Chinese has two basic methods of recognizing it’s Asian characters: Phonetic and Strokes. Dictionaries could use one system or the other. If you have the sounds of every character memorized, phonetic may be easier for you. However, if you want to type a character by looking at its appearance—or if you want to type Chinese with a faster typing method—you may want to learn about character components.
There is a wide variety of books that show the evolution of characters, explaining their etymology, and showing different shapes and layouts characters can make. Just like English words have different roots and prefixes and suffixes, so do Chinese and Japanese characters have different sections that can be abbreviated or used interchangeably. Once you learn the basic components of the characters, writing, reading, and typing characters is easier.
Concerning phonetics, there are two main phonetic systems. The first, formally called “bopomofo” (Zhuyin) uses something much like the Hiragana of Japanese. · · · →