I am not sure if this is a question, or not, but that is correct. Kanji (the chinese characters) mostly have multiple readings (different ways to read them). When to use which reading depends on the context and you will have to learn by heart. So, 中, means middle and is read as なか. 国 means country and is read as くに, yet combined it means 'China' and is read as ちゅうごく. This makes kanji so hard to learn, as you need to memorize multiple ways to read them and you have to know which reading to use when (though there are some basic rules for that, but there are MANY exceptions to it).
To solve the problems with memorizing each way to read a kanji, I simply memorize how it's spoke in word A and in word B, word C, and it keep going.
It is waaay better than having to know each of the cases on how to read it. I simply know what it means. If some other words use it, it doesn't matter, I learn to read that word without caring about which kanjis are in that word, because THAT especific word have this sound and that's it.
I don't know if I made it clear, but yeah
They haven't really gone into on-yomi and kun-yomi yet, but yes, kanji can have numerous pronunciations, and unfortunately, it isn't always easy to know which one to use.
In this case, the character 中 is pronounced なか, but when paired up with 国 in 中国, it becomes ちゅう.
This mechanic is present to an extent in English - the symbol "2" is pronounced "two", but "2nd" is "second," or "1/2" is "one half."
Before 1945, the word for China is 支那 (Shina.) Then Chinese people thought this name was insulting, and forced Japanese to change the name. Although I do not understand why it is an insult. Chinese people called themselves 支那 in early 20th century, too.
The current name comes from the Chinese language. Currently Chinese call themselves 中国 (Zhung-guo.) Now, pronounce these two characters in Japanese instead, you get ちゅうごく. Before 1945, 中国 meant the area west to Kyoto.
You're right to some degree,the two characters"shi" "na"could be a word of the "western"(ancient India) notion and phonetically translated from Sanskrit language，which was first seen in "Budkdhist Records of the Western World" (646A.D.) by Monk Xuanzang of the Tang dynasty China(618-907A.D.).
It is apparent that the monks from Japan（kentoshi）adopted the writing system as well as the word from the book during the period of time from 630 to 894. Eventually being popularized during the Edo Period(1603-1868) to distinguish the area west to Kyoto.
"shi""na" was therefore not an insult to Chinese people in its origin until early 1920s. Qing dynasty China was replaced by Republic of China(中華民國） in 1912, abbreviated as "中國“.Which also can be an abbreviation for PRC(中华人民共和国）
For your "Although I do not understand why it is an insult", inferring that you may not be familiar with the modern history in oriental countries. Or you may have a different approach towards the modern history of imperialism.
I try to be in simplicity, while the shift of meaning is related to the thought of "Language Games " from Ludwig Wittgenstein. That is, the meaning of a word is determined by how it is used and in which the context it is used. Which means the word ”shi””na” reminds Chinese people of the past history of suffering.
Just like the "N"word for the black people of the past history of being enslaved(it just means "black"in Spanish). And some disparaging names for Jewish people for reasons alike.
Not entirely true. 中国 replaced 支那 in 1930, and some Japanese even used 中国 as early as 1913. 支那共和國 was the official name of the Republic of China in Japan from 1913-1930, which was replaced by 中華民國 in official documents in 1930. 中国 had its origins way before 1945; it only fell into common use and 支那 became a 言葉狩り only after 1945.
支那 (Shina) and 高麗 (Kourai)/高句麗 (Koukuri) were terms used in Japan for a long time to refer to China and Korea, and those terms themselves were used by Chinese and Korean people. Sun Yat-sen used the term 支那 extensively.
支那 became an insult and derogatory because it was immediately associated with the Second Sino-Japanese War and the atrocities and massacres committed by Japan in China during the timeframe. Many people thought the character 支 could be interpreted to suggest that the Chinese are subservient to the Japanese.
After the war, 支那 quickly became a 言葉狩り (kotobagari) in the Japanese language, and was deemed very politically incorrect and vulgar to use. Other 言葉狩り include words such as rai (癩, "leper"), mekura (盲, "blind"), tsunbo (聾, "deaf"), oshi (唖, "deaf-mute"), kichigai (気違い or 気狂い "crazy"), tosatsujō (屠殺場, "slaughter house"), and hakuchi (白痴, "moron/retard") and are currently not used by the majority of Japanese publishing houses; the publishers often refuse to publish writing which includes these words.
The name China was first used by Iranians. During the Sassanid dynasty, the Jin dynasty ruled China. It was during the rule of these two dynasties that Iran and China first established contact. For this reason, the Iranians named this land "China" (Chīn) and it entered other languages through the language of the Iranian people (Middle Persian).
That is simply how the kanji system works. You are right, it is annoying, but if ypu pause to think about it, english is just as confusing, what with our 'oo' changing for no apparent reason, and 5 and 50 being different. We just grew up learning this language, so we have a better grip on it.
Keep pressing on, you'll get the hang of it soon!
Damn I can't settle on a optimum performance strategy to learn from
I started with Korean because i thought "hey, it's the easiest language! it is obviously going to be the fastest route! It can even kickstart me on Chinese or Japanese later" then after a while i lost my drive and just forgot it.
A few weeks ago, It finally clicked "ok, Japanese it is then, there is anime, there is songs, there is dramas! (and doujins) there is no way i won't learn it!"
now i want to learn chinese first...
How vital are kanji for the beginners? I'd like duolingo to provide choice of learning kanji, like to be able to turn on and off. For a beginner it's too confusing.
There are actually three different categories of pronunciation for kanji (the characters borrowed from Chinese hanzi). -Onyomi (loosely "Chinese reading") derives from the Chinese pronunciation, at least at the time the characters were assimilated into Japanese. -Kunyomi (loosely "Japanese reading") derives from the pronunciation of the Japanese word when hanzi was assimilated. -The third is "special readings" and typically cover names.
All three may have many different pronunciations, especially if it's a very common kanji. Japanese was a fully functioning language before it adopted Chinese characters in the Heian Period, so a lot of "awkward but at least it fits enough to go about other business" ended up forming.
When I went to Japan I realized Kanji used in names were just there to make the sounds (not sure if this is true for all names) but it became apparent because as I translated these I would notice the Kanji had the sounds associated with them that made up the name or similar spelling to what we know them in English and it made sense that these kanji were being used for their phonetic sound and not their meaning...pretty neat concept even not really understanding the language...
中, look at the structure of this character, quite symmetrical right? It has the meanings of "center"/"middle"/"intermediate"/"just"/"appropriate" in classical chinese. While "中国” can be regarded as a proper noun, the notion of "middle kingdom" /"central kingdom" spreaded around the oriental region such as korean penisular, islands of japan ,vietnam（Trung Quốc） and Indonesia（Tiongkok）. But, when China was weak, things different, even the name was different. History is too long to type, I would better stop here