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Sean93

Is memorizing radicals a waste of time or not?

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Sean93

Hi,

I 've read in lots of places that identifying the radicals within characters and knowing what they mean can really help you, but I just kind of thought that I'd skip learning the radicals and just learn some characters and after a while I'd get a "feel" for it. Do you think memorizing radicals is worth the trouble or not? And if it is, should I memorize the number for each radical, too? Thanks!

P.S: Sorry if this is a really common question, I did a search but I didn't find much!

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imron

I would start by learning characters, then when you start to notice common radicals/shapes appearing in different characters look up what that radicals means e.g. 氵is water ,木 is wood 扌is hand etc. Radicals are incredibly useful to know and I definitely recommend learning them, but personally I don't think it's worth going and memorising them without context - learn them as you are learning the characters. Learning the numbers is essentially useless, although if you use a paper dictionary a lot for character lookups, it might save a few seconds remembering the numbers for a couple of the more commonly used ones if your dictionary orders radicals by radical number (most Chinese-English dictionaries do this, whereas the Chinese-Chinese dictionaries tend to use stroke order to arrange the radical lookup tables).

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renzhe

I don't think you should memorise all the 200+ radicals to begin with. Many of them are quite obscure.

Most of us started by learning characters, and then noticed recurring elements and looked them up. This will really help you remember characters, as some radicals show up all the time, like imron says.

If you want to memorise radicals, concentrate on the most common 50, and only learn the meaning, not the names or numbers. But if you learn characters and keep your eyes open, it usually sorts itself out automatically anyway.

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anonymoose

I agree with most of what the others have said. It's worth taking note of the radicals, but I don't think you need to learn them separately. You'll naturally get a hang of them when you learn characters.

only learn the meaning, not the names

I think this depends on how you are learning chinese. If you are teaching yourself, then maybe knowing the names isn't very helpful, but if you will actually be interacting with Chinese people, then knowing how to refer to the radicals is useful. Often a Chinese person will say these when describing how to write a character.

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wushijiao

One possble idea might be to make flashcards (on paper) and use a different color for the radicals. Therefore in the character 打 you could color the 扌part, say, red, and the other part 丁 in the standard color, say, black.

If you did that, you might be able to learn both radicals and character together a bit quicker.

Of course, maybe that idea might be too confusing at the very start, in which case I'd just take imron/renzhen advice. At some point, however, you should certainly know the radicals, at least the common ones.

I've suggested before that it might not be a bad idea to take a few hours of time and just practice looking up random characters in a dictionary by their radical, in order to get a "feel" for it.

Good luck!

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Hofmann

I think it's very important to know the more common radicals. Knowing radicals aids in understanding and memorization of characters. When I taught a few summers ago, I hand-picked some radicals that I thought were essential and common in students' vocabulary. These were like the "ABC's" of Chinese, which implies that you're a dumbass if you don't know them. Other radicals are either uncommon or one usually learns them as vocabulary before using them in another character.

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Sean93

Hoffman, which are the radicals that you consider important? How many of them are there?

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OneEye

I think learning the radicals is very helpful. A great book I used when I first started learning characters is The Most Common Chinese Radicals by 张朋朋 (Zhang Pengpeng). It teaches 108 common radicals and shows how the characters are built from them. It also shows the evolution of some of them from their ancient forms, which I found really interesting.

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Lu

They are useful to know, but I don't think it's necessary to sit down and learn all 200+ of them by heart. I'd recommend going over a list of radicals once or twice, to get a feel for which radicals are there, and then just learn characters, while paying some attention to which radicals they have. The more you use the dictionary, the better you'll know the radicals (and if you use the dictionary a lot, at some point you'll also know some of the numbers).

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Sean93

Thank you all for your prompt replies! I really appreciate it!

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Hofmann

The ones I consider important are common, like 人(亻) 日 金 木 水(氵) 火 土 言 目 馬 etc. I consider it a good habit to be able to identify the radicals in every character you learn. It might be a lot of extra work in the beginning, but it pays off then you get more advanced and can memorize a character with one look.

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