Learning Chinese is probably one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do. It doesn't help that it has one of the most complex writing systems you'll ever see (we're not even going to mention tones yet!). Even the most motivated students can start to waver when they come face-to-face with thousands of characters to memorize just to read basic documents and your everyday Chinese text.

By taking things slowly, it can be much easier to learn the most important simplified Chinese characters without losing your motivation.

While learning Chinese might seem difficult at first, you needn’t walk the length of the Great Wall of China or move to Mainland China, Taiwan, or Singapore in order to decipher the Chinese writing system or pick up a few basic Mandarin Chinese words.

If you've decided to learn Mandarin Chinese online and are looking for somewhere to start, you should just follow our quick guide on how to write Chinese characters!

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Learn to Write Your Name in Chinese

In China, parents often choose a name expressing a good quality, moral, or something heroic as well as mentioning an event that took place following the birth of the child.

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The name of the city of Shanghai actually means "Upon the sea". (Source: Manuel Joseph)

Thus, you’ll find names that mean “Winter Sun”, “Spring Flower”, “Morning Dew”, etc.

Most Chinese names are made up of one or two characters. In certain western parts of China, the name given to a child at birth can be temporary. In fact, in some of the more remote parts of the People’s Republic of China, the child can choose their own name from Chinese characters once they start school around age 6.

However, it should be noted that there's often no direct translation for a lot of Chinese names due to the complicated nature of the etymology. Westerners will generally be given the Chinese character that sounds most like their given name as it’s pronounced in their own language.

This means that you’ll end up with a name that’s been orientalized rather then getting a real Chinese name. You should also study the Chinese writing system.

How to Write “Happy New Year” in Chinese

Given that China is home to plenty of different ethnic groups with different dialects and languages, there’s more than one way to wish somebody a happy new year.

How do you say "Happy New Year" in Chinese?
Hong Kong is a great destination for spending the Chinese New Year. However, they tend to speak Cantonese rather than Mandarin there. (Source: Jerome)

In the West, we tend to associate the new year with resolutions, new opportunities, and our ambitions. In China and nearby cultures, the focus is on prosperity. The new year is synonymous with prosperity. This is why wishing someone a happy new year usually focuses on wishing someone financial prosperity or expressing similar sentiments.

Generally speaking, you can wish people a happy new year as follows:

  • 新年快乐 (xīn nián kuài lè)
  • 新年好 (xīn nián hǎo)

As a bonus, the Superprof team has brought you a few other important ways to congratulate people, wish them well, and express happiness on special occasions:

  • Happy birthday

    • 生日快乐

    • shēng rì kuài lè

  • Happy holidays

    • 节日快乐

    • jié rì kuài lè

  • Happy father’s day

    • 父亲节快乐

    • fǔqīn jié kuài lè

  • Happy mother’s day

    • 母亲节快乐

    • mǔqīn jié kuài lè

  • Happy Valentine’s day

    • 情人节快乐

    • qíng rén jié kuài lè

  • Merry Christmas

    • 圣诞节快乐

    • shèng dàn jié kuài lè

  • Happy new year

    • 新年好

    • xīn nián hǎo

  • Happy new year

    • 圣诞节快乐

    • xīn nián kuài lè xǐ

  • Happiness, prosperity, longevity

    • 福禄寿

    • fú lù shòu

  • May all your wishes come true

    • 心想事成

    • xīn xiǎng shì chéng

  • Be happy and

    • 恭喜发财

    • gōng xǐ fā cái

Why not take a deeper look at the Chinese writing system?

Writing in Chinese Using Word

Since the creation of Microsoft Word and word processing programs, this question comes up again and again in Chinese language groups and forums. Whether you use Windows, Linux, or iOS, there are Chinese students, Chinese immigrants, and aspiring Chinese speakers all wondering how their Qwerty keyboard can be used to write the characters used in the Chinese language.

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How do you write Chinese characters in Microsoft Word?
For beginners, writing Chinese characters in Microsoft Words is really complicated. (Source: Shy Sol)

This is really important if you’re trying to put together a resume or cover letter in Chinese or working on a visa application for the People’s Republic of China. You don’t need to be a technical genius in order to write Chinese characters in Microsoft Word.

If your computer isn’t connected to the internet, you’ll need to use your installation CD in order to configure your versions of Windows and Word to be able to use the Chinese language. You can also install a patch known as the “Chinese Global IME” for free.

You can also change the input language on your computer by using the “Desktop Language Bar” on your Windows operating system. In this case, you’ll want to change “ENG” to “CH”.

Where Can You Learn to Write Chinese Characters?

In addition to the Confucius Institute, the Chinese educational organization found in a number of cities in colleges, there are plenty of different places where you can learn the Chinese hanzi characters.

No matter your age, level, or schedule, these organizations are ready to respond to the growing demand for Chinese education and can help you learn this important language.

Don’t forget that there are also plenty of resources on the Internet and mobile apps you can download to learn Chinese characters for free. However, it’s highly recommended that you enlist a professional teacher or tutor to help you master this complicated aspect of the language.

While California probably makes you think more of Spanish than it does Chinese, there are 5 different Confucius Institutes in the state. However, New York has more centers than any other state with 9 in total.

Here are some of the Confucius Institutes in the US:

  • Confucius Institute at San Francisco State University

  • Confucius Institute at Boston

  • Confucius Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles

  • Confucius Institute at Miami University

  • Confucius Institute at Houston Independent School District

  • Confucius Institute at the University of Texas at Dallas

  • Confucius Institute at the University of South Florida

  • Confucius Institute at the University at Albany, State University of New York

  • Confucius Institute at Miami Dade College

  • Confucius Institute at State College of Optometry, State University of New York

  • Confucius Institute in Chicago

  • Confucius Institute for Business at State University of New York

  • Confucius Institute at Columbia University

  • Confucius Institute at California State University, Long Beach

  • Confucius Institute at Temple University

  • Confucius Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara

If you can't find a Confucius Institute in this list, we recommend checking out the Institute's website.

Which is the Best Way to Learn to Write Chinese Characters?

The Chinese writing system follows a specific hierarchy of 3 main aspects. Learning Chinese hanzi characters is built upon progressively learning these elements.

How long does it take to learn to speak Chinese fluently?
When learning a new foreign language, it's important that you also understand the history and culture of where the language is spoken. (Source: Fancycrave)

The Graphic Aspect of the Chinese Characters

When you first start learning about Chinese characters, your attention will be brought to the “radicals”. These are simple recurring graphical elements. Once you can easily recognize and find these within a text, after a lot of practice, it’ll be much easier to memorize a character and be able to write it yourself.

Furthermore, once you can associate certain pictographs to one another, you’ll be able to create even more Chinese characters. There are around 200 key radicals including those representing man, water, or fire, for example.

Each Chinese character is consists of between 1 and 20 of these radicals. These need to be written in a very specific and ordered manner as they have been for centuries. Their order and direction defines the balance of the character. It’s also a great way to help you learn the characters if you’re a kinesthetic learner.

It’s essential that you know the traits that make up any given character if you want to be able to look them up in a dictionary (and you will!). This is also the foundation of Chinese calligraphy.

Learn more about writing hanzi...

Strokes in Writing Chinese Characters

Firstly, you’ll notice that Chinese characters need to be written within an invisible square whose limits must always be respected as if you were coloring and trying to stay within the lines.

Secondly, it should be noted that all Chinese characters can be written using only 8 strokes and the stroke order is massively important.

These are known as the Eight Principles of Yong.

They are the fundamentals of Chinese writing:

  1. Dot

  2. Horizontal

  3. Erect

  4. Hook

  5. Raise

  6. Bend

  7. Throw away

  8. Pressing forcefully

It should be noted that while Chinese Pinyin system of romanization was created in order to make Chinese learning easier for Westerners, it won't help your written Chinese at all! If you want to learn how the Chinese pronunciation of words, you can always listen to Chinese people rather than constantly referring to the Chinese dictionary. If you can't find any native Chinese speakers, consider using online dictionaries and guides to learn how to pronounce the words.

Discover also how to write in Chinese using calligraphy...

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As an Englishman in Paris, I enjoy growing my knowledge of other languages and cultures. I'm interested in History, Economics, and Sociology and believe in the importance of continuous learning.