Hebrew Roots, Chinese Characters

Hebrew Roots
One of the characteristics of the Hebrew language, common to all semitic languages, is that Hebrew words are made from three-letter roots, modified by changing the vowels of the three letters, and by adding additional letters to the group of three letters. That is, three Hebrew letters are put together to form a "root", which is then given vowels (and sometimes additional letters) to form a Hebrew word. The initial three letter root contains the meaning, which is then manipulated to form words expressing that meaning in various forms. For example, the three Hebrew letters for L, M, D (lamed, mem, dalet), form the root which means "study". By giving vowels to this group of three letters, and sometimes adding additional letters, we get the Hebrew words LaMaD "studied", LoMeD "study", yiLMaD "he will study", tiLMaD "she will study", LaMDan "a studier", meLaMeD (to cause someone to study, to teach), meLuMaD a "studied" or "learned" person, LeMiDah "studying", LiMuD "teaching", and so on. (In cases where the accent falls on the second to the last syllable, that syllable has been marked in bold). The seven Hebrew verb groups are marked in red, to demonstrate how various nouns and adjectives are derived from the different forms of the verb.

Chinese Characters
Chinese characters are made up from various combinations of the 214 Chinese radicals. Characters can consist of a single radical, such as the radical shui, meaning "water", or two or more radicals in combination (most Chinese characters are made up of two or three radicals). Any initial meanings a Chinese character may have, come from one or more of the radicals it contains. Most of the time, any meaning of the character is signified by one of the radicals, while another one of the radicals is attached to give a clue as to the pronunciation of the character. That is, radicals in a character can serve two main purposes: to provide a clue to the meaning of a character, or to provide a clue to its pronunciation. In order to multiply the number of characters to match the entire vocabulary of the Chinese language, radicals had to be combined to provide a sufficient number of characters. Some examples: the character for "light", ming, is a combination of the two radicals for "sun" ri and "moon" yue. Another example: the radical xin, by itself means "heart". The radical xin combined with various other radicals and characters, is used for words relating to the heart and mental activities, such as xiang, "to think", nian, "to miss", wang, "to forget", si, "think deeply", qing, "feeling", and so on.


Memorizing Hebrew roots and Chinese characters
As can be seen, Hebrew roots and Chinese characters contain within themselves unique rules and patterns. For a learner of Hebrew or Chinese, whether they are a child or an adult, the patterns are used by the learner to recognize new words and characters, based on patterns they have already mastered. For example, the person learning Hebrew who already knows that the root LMD refers to "learning", will be able to recognize a wide variety of words containing the root LMD. The precise meaning of the new word will still have to be learned, but the learning becomes much quicker once the root is recognized. Similarly, once a person learning Chinese characters knows that the radical xin means heart and mental activity, and knows the sounds of various other radicals combined with the radical xin, they can more quickly master numerous characters containing the radical xin. The more progress one makes in learning, the faster the patterns are recognized, and the quicker the learning of Hebrew and Chinese takes place.

Mnemonic Devices
Mnemonic devices are methods used to learn and memorize things faster. As can be seen, Hebrew and Chinese have certain types of mnemonic devices built into them. While, of course, the patterns of roots and characters are not perfect, they still provide much faster methods for learning the languages and writing systems than if they had not been present. Additionally, the learner, and instructor, can create new mnemonic devices which will enable the roots and characters to be memorized even faster. Traditional Jewish literature is full of examples of different tricks and plays on words, to aid in both the memorization of the Hebrew alphabet, as well as the meanings of the roots. Chinese educational literature has similar features: any kind of picture that can be associated with a character to help in the memorization of the character, is an aid in learning. Thus besides the built-in mnemonic devices contained naturally in Hebrew roots and Chinese characters, the learner and instructor can easily create, and even make up, any kind of meaning or picture that will facilitate the memorization of new roots, words, and characters.

Older learners versus child learners
The difference between the older learner and the child learner is that the older learner is learning the writing system at the same time they are learning to speak the language, while the child learner already speaks the language before they begin to learn to read and write it. Thus, a child whose first language is Hebrew or Chinese, will learn to read and write Hebrew or Chinese at a much faster rate than an older person beginning to learn, simply because the child will already know most of the words they are going to learn to read in Hebrew or Chinese. The task of the older person is to try and imitate the child learner in every respect. This way, while the older learner may not be able to enter the world of Hebrew or Chinese as smoothly as the child learner, they will still eventually be able to learn and see the world through written Hebrew letters and Chinese characters just as if they were a native Hebrew or Chinese speaker.