After studying the language and breaking down thousands of common characters, ShaoLan concluded that most characters are built from around 100 ‘building blocks’.
She identified the most common ones and briefed Noma Bar to create a series of illustrations that clearly show what the basics are.
Similar to Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, Bar’s illustrations show ‘fire’, ‘person’ etc. He’s worked to create literal interpretations of the characters – harking back to their – presumably figurative – roots.
These basic characters can be combined to make a series of compounds. Two trees is a ‘forest’ (obviously), a mouth and a door is a ‘boss’ (somewhat logically) and two women together is an ‘argument’ (not sure we’re comfortable with this one to be honest…).
The basic blocks or compounds can be combined to create an array of words and phrases – ‘big’ and ‘group’ makes ‘everyone’, ‘sky’ and ‘big’ makes ‘extremely big’ and so on.
There’s a film explaining the Chineasy system here:
ShaoLan says that as well as helping people to learn Chinese, the system also helps people understand the historical and cultural influences behind the language.
She’s now started a Kickstarter campaign aiming to raise £75 000 to develop the system and create a Chineasy book.