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Remembering Simplified Hanzi 1 and Remembering Traditional Hanzi 1


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I suppose chalimac would prevent children from learning the letters a b and c until they could write "cab"? :mrgreen:

Context is overrated. You learn new contexts all the time and alter your prior understandings accordingly.

I tried Heisig before adopting this way (DeFrancis+ real etymologies).

I've never used Heisig but do use a similar method to learn how to remember characters. It seems like you tried to use such a method to learn the Chinese language. I'm glad you realised that's a mistake!

Learn with contextualized materials like children do.

This makes no sense at all. We're not children. Our brains have changed, for a start.

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Just to clarify, I am not against breaking characters into components. Neither do I think you have to become an etymologist. Chinese themselves rely on folk etymologies, but even those are better than Heisig crazy explanations. His methods states that the crazier the narrative the more memorable. I think that simpler is always better. For example, take the character:

報 (report).

- Heisig (in Remembering the Kanji) gives as clues to the narrative "happiness, stamp and crotch" WTF?

- Real etymology*: "a handcuffed offender on his knees (left side) who is about to be sentenced by a man (right side) pressing its head from behind to make him obedient". That seems to me a story worth reporting, not some made up stuff about stamps and crotches.


受 (accept)

Heisig: Birdhouse crotch!

Etymology: "One hand handing to another hand" from 103-17bnew.png

* From The Composition of Common Chinese Characters (Peking University, 1997)

Edited by chalimac
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That's my objection.

That's fine, but it doesn't invalidate the book. You prefer another method. I prefer the long shortcut because it makes more sense to me.

I'm not advocating for the use of children materials. In DeFrancis you learn a sentence like this in the first volume "What's the difference between Concise Grammar of Chinese and Sketch of Modern Chinese Grammar?" Hardly childish.

My fault. Still, I'd prefer the use of native material over a textbook. DeFrancis's books are good, but they are not written by a native. It makes more sense to me to learn the characters up front so I can learn from authentic, native Chinese rather than contrived, textbook Chinese.

I said I don't agree with the invented narratives. Besides, the introduction to the method has some wrong statements in my opinion:
there is nothing in the nature of a character dictating that it must be verbalized one way or another.

Wrong. They are phonetic-semantic compounds.

Ok, but 去 is pronounced "qù" in Mandarin, "heui" in Cantonese, and "さる" (saru) is one of the Japanese readings. So tell me, how is this character inherently supposed to be pronounced? Or to take a look at one of the phonetic-semantic compounds you mentioned, 使 is pronounced "shǐ" in Mandarin, but its phonetic 吏 is pronounced "lì." In Cantonese, it's "sai2" and "lei6." In Japanese one of the readings for 使 is つから (tsukara), and 吏 is り (ri).

So please explain. How are these characters inherently supposed to be pronounced? I understand that learning the pronunciations is helpful, and I actually do include pronunciations in my Heisig flashcards, but there's nothing that says any characters must be pronounced a specific way.

written characters bring a high degree of clarity to the multiplicity of meanings carried by homophones in the spoken language.

Wrong. Spoken language is perfectly clear. Homophones are not a problem because of bisyllabic words (the ones you don't learn in Heisig).

Then why do even native speakers need to sometimes resort to writing a character for clarity when having a conversation?

And as to the etymologies, I do understand the preference for a historically accurate etymology. The academic in me loves learning that. However, mnemonics help me remember better, and so allow me to learn faster. So for me it's an issue of being more practical, rather than being etymologically correct. Now sometimes, a real etymology works better for me than one of Heisig's stories (like your 報 example), but that doesn't mean I'm going to throw out the baby with the bathwater when overall Heisig's book works so well for me.

Different strokes, I guess.

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Anyone discussing Heisig and Richardson's method should first read their own reply to their critics, which is included in their sample PDF. There is no point in repeating criticisms that they have already addressed.

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Sorry for not contributing, but just asking - anyone knows if Heisig Remembering Simplified Hanzi would be available somehow in China? I've spent half a year at a school in Fuzhou, feels little like wasted time - my brain does not fit to their methods as it would have maybe 20 years ago! Thanks!

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I don't really want to enter the discussion if the Heisig method is the good or even the best method for everyone out there- rather I would like to give you a progress update on how it is so far working for me.

I started using the book 8 days ago for traditional Hanzi, in that time I have now "learned" 240 new Characters, e.g. 30 new characters per day. I guess this should be put into perspective that I have learned Chinese for a few years already, mainly in self study, and with few exceptions like 浩 I had already learned all these characters before. This maybe explains why I chose for 30 new characters per day as a manageable speed at about 2 hours of studying/1 in the morning and 1 at night.

While I was quite critical of the whole idea in the beginning I am trying to give it a fair chance and I found that sometimes the method of associating stories, and in particular stories that are soemwhat special or exaggerated works surprisingly well for me for some characters.

In sum, for now I think this is worth continuing for a while.

Has anyone finished the whole book? any experiences?

Edited by fluxs
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anyone knows if Heisig Remembering Simplified Hanzi would be available somehow in China?

Amazon post to China.

Given the mark-up on foreign books in China, Amazon with the cheapest post option is cheaper and takes about three weeks.

I was unable to find Heisig and Richardson in Hong Kong. I personally asked Swindon if they would be getting a copy and they seemed unlikely to do so.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Has anyone finished the whole book? any experiences?

Yes, 3 months to complete without previous experience with Chinese. Still using mnemosyne daily to review. It took 1-2 hours a day, a bit more on weekends. Very happy with the book and its objectives.

imho, the funny and outrageous images used to first remember a character are not much of a problem. The goal is to create vivid mental images associated to the keyword. Some are a real struggle to come up with and I got frustrated for a few days at a time.

My picture for 'intelligent' is still seeing someone more intelligent than me explaining how to associate two bushes, a broom and a heart to mean intelligence.

A tip there would be to carry the book around and get creative with the images at different times, don't sit down at a study spot and try to crank out stories for 30 characters end on end. I had most the stories made up and wrote in the book well before finishing study, you don't need to know the components of a character to come up with the picture.

As the book says after a while your brain starts to skip the mental story and the character just comes out. Where interested looking up the etymological meaning adds more meaning and understanding, but I think learning purely on etymology would be much slower for me.

A different issue I am noticing is as I start to learn more words and sentence structures is the keywords from heisig are sometimes the rarer meanings. So for some I end up learning:

keyword->character (heisig & mnemo)

character->pronunciation (last.fm & mnemo)

character->words ( then realize original keyword is not common meaning )

character->common meanings or look up etymology

Apart from getting laughed at by Chinese friends its not much of a problem. ni hao niang! They say the hard part, remember the character and stroke order is done and the meaning/context is easier to expand.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Anyone with RSH1, please check

244 General, 566 general: keywords a bit too similar?

p202 stick horse: what is a stick horse? I cannot find this in the Concise Oxford or Wikipedia. Is it a hobby horse?

972 reliable: why not stone... carpenter's square?

1253 practice, 1254 opt for: second component is not east

1393 book: is not the last character in the chapter

See also Heisig's errata, these comments are additional.

Any other observations? We could pass them on the H&R.

Edited by m.ellison
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Has anyone got news on volume two of the book? As of today I am through 1200 characters, so i guess in about two weeks I will have finished book 1.

If the book isn't out and available by then, I suppose I will use the book Chinese Characters - A Genealogy. But if the book is out that would be a big help I feel...

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A member from the "Reviewing the Kanji" website asked Heisig via email. Supposedly the book is going to be available by the end of summer, however seeing how often the first book was delayed I would not hold my breath.

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Anyone knows language schools in China that teach foreigners according to Heisig's method? (Maybe that's already somewhere on the 18 pages of this thread, sorry, couldn't check all)

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Of the 1500 characters in RSH1, 537 have different traditional forms, and of these 36 have more than one.

Of those 537, about 209 are basically just component replacements (ie the story should be the same for both variants of the character). For another 42 the traditional character includes all of the components of the simplified characters plus some extra. 21 seem to just variations in the writing. And the rest are just different (about 231, not counting those with more than one traditional variant).

And here is a comparison against the HSK lists:

Level Total in Heisig RSH1 Other

A 808 726 82

B 798 461 337

C 590 161 429

D 670 109 561


Here are the characters that are in the HSK A list but not in RSH1: 丢 亿 倍 傅 刮 剩 咖 咱 咳 啡 啤 喂 喊 嗯 嗽 嘛 墙 姑 宜 宿 愉 戴 扬 抬 拍 拾 挤 挺 掌 搞 摆 操 晴 暖 桔 棵椅 橘 澡 炼 爬 瓶 疼 矮 碗 碰 磁 祝 租 累 绍 脏 舍 舒 苹 蕉 袜 览 访 译 谅 谊 赢 践 踢 躺 辆 迟 遍 邮 酸 钢铅 顿 饱 饺 饿 驾 黒

And the following are in RSH1 but not in the HSK lists at all: 乍 亥 儒 冗 匕 吕 吴 吾 坠 坪 夭 寅 尧 尹 廷 廿 彦 戈 旭 昔 昭 暇 曼 枢 欧 洛 甫 眷 瞄 矢 祭 荫 袁 襄 襟 贮 贾 赐 逸 逾 酋 韦 馨

Note that there may be some cases where the character is just written using different variant forms. Many of the characters in RSH1 are just building blocks for other characters, so there is no need for them to appear in the HSK lists.

Edited by m.ellison
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I am having problems with some groups of very similar keywords. Take, for example, 喜 Joyful 1137 and 欢 Joyous 640. Or 揪 Hold tight 770, 把 Grasp 1329 and 握 Grip 887. Or 应 Ought to 1432, 须 Have to 1309 and 该 Should 1200.

Does anyone know how to keep these apart in your head?

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