The Power of Chinese Characters - 习 xí

习- xí- to practice, exercise, review

Apart from being the last name of the current Chinese president, 习 refers to the actual practice or study of something. This is often times how we tell our students the proper way to distinguish 学习 (xué) from 学 by itself. 学 by itself simply means to learn, so you can being “learning Mandarin” in your life in general, but it doesn’t necessarily imply the actual act of “studying” in the sense of opening a textbook (or hopefully Anki!) and getting focused. 

So now that we understand that 习 implies the actual practice or exercise of something, we can start to understand several words.

Here are a bunch of great Chinese words you can use:

练习 is the most generally applicable word for “to practice”.  Both characters have a similar meaning, so combined they really hammer home the point of practicing something. It is very widely applicable, you could practice your Mandarin, piano, meditation, a sport, etc.

实习 being translated as “internship” makes a lot of sense, because 实 means “real” or “reality”, so when you are in a classroom studying (学习), that’s not as real a form of practice as an internship. 

复习 literally means “duplicate study”, or “to review”.

Because 习 is a verb, it will sometimes be used in a resultative complement form, which is to say that whatever character comes after 习 will be the result of the practice. The most common word when it comes to someone’s personal life is 习惯 guàn, which either means “to be accustomed to” or it is a noun which means “a habit”. Of course it does, because the result of doing something many times, or practicing it (习), is that you become accustomed to it (惯).

Similarly, the character 俗 sú in Chinese means “common” or “popular”, so the word 习俗 naturally means “custom” or “convention”, because a “custom” became popular after it had been in practice for a long time.

If you stop learning Chinese word-by-word, but instead develop the 习惯 of learning character-by-character, then your time of 学习 will go down dramatically!

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