Thinking in Chinese

shuiOne of the most difficult things about trying to learn Chinese isn’t learning the words, it’s learning “how Chinese thinks”.   Languages are an integral part of a culture, and they reflect how that culture thinks.

In English, we have prefixes and suffixes that help us to understand what a word means.  Written Chinese has what are known as “radicals”.  They are, essentially, their version of prefixes and suffixes.

The character above is the radical for water.  It goes on the left, and it means that the word has something to do with water.

So… If you take “work”…

gong

…and you add “water” to it, you get “river”.

jiang

And…  If you take “air”…

qi1

…and you add “water” to it, you get “steam”.

qi2

But…  If you take “sheep”…

yang1

…and you add “water” to it…    you get “ocean”.

yang2

Huh??