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self-taught-mba

Poll: Amount of time to learn a Chinese character

# of times, on average, you need to write out a character before you can reproduce it  

  1. 1. # of times, on average, you need to write out a character before you can reproduce it

    • I am superhuman; I just need to look at them
      6
    • 1-5
      10
    • 6-10
      10
    • 11-15
      2
    • 16-20
      6
    • 21-25
      3
    • 26-30
      3
    • 31-40
      0
    • 41-50
      2
    • 51 +
      5


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self-taught-mba

I've been wanting to ask this for while. For those that write out the characters on those practice sheets (like most schools do): What is the average number of times you have to write out the character before you consider it learnt?

How does this relate to time? Meaning, how long does it take you to write it out 5, 10, 20 times etc.? Your comments are welcome.

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roddy

For my money, it's not a matter of 'number of times of writing'. It's

a) time over which you practice it - ie I reckon if you write it ten times on one day, you'll forget it in a month. Write it once every three days for a month though . . .

B) contextual encoding. Just learning an isolated, lonely, 服 isn't going to work so well as learning 服, which is a member of the 月 radical set (有,肚,育...), the set that share the same right-hand component (报, and I can't think of any more because I don't practice what I preach) and which relates to a set of words using 服 (服务,说服,服从,服药)

c)how you practice writing it. Copying it off the left hand side of your character sheet doesn't require you to drag it up from memory. Something like dictation including that character, or attempting to write all characters with a certain radical / component will. I honestly don't think copying something really hooks it into your brain. Or maybe my brain is hook-resistant.

As for time to write a character? No more than 1 or 2 seconds if I actually know it. Maybe 10-15 minutes for a well-formed 像, 参 or 家 - I can never get those ones right.

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wushijiao

For me, I usually have to write a character over and over, and even then, I might forget how to write it.

I agree with Roddy that contextual encoding is very important.

A great book for learning characters is "张老师教汉字:汉字识写课本/Learning Chinese Characters ffom Ms. Zhang" 张惠芬-编者.

This book is great at finding the links between characters so that you will remember how to write them easier. An example is, they give you the characters 集,准,谁,难, and ask you to form words with each. Another example is the set 宜,助,租。 Then it asks you to identify the common component of each character. Anyway, the book has tons of cross-refrencing stuff like that to help you remember how to write the characters.

So, I think writing out characters again and again can't be avoided. But there are ways to speed up the remembering process.

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randall_flagg

And: don't forget to actually THINK the word while you are writing the character. Don't just let your hand move and do the job, try to picture the meaning of the word you are writing, however abstract that meaning may be. This makes a huge difference. Don't listen to music or watch TV when writing characters, focus, focus, focus (that said, I have to admitt that I love to listen to music while writing characters, only to find out that I've wasted my time...and I just keep doing it...will probably do so again tomorrow and the day after that...)

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imron

I usually don't write characters down at all when learning them, but I do spend enough time looking at them, analysing them, breaking them down into component parts and making sure that I can reproduce them visually with my mind's eye (normally I won't move on to another character until I can do this). I guess I'd probably spend as much time as I would writing out the character 5-10 times, but seeing as I don't actually write them, I guess I have no choice but to choose the superhuman option :mrgreen:

But there's really nothing superhuman about this technique, it's just taking the time to train active recall, which I've found to be far more effective than writing the character out again and again.

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gato
I usually don't write characters down at all when learning them, but I do spend enough time looking at them, analysing them, breaking them down into component parts and making sure that I can reproduce them visually with my mind's eye

It's probably hard to improve your penmanship with your mind's eye, though. Hehe.

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imron

Ah, but you can improve your penmanship by writing articles/stories/anything instead of just copying a character over and over. I'm not saying I never write, just that I never write to learn characters.

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lokki

That poll is pretty much useless the way I see it since it stops at 51+. It would make more sense if went up to 500 or so in steps of 50.

Some characters require less and some more, but somewhere around a hundred repetitions is the minimum for me. For some it is probably several hundred.

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self-taught-mba
That poll is pretty much useless the way I see it since it stops at 51+. It would make more sense if went up to 500 or so in steps of 50.

Some characters require less and some more, but somewhere around a hundred repetitions is the minimum for me. For some it is probably several hundred.

51+ would indicate it doesn't stop. Why don't you go ahead and vote? It seems the 51+ crowd is a minority (just me voting). Just trying to capture the average. (I am a 51+ person too)

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lokki

I did vote, yes, but if more people are like me and you the distribution might well run from somewhere around 50 to several hundred and that poll will fail to reflect the interesting part of the curve.

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Shadowdh

I voted 6-10 if you mean do I know it short term memory type of thing, but as most say its repetitive use that commits it to long term... some are easier than others too...

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fulgentius

To me, this question is unanswerable. I've noticed the single most important factor in how readily I memorize a character is...wait, make that the TWO biggest factors are:

1) Whether I like the character or not, on an aesthetic level. Seriously, some characters are neat and I remember them very quickly, whereas other characters look so misshapen or otherwise unpleasing to me that I may not have them reliably memorized even after a week of doing flashcards, etc.

For instance, I love 語, it has a nice proportion to it, and it's fun to write. 書 is another favorite. On the other hand, I think 學 is ugly and a big pain to write, so it took me a while to get down. I still feel slightly indignant every time I have to write it. :roll:

2) Whether some kind of association occurs to me or not. This means that the more complicated characters (and I'm learning traditional right now) are often easier to learn than simple ones.

So, 雞, to me, was much easier to learn than 七. The first is full of components that you can link together somehow; it's rich and not hard to come up with some association, even if you don't know the components from other characters. Whereas in the second case there is little to latch on to; it's so simple that it's hard to think of it as much more than a few lines.

Blah blah blah. :mrgreen:

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fulgentius

Oh, and incidentally, for better or worse I do very little writing/copying of characters. Because I hate it. So I:

1) Do flashcards till I recognize the set I'm learning.

2) Write each one about ten times to make sure I know how to write them and solidify my recall.

3) Continue doing flashcards in perpetuity.

Seems to work okay.

I just finished my first year, and I find at this point that I can usually figure out how to write a character without having to consult a book or actually write it out.

The big pedagogical breakthrough I made the other day is making flashcards for sentence patterns and common constructions. This is making my life oh so much easier, grammar-wise. I wish someone had told me to do this from the beginning.

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roddy

For the record I haven't voted, as I have absolutely no idea what my answer would be. Over the years I must have 'started' learning characters at least 4 times, but I've never followed through and I'm still very much recognition only. For the record I can tell you that repeated viewing of a character does not result in the ability to write though - otherwise I'd be scribbling off complete news articles with no problem.

A question to those who use flashcards for learning characters - what's your precise methodology. Are you looking at 跟 and saying to yourself 'right,thats 很 but with 足 as a radical', or are you making yourself write it, or trace out the strokes in the air, or what?

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gato
A question to those who use flashcards for learning characters - what's your precise methodology. Are you looking at 跟 and saying to yourself 'right,thats 很 but with 足 as a radical', or are you making yourself write it, or trace out the strokes in the air, or what?

My situation is similar to yours, Roddy. Although I can read complete books without using the dictionary too much, I have difficulty remembering how to write even the most basic characters.

Right now I'm using PlecoDict's flashcard system almost exclusively to help me with my write. I'm going through the list of most frequently used characters, from number 200 to 1000. I'm using the test settings below, under which PlecoDict prompts me with the pinyin and English definition, and I have to write the character. I try to test myself on 50 to 100 characters each session. The rank setting is set so that I have to get a character twice in a row before I can skip the character in the next session.

The method works well for me, though obviously it's very time-consuming. That's Chinese for you. :evil:

http://www.plecoforums.com/viewtopic.php?t=614

To be tested on Chinese writing, you can change the setting so you are prompted with the definition and pinyin, and you have to supply the characters.

Open Plecodict

Start new flashcard session

Test Settings

Change the Test and Show settings so that under Test only Defn + Pinyin is ticked

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roddy

Similar to what I've been doing, but I've been taking a more word-orientated approach. I've been going through a basic level 'learn to write characters' book, then feeding the characters I 'know' into this and then testing myself on writing words rather than characters, on the basis that

a) I'll remember them better as part of a word than as an isolated character (see above)

B) It's more interesting that way - even some very simple, common characters can combine into higher level vocab. This way I don't restrict myself to the elementary level vocab the book suggests.

c) It's helping to consolidate a lot of vocab - stuff I know when I read it, but if I was asked 'hey, what's the difference between A and B' I couldn't answer.

d) I forget what the next reason was. Perhaps I need flashcards for this too.

Problem with this method is that it becomes even more time consuming - the first 400 characters I fed in converted to a little over 1000 items to test.

Something else I'm considering doing is using listening courses as dictation material - again it'll be contextual use of characters, and will probably be very good for my currently comical ability to hold spoken Chinese information in memory.

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laowai1980

I can't vote for some reason, probably not enough posts on this forum. Anyway, I'm in the initial stages of learning Chinese (3 months only and less than 200 hanzi learned), I've been using approach of taking 2 characters per day and writing them down 50-100 times. Now I switched to taking a set of 20 characters or so and writing them down each day about 20 times each character over 10 days. The second approach is more fun to me, since I don't get stuck with only 2 hanzi when it gets boring to write down the same two hanzi over a sheet of paper all the time. With 20 chars it's more interesting and you extend the learning period so I feel my mind absorbs them better.

As been said, you have to practise characters you had learned over a longer time and then from time to time, because I feel like some of the earlier hanzi are being lost from my mind. I can still recognize and read them in text, but I forget the stroke order for example, or generally how to write them. And it's only been less than 200 hanzi learned. Sounds discouraging but I am not discouraged actually, I know that 熟能生巧 so just keep going. My initial goal is 300 chars which should be reached over the next 3 months, the next goal is 1000-1100 chars over 2 years which covers 80% of the texts (I realize I still may not understand 80% of the text with those). Then we'll see. t least with 1k chars I won't have to look up every other char in the dictionary, so it gets more fun from there. Anyway, that's my idea, maybe faulty somewhere but as long as it works who cares right? :)

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赫杰

laowai1980, I think your goals are very sensible and realistic, I just wanted to say (without knowing how much free time you got) I think learning to write 1000 characters in one year is also very feasible, so just be careful not to set your goals too low. A little pressure can be a good thing (again I don’t know how much free time you have to study Chinese)

Roddy,

Something else I'm considering doing is using listening courses as dictation material - again it'll be contextual use of characters, and will probably be very good for my currently comical ability to hold spoken Chinese information in memory.

Yup, that is what I was going to recommend. When I am reading and listening to Chinese, I sometimes reserve one part of the brain to kind of run a check on the tones and how to write the character.

佳节愉快 to everyone out there in Chinese-forums land!

HJ

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shivan

I think it depends a lot on the character. Some characters just stick in your mind. I studied for 4 months now and there are still some chacacters from the first weeks that keep slipping my mind.

Those are the evil evil characters.... as I call them

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Gulao

As far as having them locked in for an exam, 1 - 5 times. Having them memorized forever requires constant use.

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