Mandarin is “Chineseasy” Part II

Long-time followers of this website will remember ShaoLan Hsueh’s TED talk wherein she explains her pictographic system for remembering Chinese characters.

She was recently profiled by The Wall Street Journal. Here are a few excerpts:

“ShaoLan Hsueh thinks that English-speakers can start learning to read Chinese in less than 10 minutes. …Her book takes [Chinese] characters and overlays simple designs on top of them to help readers make the connections between the symbol and the word. …Some words build on one or more characters put together, so once you master a handful of basic building blocks, she says, learning new characters becomes much easier. Two woman characters together mean “argument,” and three in a row means “adultery.” “It shows gender inequality,” says Ms. Hsueh. Why do two women mean “argument?” In ancient China, “they had three or four generations all underneath the same roof, and the women, they argue,” she explains….

Ms. Hsueh’s book arrives as more U.S. students are learning Chinese. Nancy Rhodes of the Center for Applied Linguistics, a national language research and resource nonprofit, says that the percentage of secondary schools teaching Mandarin has increased from 1% in 1997 to 4% in 2008 (the most recent year available). Meanwhile, the percentage of schools teaching French dropped from 64% to 46% in the same period, especially as schools face budget cuts. The number of enrollments in college Chinese language classes was more than 60,000 in 2009, up from around 34,000 in 2002, according to the Modern Language Association.”

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