Chinese is a very powerful and simply to use language compared to English and european languages system. Every new word doesn’t require the full understanding of each character and you can guess the meaning of the word even without context, it’s what English can’t do.
Recently I’ve read a post about the effort rules that apply in English language.
90-95% rule doesn’t apply in chinese language, a smart person can apprehend a lot of two-charactered words or three or four words by simply understanding one or two of them in the word. If there’s a rule, I’d say it’s a 50%-70% understanding, depends on how your ability and talent to understand the language and context.
And chinese characters most powerful ‘sources are that you can understand a strange character by simply understanding the structure of the character, it’s either vertical separated or horizontal separated, each character has its auxiliary segment/偏旁 for helping understand the whole character’s meaning, you might encounter different characters but you would find them extremely similar, that’s why there’s a load of same auxiliary structures in every related-character group. For example, most of metal related characters would contain the at-the-left structure of 钅, this left alone means gold or related materials, and if you find any character that contains this structure, the character is most likely a character that’s related to metal or metal-like materials. And there’s a tons of characters that contain this structure in their structures, practically, most characters in periodic table are labeled with this auxiliary structure.
The Chinese characters pronunciations depend mostly on the right side of the structure, the primary structure of the character. For example, 谨 and 瑾, the right big/primary structure are the same but with different left auxiliary structure, and they pronounce the same, both pronounce jǐn, and this is the source character 堇, pronounces jǐn as well.
And as you may see, and from the progress of learning chinese, a lot of chinese characters are composed of either two or three recognizable characters. Normally, a horizontal separated structure would be auxiliary segment – primary segment, auxiliary segment – primary segment – primary segment. And a vertical separated structure would be either
|Auxiliary Segment||Primary Segment||正||Auxiliary Segment|
And these segments are the source characters, the 50% ( I’d presume it’s the less than 50) that you have to learn the meaning of it, after you master them, lots of new characters and words are unlocked for you as you crawl through context or just the verbalizations and flashbacks. This is what English can’t do, that’s why they need tons of new words (simple compound or new creation) to support their vocabulary whilst chinese only needs to pick up the already rich character pool to reform a new word.