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Giant Fairy Teddy Dwarf: Matthews and Matthews, "Learning Chinese Characters"


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A new book has just been published on learning Chinese characters, that may be of interest:

Matthews, Alison and Laurence Matthews, Learning Chinese Characters. Tuttle, 2007. ISBN: 978-0-8048-3816-0. 383pp, paperback.

I have just bought a copy, so I cannot give a comprehensive review, but the main features seem to be:

  • uses a similar method to Heisig for memorizing the characters
  • also covers the Mandarin pronunciation as part of the story
  • includes about 800 characters (the HSK A list) in the current volume
  • includes stories for all characters covered, and pictures
  • also includes vocabulary (from the HSK A list)

The Giant Fairy Teddy Dwarf are the Matthews' mnemonics for the four tones. For example, a dozing giant would imply the pronunciation was dou1.

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A bit more: I am working through the Matthews and Matthews book. At this stage, I am inclined to suggest that the book is better than the Heisig book and that anyone interested in learning Chinese characters should buy this book and not wait for the Heisig book.

My impressions of the Heisig book are based on the sample chapters and on Heisig's Kanji book.

More when I have got a bit further.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I have now worked through the book and studied 800 characters. As you can see from previous posts, this has taken me just over a month. That is not to say I have learnt them all yet, but I have learned a good few characters (100?) and am a good way to remembering all the rest. Now I need to revise.

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  • 2 months later...


I've been learning Mandarin for about 2 months now and the book "Learning Chinese Characters" by Alison/Laurence Matthews has helped me a lot. Does anyone use this book or find the memory-techniques helpful? I find it very helpful and effective. My undertaking is not a short-term thing, but I would like to have a thorough learning of the language (just simplified characters, though).

Also, more than anything I'd like to get to know the forum and some members.


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  • 1 year later...

Now I'm working my way through Heisig. By way of comparison:

  • Heisig has many more characters, about twice as many
  • the effective workload is about the same for both books
  • Heisig has better stories and keywords
  • it is a lot easier to learn a character from Heisig as there is just the keyword and the character, not any pronunciation or vocabulary
  • the two books do not get in each others' way vary much; most of the keywords are fairly similar in both; don't even think about trying to do both at the same time
  • in Heisig's system, one reviews from the keyword to the character, in Matthews' from the character to the keyword; Heisig results in better memorization

I think now I would recommend Heisig first and then perhaps McNaughton for filling in the vocabulary and pronunciation.

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