most essential characters also helps a beginner to not feel overwhelmed. Thanks to the author for this very practical addition to my library!"

"As a native speaker of Mandarin Chinese and a certified medical interpreter, I have to say that this is really an amazing book. It’s a very sophisticated and well-thought-out analogy but explained in an easy-to-understand way. The presentation of the Chinese characters and explanation of the tones are creative, animated, and the color-coding makes it easy to follow the explanations (the lil icons are quite cute too!). The high quality content just further illustrates the author’s knowledge, depth of understanding in the language and how much effort has put into the whole language-learning process. This is not only a great resource for those currently learning Mandarin Chinese, but also a great read and eye-opener for native speakers as you would greatly appreciate the beauty of Chinese characters. Highly recommended."

Bonus

If you buy the book now, you'll get my beginner's Mandarin Chinese noun list (both simplified and traditional) for free. If you like, read more about the project here.


Mid-autumn discount

Original price € 24.99 




Full refund

I hope you'll find the book useful and enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it, but if within 30 days after your purchase, for any reason you should think it wasn't what you were looking for, your payment will be fully refunded.

November 11, 2017

Word sculpting

What is word sculpting?

Word sculpting is a way of learning words from top to bottom, slowly removing layers of difficulty on all levels. I started calling it like this for the lack of a better name, but it is pretty accurate actually. 

Imagine you're somewhere at a beginner - intermediate level in Mandarin Chinese and you'd like to learn the word 'situation'.


You ask your friend and they say the word situation in Mandarin is: qíng kuàng

You could either stress your brain and try to remember everything about the word perfectly on your first try - every sound, every aspiration, intonation, tones, word usage etc., or you could break the process down into steps:

Relax and just remember whatever you can in the first step. Lets say, you will only remember that there is an 'i' in the first word and an 'a' in the second:

Step 1: .i.. ..a..

The next time you have to say the word maybe you'll have an easy time recalling the 'i' and the 'a' and in addition you will think: Oh yeah, the first syllable was starting with an aspirated q sound:

Step 2: qi.. ..a..

November 04, 2017

List of UN country names in Chinese and their meanings

Recently I made a video which was a part of my Experimental Chinese videocourse teaching Mandarin Chinese without characters and without tones to complete beginners and someone asked a question about the story behind the word 美国 (the Chinese name for USA) in the comments. A discussion followed and since I love etymology, I thought it would be a good idea to write an article about the names of all countries in Chinese. (All UN member countries to be precise)

There are 4 types of country names in Chinese:
  1. Names that have a meaning in Chinese (中國,日本,冰島)
  2. Phonetic transcripts with no meaning in Chinese (斯洛伐克,捷克)
  3. Names that are a combination of 1. and 2. ( 安地卡及巴布達, 白俄羅斯)
  4. Abbreviations 
    1. Abbreviations of longer 2. type country names(印尼, 阿根廷)
    2. Abbreviations of longer 3. type country names(美國,德國,法國,澳洲 etc.)
1. Names that have a meaning in Chinese

中国  China (Zhōngguó)

中 means 'center' and 国 means 'country'. The most common way of translating this name is Middle kingdom, it is however not entirely correct. The term 中国 originally referred to kingdoms (plural) on the central Chinese plain in Ancient China that were collectively related to each other through the same Ancient Chinese culture and related languages. Equally, they were labeled Central kingdoms as opposed to the barbarian states and nations around them. Only later the name shifted from Central kingdoms to Middle kingdom.

October 17, 2017

Experimental Chinese - Lesson 1 | No characters, no tones


Translation

Hi, hello,
I am a Law school student,
My name is Wang Yinghong,
but you can call me A Hong.

Vocabulary

Hai = hi
ni hao = hello
wo = me, I
shi = to be
falü xi = department of law, law school
de = apostrophe "s", of the kind
jiao = to call
jiu keyi le = it's good like that

One of the reasons why Mandarin Chinese is so difficult to learn is that there are too many things students have to deal with as beginners. We have the structure of the language which is very difficult in itself, but then in addition to that, there is the very challenging pronunciation, especially tones, Chinese characters, a ton of words students have to learn, unpredictable syntax, cultural aspects of the language etc. All of this makes the language very challenging. It's almost as if a person who's never been to the gym before would be asked to benchpress 150 Kg on their first try.

October 04, 2017

Top 150 most useful frequent nouns

The following is the list of the top 150 most frequent, most common and most useful nouns to learn when learning a foreign language and its Italian translation.

It is based on about 5 different vocabulary frequency lists and my personal word lists which contain words that were occurring organically when I was learning languages from scratch or improving the languages I knew (Persian, Serbian, Polish, Cantonese, Spanish, Hungarian, French). This list contains only the most important nouns from all of these lists, that give you most language coverage, re-arranged so that they would roughly be ordered from the most useful, most general ones downwards.

I also worked on English, Spanish, Italian, French, Romanian, Portuguese, German, Mandarin Chinese (simplified and traditional), Russian (Cyrillic and Latin), Slovak, Hungarian and a Romance combo noun frequency list.



July 24, 2017

My Patreon page


Hello everyone. Recently, more and more people have been asking me whether I have a Patreon account. For those of you who are not familiar with it, Patreon is a way of directly supporting creators (video makers, bloggers etc.) you like. I never really thought of creating a Patreon account, because I don't actually create that much content and my philosophy has always been that since I've learned a lot on the internet for free, when I create online content, it's just my way of giving my little share back, also for free.

On the other hand, I too often wondered how I could support this or that writer or musician directly, I also give donations or send money to projects I like and if someone finds the videos I make or the articles I write helpful and can afford it and would like to support me a Patreon account is a very good way to do so. If you like my work and would like to show your support feel free to visit my Patreon page :) Thank you very much.

https://www.patreon.com/vladimirskultety

June 24, 2017


Understanding Chinese characters is a book that compiles years of Chinese character study in a concise and understandable way for the learner. Learn to understand Chinese characters for what they really are with a book that is easy to use, combining the best modern Chinese character academic research with the best learner experience.

Written by Vladimir Skultety, a graduate of Chinese studies specialized in Chinese character etymology and a polyglot speaking 15 languages working as an interpreter of Mandarin Chinese, English and Slovak.


Buy PDF for € 14.99 (+VAT)


Free Character practice sheets included

Download a FREE 50 page preview


Key features
  • suitable for anyone looking to understand and learn Chinese characters quickly and effectively
  • simple enough for beginners, detailed and accurate enough for advanced learners
  • characters in the book cover up to 70% of most modern texts written in Chinese
  • contains both Traditional and Simplified characters 
  • free printable character practice sheets with correct stroke order included
  • based on years of extensive and very detailed academic research, but written in a way which avoids academic clutter
  • high quality color images
  • custom designed illustrations
  • custom painted Oracle bone characters
  • licensed beautiful Seal Script font
  • 273 pages

June 23, 2017

Learning to code and language learning parallels

Recently I started to learn how to use the programing language Python. Language learning and learning how to program are two different things but are connected in many ways - not the least in that you need to ‘learn’ both.

Key takeaways from learning how to start using the programing language Python that can be used in learning how to start using a real language too (absolute beginner level):


  • Learn from top to bottom. (Start with the general idea, don’t get lost in small details)
  • Learn in small chunks
  • First see/hear the chunk, then read about it. (First see the small chunk in use, then read about the theory/listen to the explanation related to it. )
  • Learn by looking at someone who already knows the things/concepts you need to learn = work with a teacher
  • It's very frustrating and takes forever to work yourself through whatever course/tutorial/manual you can find to get to what you actually need. A teacher sitting next to you is absolutely crucial for lightning speed progress
  • Analyze how your teacher uses the concepts you need to learn until you realize what's going on = reach an aha! moment
  • Practice your small Aha! moment chunks until they become automatic
  • Review so you: 1. don’t forget 2. store the chunks deeper and deeper into your automatic memory
  • Move on to another chunk and repeat the above
  • Build on aha! chunks: combine, substitute, and then repeat the automation process
  • Only learn chunks that are absolutely necessary (or are an integral part of what you need)
  • Learn by looking at practical examples
  • Copy something someone already did and adjust it to your needs.
  • Your time is precious: only look for explanations or work with teachers who know what you’re trying to learn. Look for explanations that are short and effective and explained by someone who has invested their time in making sure the student understands what the teacher is saying and is making real progress. Avoid explanations and teachers who only lump everything they know onto the student, having the student deal with the whole lump on their own
  • Rant: Stay far away from teachers whose main concern is to manifest their ego by showing you how intelligent they are and not to make sure you actually make real progress :)
  • To teachers:
  • Explain only that what is necessary - do not deviate away from the explanation, don’t explain alternatives, exceptions, other possible functions, the history of this or that thing.. only if absolutely necessary
  • Every time you can, explain using things the student can relate to (use metaphors, known concepts, real life examples etc.)
  • Use as little unknown concepts and unknown or difficult words in your explanation as you can
  • Show instead of explain
  • When explaining something, don’t talk about all possible ways of doing/saying this or that particular thing. Don’t even say there is another possibility of doing so. It will only confuse/add options which a beginner will find overwhelming. Talk only about your one most preferred way or the way most people prefer.

February 08, 2017

Fitness

A lot of people have been asking me about my fitness, diet, daily routines, travel and just random things which I love to talk about so I thought why not make what 1000 people do every day and start a podcast:) If you'd have a specific topic you would like me to talk about just leave a comment, these recordings are really a lot of fun to make, I'll try to make my best to be consistent if you guys like it.



iTunes link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/vladimir-skultety-podcast/id1202514702?mt=2

August 21, 2016

How to learn a foreign language fast and well - short answer


A Slovak journalist once asked me to write a short paragraph about how to learn English fast and well. It is very difficult to summarize something like that into a few sentences, but I tried. Very simply put, learning a foreign language can be compared to learning how to play a guitar. If you want to learn how to play a guitar fast and well, you need two things (except for the guitar obviously):

  • spend a lot of time listening to someone who plays the guitar well 
and
  • spend a lot of time practicing. 

In the world of foreign languages, this translates into:

  • a lot of input (listening and reading) 
and
  • a lot of output (speaking and writing). 

The approach of a beginner and an intermediate student will be different of course, but the learning philosophy remains the same.