"In the last two months I have learned more using Clavis Sinica than I did in two years of college Chinese."
—Martin Colwell

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Chinese Writing

The Chinese writing system can be very intimidating to foreign students of the Chinese language, and it is generally agreed that learning to write Chinese characters is by far the most difficult part of mastering the Chinese language. Chinese writing, of course, has no alphabet. Instead, each character is an ideographic symbol representing a single, one-syllable word. Most characters consist of two distinct parts: a radical, which is often related to the meaning of the character, and a phonetic, which often provides a clue as to its pronunciation. Characters, in turn, are combined into compound words of two, three, and sometimes four characters. A student must learn between three and four thousand distinct characters and tens of thousands of compounds in order to achieve enough basic competence with Chinese writing to read a modern newspaper with any proficiency.

Clavis Sinica is a powerful new software package that removes the mystery of Chinese writing and makes the task of learning Chinese characters and compounds far more efficient, rational, and enjoyable. The program combines a Chinese text reader with an extensive Chinese character dictionary and flashcards tool, enabling the student to read any digitized Chinese text with relative ease and learn to write the characters it contains. Clicking on an unfamiliar character in a Chinese text instantly displays the pinyin pronunciation and meaning of both the character and the compound word in which it is being used. Clicking again brings up a wealth of additional information about the character that helps to understand why it is written the way it is, including an analysis of the character into its radical and phonetic parts, stroke count, etymology, usage frequency, and links to lists of other characters using the same radical or phonetic and compounds using the character. Because every character is linked to other related characters in the dictionary database, it is easy to explore the many connections among characters, which is a great help in understanding the Chinese writing system as a whole.

The Chinese writing system is difficult to learn--there is no way around this fact. With the Clavis Sinica software, however, the task of learning to read and write in Chinese can become a much more efficient, enjoyable, and intellectually rewarding experience.

Clavis Sinica Features for Learning the Chinese Writing System:

  • Text Reader Window displays any Chinese text in clear, easy-to read format and provides one-click access to English translation of any Chinese character, word, or phrase.
  • Character Information Window breaks characters into radical and phonetic parts for ease in learning and provides helpful lexical and usage frequency information for each character, and
  • Chinese-English, English-Chinese dictionary of more than 37,000 entries includes over 4,000 characters and over 33,000 multi-character compound words, phrases, and idioms.
  • Dictionary records for all entries include pinyin romanization(s) and concise English definition(s). For characters they also include stroke count, wuhua stroke order, radical and phonetic parts, frequency indicator, and (for 500 of the most common characters) etymological explanations.
  • Powerful search functions permit searching the Chinese dictionary by character or compound pinyin, radical number, number and/or order of strokes, or English word or phrase