I'm in the process of memorizing the radicals for the purpose of character recognition. I've been making an effort to memorize the pronunciation of them as well.

While some of the tones are dead on, it seems that some of the others don't seem to correspond to what's used more often (plus some of them have three different pronunciations). As an example: spirit 示 does not correspond to any of the entries for spirit in mdbg.net.

Are the radical pronunciations really valuable to memorize?

  • 3
    For native speakers, no, generally we just learn the names of radicals in primary school, such as 礻(示字旁), 衤(衣字旁), 灬(四点底). BTW I doubt most native speakers cannot distinguish between 攵夊夂 either – so maybe not a big deal? – Stan Mar 26 '16 at 7:34
  • some users are wondering whether instead of "pronunciation of radicals","names of radicals", may be more appropriate, 有一些用户觉得,与其说"部首的发音"不如说"部首(的)名称" – user6065 Mar 26 '16 at 17:39
  • Meaning that name and pronunciation are the same, but name is a better term for it? – Rich Seviora Mar 26 '16 at 17:47
  • 1
    most of the names seem rather simple (based on frequently used characters), so there seems to be little doubt about their pronunciation, referring e.g. to "教学汉字规范手册",汉字的部首及部首名称 for only the following 部首, pinyin is added: 厶,尢(it says you2, whereas wāng would seem more correct, you2 being 尤),弋,幺,殳,毋,耒, 疋,缶,臼,艮,豕,豸,隹 – user6065 Mar 26 '16 at 18:23
up vote 5 down vote accepted

To answer your question, I think the answer is no.

Learning radicals is indeed a good idea to improve your character recognition (and also remember them better, for writing).

For example, knowing that the character 想 is composed of three radicals (tree, eye and heart) is useful if you study its etymology/origin or if you want to create your own mnemonic to remember this character. It makes more sense than remembering the strokes individually.

However, knowing how to pronounce those radicals does not help to achieve this goal. And as you've mentioned, their pronunciation is sometimes tricky. I think you're just find with remembering the radicals by their actual meaning.

That being said, any knowledge is still valuable, and knowing the pronunciation of radicals has the advantage to allow you to have conversations about radicals with Chinese speakers. I personally never learnt those pronunciation, and my level in Chinese is very close to native speaker. And every time I ask details about a character to Chinese friends, I'm struggling when they tell me that it's composed of radicals X or Y!

Hope that answers your question! Wish you pleasure and success in your studies.

  • 1
    Thank you! I didn't truly appreciate the value of learning the radicals until I realized that I could read 猫 as a dog/animal in a grassy field. I'll de-prioritize learning the radical pronunciations, but they'll still be part of my memorization exercises. – Rich Seviora Mar 26 '16 at 17:42
  • 1
    I think this answer is misleading. First, 想 doesn't have three radicals, it has just one, like all other characters (心 in this case). This is not just nit-picking, it's extremely important for the answer of the question. The other part is not the radical, it's a phonetic components 相 which you definitely need to learn the pronunciation of because it gives the pronunciation of the whole character. So, no, don't learn the pronunciation of radicals, but do learn the pronunciation of common phonetic components. – Olle Linge Mar 27 '16 at 5:39
  • Agree with you @OlleLinge, 想 is not the best example. – TimAstier Mar 27 '16 at 7:50
  • @OlleLinge Not all characters have only one radical. – Rodrigo Apr 6 '16 at 0:04
  • Yes they do, at least if you stay within one system. Otherwise those characters would need to be listed twice in dictionaries and I don't think that's ever the case? If it does happen, it would be cool to see an example! – Olle Linge Apr 7 '16 at 12:36

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