You have known that how we construct the characters (see Writing and Radicals). But how do we make sense of using those 1000 basic characters for conversation?
We combine two or three characters to form words.
For example the word “长颈鹿”[cháng jǐng lù] is made of three characters 长[cháng] (long) ,颈[jǐng] (neck) 鹿[lù](deer). Yes it’s the “kangaroo” in Chinese. Another example is “电脑” [diàn nǎo] (electrical brain), which is the “computer”.
Now guess what is “跳伞” [tiào sǎn](jump umbrella)?
Characters are like building blocks. The more you learn the bigger the Mandarin house you can build.
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