More Quarantine Activities

When I was in grade school, I took Mandarin Chinese for like 7 years but I never took it seriously and my proficiency with the langauge stagnated hard after I turned 12 or 13 (give me a break - none of my family speaks Mandarin :D) Over the course of quarantine, I decided to start studying again and was immediately hit with the memory of confusing many of the characters. Chinese is a language rife with phonological synonyms, but I would also argue that Chinese has a fair amount of “homonyms” as well - characters that look very similar and are easy for a learner to confuse.

This will be the first chapter in no doubt what will be an ongoing series.

Characters for Places of Living

We can start out with a funny one, since the characters and meanings are similar, but the pronunciations are different.

  • 屋 (wu1) which means “house”. As in 纸牌屋, which is House of Cards
  • 室 (shi4) which means “room”. As in 浴室,which is bathroom, specifically one that has a bath

The main radical for both characters is 至 (zhi4) which means “reach, arrive”. 屋 has a 尸 (shi1) radical above it, whic means “body, corpse”. 室 has a roof radical above it (gaimian), which is confusing because rooms don’t always have roofs.

Characters that look like a 来

There are lot of characters that look like 来:

  • 未 (wei4) which means “not yet, did not”. For example: 未来 (future),尚未 (not yet), 从未 (never), 未必 (not necessarily)。
  • 末 (mo4) which means “end, final stage”. For example: 周末 (weekend), 末了 (in the end)
  • 夫 (fu1) which means “husband”. For example: 夫妇, 夫妻 (married couples with man and woman)
  • 失 (shi1) which means “lose, fail”. For example: 失败 (lose, to fail), 消失 (to disappear), 失业 (unemployment)
  • 夹 (jia1) which means “to press from either side, to sandwich, to mix”. For example, 夹子 (tongs), 夹杂 (to mix together), 夹击/夹攻 (pincer attack).
  • 朱 (zhu1), which means “vermillion, cinnabar”. This character appears as a radical in some useful words, for example, 蜘蛛 (spider) or 蜘蛛侠 (Spiderman, and hey, 夹 appears as a radical here too!).

I’m sure that I’m missing some in this list :)

Characters that look like a box with and X inside of it

Or in other words, characters that look like 风, which means “wind”.

  • 冈 (gang1), which means “ridge”. It appears in 俄勒冈 (oregon) and as a radical in 刚.
  • 区 (qu1), which means “area, district, region”. Ex: 地区 (local, regional), 自治区 (autonomous region).
  • 凶 (xiong1), which means “inauspicious, ominous”. Ex: 凶手 (murderer).

Characters that look like a box with a + inside of it.

Or in other words, characters that look like 田 (tian2) which means “field, farmland”.

  • 甲 (jia3) which means “first place, armor, shell”.
  • 由 (you2) which means “cause, reason”.
  • 油 (you2) which means “oil, fat, grease”
  • 迪 (di3) which means “to enlighten”.