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Zeppa

Learning characters *without* stories

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realmayo

Okay, well then yes, I reckon Wenlin is probably your best bet. One thing I did was to learn the components almost as if they were characters. Some obviously are characters but very rare on their own. Nevertheless I tried to learn them, and even if a component was not a character and had no meaning I would try to learn it as "that component which is the phonetic part of a group of characters including x y and z". Then again, because I was doing the story thing I would assign those kind of components an arbitrary meaning if the etymologies didn't suggest one. You won't be doing that so it may be harder to remember. (I stress: this isn't me trying to persuade you to make stories!)

Victor Mair: maybe it's very unfair but his posts make me think he was a lot more relevant 20 years ago than he is now, plus he has that enormous and probably rather painful chip on his shoulder about pinyin versus characters.

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Zeppa

OneEye: yes, I did mean explanations pulled from nowhere, and I was doing Harbaugh an injustice.

I can't discuss Victor Mair, especially since you are not specific about what you disagree with!

To those who use the Matthews book: maybe it gets better, but to memorize the character 二 as two unicorns is the kind of thing that puts me off.

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bootareen

I suggest yellowbridge.com. It is extremely useful to me as you can type in a character and it will show you the correct etymology and stroke order.

I have a bias against made up stories as well and always don't want to waste time memorizing someone made for a particular book.

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bootareen

I'm a new user so I can't edit my previous comment because it has to be approved :/

But going with a previous poster's example, yellowbridge.com shows 美 associative compound as an person ( 大) beautifully decorated by ram horns, instead of a person with a headdress :) Even though it is time consuming to look up every word to see its etymology, I find it helps me actually remember them at the end.

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OneEye
But going with a previous poster's example, yellowbridge.com shows 美 associative compound as an person ( 大) beautifully decorated by ram horns, instead of a person with a headdress

Interesting, but still wrong. 羊 was never a part of 美 in the first place, and that's my beef with this sort of "etymology." The character is just a picture of a person wearing a headdress. It consists only of a single component. The misconception that the character is made of 羊 and 大 is something that people came up with while trying to make sense of the writing system over a millennium after it formed, and with little information about the early stages of the writing system. Unfortunately for us, this misconception has now been around for nearly twice as long, which will explain its persistence even in the face of newly discovered, more complete data.

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li3wei1

A couple of points here:

www.archchinese.com does the same as Wenlin (as far as telling you what other characters use a particular component), and it's free. It's etymologies are crap, though, worse than useless.

As someone else mentioned, I think, if you are going to use stories, stories that you make up yourself are better than ones you get out of a book, because it's the process of making up the story that really cements the connections. That said, there do seem to be a lot of people who swear by Matthews & Matthews.

Victor Mair is reviewing a book based on leafing through and looking at two pages. Didn't even bother to read the introduction. Hardly credible criticism, about as legitimate as those who claim the Harry Potter books will lead children into witchcraft and devil-worship.

Finally, I'm sure that the etymology of Chinese characters is fascinating, possibly more interesting and complicated than the development of many other languages. However, it is an entirely different intellectual pursuit from learning the language. If you're learning English, 100 hours studying Old English is not going to do you any more good than 100 hours of studying invertebrate biology, as long as it's in English. For many characters, the 'true' development is either unknown, disputed, or incorrectly understood by many well-educated people. This hasn't in the slightest stopped hundreds of millions of people becoming extremely fluent in the language.

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anonymoose
Interesting, but still wrong. 羊 was never a part of 美 in the first place, and that's my beef with this sort of "etymology." The character is just a picture of a person wearing a headdress. It consists only of a single component.

Where do you find information like that?

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OneEye
Where do you find information like that?

I don't have the book nearby to verify, but I'm pretty sure I first learned that particular one from 《說文新證》 by 季旭昇.

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ABCsOfChinese
Zeppa: I know about 1400 characters but I think I would get on better if I made myself more aware of the components. But I don't like the fake mnemonics so many people use e.g. on Skritter.

I've spent the past few years researching Chinese character etymology and have been able to break every character down into 400 basic components. Those 400 include the 214 common radicals, but also several other core components. After having nailed down those 400 basic components, we built up a curriculum based on starting with learning those basic components and "unlocking" Chinese characters as you work your way through the curriculum (you unlock a character after you learn all of the components that are contained in a character). There are some Intro Videos and also a Demo on our homepage www.ABCsOfChinese.com . I'd love to get your feedback!

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hackinger

@ABCsOfChinese The intro videos are impressive, hats off. You should probably start a separate thread about your site.

Cheers

hackinger

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ABCsOfChinese
hackinger: The intro videos are impressive, hats off. You should probably start a separate thread about your site.

Thanks hackinger! The videos were fun to make. I hope the first video was informative! I would like to start a separate thread about the curriculum to start getting people's input and feedback, but there are still a few more features we want to get polished up first, so I'll hold off for a few weeks.

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