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Written By Chris Mills 慕乐文

The Challenges of Starting a Business in China – Part 7 (Learning Chinese Characters and Enjoying Them…)

November 05, 2013 | business / china / app development / gaming

Within weeks of my arrival in China I hired a Chinese tutor to teach me the language twice a week, in hour-long classes. To select the right person I searched around, did some interviews and settled on a particular individual because he believed in teaching not only the language, but also focus some of our time on character development. There are many who disagree with doing any character work themselves because they are so complicated and unnecessary to speak Chinese or get around China. As a developer, perhaps my mind works a bit different than most so I decided learning the characters would be useful. In my roughly thirty years of life have had essentially zero experience with any foreign language, so the thought of learning a new language was intimidating.

Let’s start with some background on Chinese characters in general. Mainland China uses what’s referred to as Simplified Chinese which consist of about 8,300 characters. The other parts of China (Hong Kong, Macau, etc.) use Traditional Chinese, which consist of over 100,000.

One aspect of Chinese characters that motivated me to learn about them was the deeper meaning behind assembling a character to convey an idea. Each character is built upon the others to form different meanings. One of my favorite examples came about when I discovered the Chinese word “To Win”, (yíng):