Describing characters in words

August 24, 2009, 03:33 AM posted in General Discussion

I am familiar with the technique of Chinese 'spelling' but I would like to describe any character in words, where the spelling communication technique might fail.

I would love a lesson (or series like the pinyin series) on talking about characters.  I would like to be able to describe any character I meet in words, particularly complicated or unusual characters (such as some family names!)  heng, shu, na, pie, ti, dian, zhe etc, and how to put them together, heng gou, heng zhe, shu gou, shu zhe, etc. What order do I use in talking about how the character is written? Or has this already been done - is there a reference anyone can point me to?

And BTW is there a way of representing these parts of characters using the computer?  My Windows input system does not seem to do the job.

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August 24, 2009, 07:24 AM

I have also wondered about this. Whenever I ask a Chinese person about a character they 'draw' it on the palm of their hand. I am gradually getting better at seeing the invisible word they have shown me, but it doesn't work so great on the phone.

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August 24, 2009, 07:51 AM


就是,.. I'm guessing that a combination of naming radicals and the script 'tool-kit' referred to above would be necessary when 'spelling' fails.  For example, some characters have no combinations with other characters.  Then you can 'spell' parts of the character, but this doesn't work for all characters I think.

I'd be interested to hear from native speakers on this.