Chinese characters are like Lego bricks. We can build variety of things with bricks. It’s the same for Chinese. We get Chinese vocabulary from Chinese characters to describe things.
Some languages, such as English, its vocabulary is composed of letters. However the Chinese vocabulary is composed of characters. In English, if you don’t know the link between a word and what it represents, you can’t understand the meaning of the word .
For example, you can’t know the meaning of the word “banana” unless your teacher tells you that this word refers to the long, curved fruit with a yellow skin. On the contrary, the meaning of a Chinese word comes from its characters. As long as you understand the meaning of each character, you can understand the word. That’s why I say that Chinese is the language version of Lego. For example, the word “老師” [lǎoshī] has two Chinese characters: “老” [lǎo] and “師” [shī]. “老” means “older, respected”. “師” means “mentor”. And the meaning of “老師” is “respected teacher”. So that’s why I feel honored to be called “老師” because it’s a great compliment to me.
A Chinese word can be more complicated when it is composed of words, not just characters. Our next example is “奧地利皇家起司蛋糕”. “奧地利” [àodìlì] means “Austria”. “皇家” [huángjiā] means “royalty”. “起司” [qǐsī] means “cheese”. And “蛋糕” [dàogāo] means “cake”. I think that we don’t have to explain it too much. Let’s go to a dessert shop.🍰☕
This feature of Chinese can be very helpful when you read a professional article. When you see the word “電晶體” [diànjīngtǐ], you know it’s something related to the electronics (電 [diàn]) or crystal (晶 [jīng]) although you don’t know what it really is. In fact, “電晶體” is transistor, a small device which is used to amplify electronic signals. It’s seems that the Chinese version of this word reveals more facts about this device.
It explains the reason why Chinese characters used to be common in East Asia. You can understand the characters even if you can’t read them. That is amazing. Even now, Chinese characters are still the cultural bridge of several Asian countries🌁. When you learn Chinese, you will know not only China but also a bigger world.