The Key to Understanding Chinese Characters
Chinese is exactly the same. Let me demonstrate with an example:
Let's take the character for "steam": 汽. Look at this character for a while. Try to imagine how could disassemble this character in various parts.
Now let's look at the character for water: 水 and the character for tears 泪。
Notice anything familiar? Let's put the three characters next to each other: 泪 水 汽。
If you look closely, you'll notice that the character in the middle (water) can be found in the character on the right (vapor).
If you look at the character for vapor on the right, you'll notice three little drops on the left side. If you look at the character on the left, for tears (泪) you'll notice the same three drops on the left side of that character.
Now that you understand that each every Chinese character is composed of key elements or “radicals", have a look at the radicals and then look at some Chinese characters. You'll quickly notice that the same “radicals" keeps being used and that they are just arranged in different ways for different characters.
This should be a good starting point for your study of the Chinese characters. For more information about Chinese radicals, make sure to read this article.
I have written several articles about Japanese in which I discuss a fun way to remember the characters (apart from identifying the radicals). Click here to find out more about it.
Once you understand the use of radicals and how they are combined to create the Chinese characters, learning how to understand Chinese suddenly becomes a whole lot easier.