What are the most complex Chinese characters

Complicated script sequence

How Chinese Children Learn to Write

By Ruth Kirchner

Chinese writing (dpa / picture alliance / Jan Woitas)

The Chinese writing is considered to be one of the most complex cultural achievements of mankind. The happy Chinese children learn to read and write in a language that has no alphabet - in a lengthy process.

Children in China have to learn a lot and for a long time. In this elementary school in the western Chinese province of Qinghai, 20 students sit and read simple texts in a choir. Reciting the common reading should not only memorize the words, but also the corresponding characters.

Because in Chinese there is no alphabet, each character has to be learned individually - both the meaning and the sequence of the strokes. A sign also says nothing about its pronunciation. You have to memorize that too.

"Children first learn the basic elements - that is, the individual lines," says Beijing teacher A Yuan. Each line has a name. Heng stands for a horizontal line, shu for a vertical line. These lines are the components of all characters. It is easy to learn them . "

Most of the 80,000 thousand Chinese characters can be written with the stems - 12 to 25 depending on the counting method. Children are told from the beginning to stick to the correct stroke sequence. At some point the hand should know the sequence of the strokes as if by itself.

"In the line order you start with the horizontal lines, then follow the vertical lines. You write each character from top to bottom and from left to right. It's like building a house. Which section you build first, which section later. It there are firm rules that are very important. "

Elementary school students start with simple characters made up of just a few strokes. After the first two years of school they should be able to read and write up to 1000 characters, after the end of 9 years of compulsory schooling around 3500. But until that happens, schoolchildren spend a lot of time learning the stroke sequences and their meanings. Because Chinese characters only memorize if you write them dozens or hundreds of times.

"Everything takes practice. Even if you understand what it is about, studying without practice is completely useless, says teacher A Yuan."

In order to at least make learning to read a little easier in the early years, elementary school students are also taught pinyin - this is a Latin transcription of Chinese so that one can easily recognize the pronunciation of a word. The first simple texts that the schoolchildren read have the text in pinyin under the characters.

At some point this is no longer necessary if you have mastered enough characters. Pinyin only becomes important again later when you want to write text messages or on the computer. The computer then recognizes which characters could belong to the word.

And then the discussions in China and Germany are similar. Because even in China, parents and education experts lament that with modern technology, knowledge of the art of writing and the importance of good handwriting is slowly but surely being lost.