I'm learning a little Chinese out of curiosity, and I have a basic question about the language as a whole, rather than a specific technical question about a particular word or character. Sorry if this is too broad.
I just want to learn a little spoken Chinese, not the writing system, so I've been seeking out pinyin texts. Let's say I come across a word such as jiǎng that I don't know. I look it up on Wiktionary, and get something like:
jiǎng (Zhuyin ㄐㄧㄤˇ) Pinyin reading of 堿 Pinyin reading of 桨, 槳 Pinyin reading of 滰 Pinyin reading of 獎 Pinyin reading of 繈 Pinyin reading of 繣 Pinyin reading of 膙 Pinyin reading of 蒋, 蔣 Pinyin reading of 襁 Pinyin reading of 講, 讲 Pinyin reading of 顜
Each of those characters seem to have totally different meanings: paddle, salty, reward... so my question is: how do the Chinese manage to communicate orally? Specifically, let's say one Chinese speaker says something to another. If there are 10 different definitions associated with each sound the first person makes, then how can the second person work out what's being said? Am I misunderstanding something, or is it simply that you have to work out which definition is being used from context?
To use a very specific example, what if a Chinese speaker said jiǎng to me? I mean what if they actually formed the sound jee-yah-ng - how could I tell what they meant?