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adamnhms

Remembering the Hanzi Simplified Book 1 - when should I learn pronounciation?

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adamnhms

你好,

I'm currently studying chinese characters from the Remembering the Hanzi Simplified, book 1. The book recommends it is best to learn pronounciation another time, and to focus on learning the characters themselves first. From your experience, how did you end up learning the pronounciation with chinese characters? Is it too much to learn the pronounciation/writing all at one time? Should I pause every couple hundred of words and learn their pronounciation? Any input would be greatly appreciated.

亚当

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淨土極樂

I never saw the point of that kind of books. What good are the characters without pronunciation? You still can't read. The book doesn't even tell you about the phonetic components of the characters and why they are important.

I'd advise any serious learner to not bother with any 'experimental' study methods and just stick with a traditional textbook.

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Koxinga

Keep using other methods to study (textbooks, movies etc.) along with Heisig's books.

When you learn new words, you'll realize that you already know (some of) the characters in them, so learning should be a piece of cake. All that's left to learn for new words is pronunciation, and the right order of characters, which is really simple most of the time. Sometimes it's not easy, when the keywords are too similar, or when the characters look very similar. For example, 繼續 often makes me stop and think. But it gets easier over time. The more characters you know and the more words you know, the sooner it will all fall into place.

I would suggest not learning pronunciations for individual characters, because some characters have multiple pronunciations and you won't know which pronunciation is appropriate for a given situation. However, even though don't suggest explicitly learning the pronunciations, having them as a hint in your flashcards (on the Question side) makes it much easier to differentiate between similar keywords.

Good luck.

Also, I'd suggest that we only answer OP's question in this thread. Let's keep the general discussion of the books in this or some of the other relevant threads.

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Ruben von Zwack

I'd worry that, learning solely the meaning without pronounciation, I'd be missing out on an opportunity. For pronounciation will give you access to those phonetic components that 淨土極樂 mentions.

Without these phonetic elements, a lot of characters, like, say, the million* variants of 召 zhao, look to me pesonally as if someone played dice with a hand full of random components.

I'm sure you can create smart mnemonics for each. But to me, it's more convenient o tell myself, oh yeah, 招, that's zhao with a hand, not with 3 drops of water.

*ok, it's only 6 or so, but still... :wink:

If you don't know yet what phonetic components are, accidentally, this week's article on hackingchinese is about them:

http://www.hackingch...ese-characters/

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realmayo

When I started studying characters in my free time, I found it an extremely difficult task. When I found a book that presented a system of mnemonics, and coupled that with SRS, I found it easy and pleasant (to learn the first 2000+ characters). So I'd say there's nothing wrong with trying new methods.

To the OP: remember that these ways of memorising the characters aren't really progress in learning the language as such, but instead are a way to make one of the processes easier. I suppose you could say, scaffolding isn't a building but it can help you construct the building faster.

It's hard to answer your question without knowing how the rest of your studying is going. If all you're doing is learning the characters, then don't expect to have any Chinese ability whatsoever once you've completed that task.

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renzhe

Any method is a good method if it helps you learn something effectively.

But the threadstarter should know that Remembering the Hanzi is an offshoot of a much more successful book, Remembering the Kanji, which was aimed at learners of Japanese. There have always been doubts about how well the same technique would apply to Chinese, and Remembering the Hanzi books don't seem to have had nearly as much success as their Kanji counterparts. These are two different languages, and some assumptions which made the original book successful (that characters carry little phonetic value) are completely wrong when applied to the Chinese language.

So the strategy that the book recommends (leave pronunciation for later) is the opposite of what everybody else does (learn pronunciation with the character). Personally, I feel that the "traditional" way (learning pronunciation together with characters and words) is better, but I don't have hard numbers to support it.

This doesn't mean that the book itself is not useful! Just keep in mind that James Heisig is fluent in Japanese, but not in Chinese. Adding pronunciation to characters early goes against his method, but I think that the benefits would far outweigh the downsides in this case.

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Kobo-Daishi
Ruben von Zwack wrote:

Without these phonetic elements, a lot of characters, like, say, the million* variants of 召 zhao, look to me pesonally as if someone played dice with a hand full of random components.

I'm sure you can create smart mnemonics for each. But to me, it's more convenient o tell myself, oh yeah, 招, that's zhao with a hand, not with 3 drops of water.

*ok, it's only 6 or so, but still... :wink:

It might not be a million, but, certainly more than 6.

紹眧超怊弨妱昭鉊鍣駋招沼菬照诏炤詔牊玿韶劭卲绍袑邵紹苕笤招蛁貂軺超岧祒迢髫齠龆苕笤

Okay, a lot of them might be rare.

I wonder if there's a way of finding the phonetic component without cycling through a whole list of the character set. The zhongwen.com web site only lists a small subset. :shrugs:

Kobo.

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adamnhms
I never saw the point of that kind of books. What good are the characters without pronunciation? You still can't read. The book doesn't even tell you about the phonetic components of the characters and why they are important.

I'd advise any serious learner to not bother with any 'experimental' study methods and just stick with a traditional textbook.

Are you a native speaker of chinese or english? If you are of chinese, then it is easy for you to say 'stick to a traditional textbook'. You've been exposed to the chinese writing system ever since you were a child, which allowed your brain to easily process and remember conversation, words, etc. My brain hasn't.

Keep using other methods to study (textbooks, movies etc.) along with Heisig's books.

Good reply, I am using multiple sources for learning characters. I am NOT, I repeat, NOT, using one source for learning this beautiful language. From conversation with native speakers to Heisig's books, I'm utilizing the internet as well.

If you don't know yet what phonetic components are, accidentally, this week's article on hackingchinese is about them:

http://www.hackingch...ese-characters/

Great article. The native speakers I've been talking to / learning from have explained such concept FAR more than any textbook out there. I shall dig deeper into phonetic components! Thank you

It's hard to answer your question without knowing how the rest of your studying is going. If all you're doing is learning the characters, then don't expect to have any Chinese ability whatsoever once you've completed that task.

As stated, I'm using multiple sources for learning. I'm not solely relying on one source to teach me a language, that would be silly ;).


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navaburo

I second Koxinga's suggestion to use the pinyin as a hint in the front of your flash cards. This makes recall easier (disambiguating many otherwise too similar keywords) and does help you learn the pronunciations.

I've used this strategy for RTH books 1-2 over the last 3 years (with a few long breaks). Currently nearing the 2500 mark.

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淨土極樂
Are you a native speaker of chinese or english?

Neither is my mother tongue. But I'm pretty advanced in both.

Anyway, when I started learning the characters, this is what worked the best for me:

1) Learn the basic stroke order and other general rules.

2) Learn the most of the 'building blocks' (i.e. primitive elements). There's only a couple hundred. 90%+ of the Chinese characters are not random pictures, but combinations of the already existing elements. This stage does require some rote learning and/or mnemonics, there's no other way around it.

3) This way when learning a new character, all you have to do is remember its signific part (形旁) and phonetic part (声旁). The phonetic system is far from perfect in modern standard Mandarin, but it's still a huge pronunciation hint. E.g. 就 is 京+尤. There's absolutely no need to write the character 100x times to remember this much (unlike the scary stories you may have been told). Truth to be told, even most Chinese teachers will try to explain new characters to you like this.

4) I have a very curious mind, especially when it comes to ancient history. I found learning the real character etymology immensely exciting and it cemented my knowledge of the characters. Wenlin was excellent for this, but as I became more advanced in the language, I moved to 說文解字 and other Chinese resources. Of course, I couldn't help but teach myself some 篆文 and Tang phonology to get an even better understanding of the characters that I love so much.

I'd like to stress that when learning a new character it's very important to give yourself at least a few usage examples. Otherwise, it's all for naught. 筷 and 箸 both mean the same thing, except the first one is colloquial while the second one is more literary and is usually used in compounds (e.g. 下箸).

Finally, let me give you an example of real etymology. 群 ('group, crowd') is 君 (phonetic) + 羊 ('sheep', signific), while 独 (trad: 獨, 'alone, independent') is 犭(犬) ('dog', signific) + 蜀 (phonetic, sadly abbreviated to 虫 in the simplified script). Now, the question is, why these two significs were chosen? 羊為群,犬為獨. :mrgreen:

P.S. As it was already noted, Heisig's system was mainly developed for Japanese, where there really is no definite connection between the characters and their pronunciation, because the Japanese (unlike Koreans and the Vietnamese) started assigning the Chinese characters to their native words (mostly for aesthetic reasons), and this has created lots of unnecessary complications. Sometimes, they would even assign whole Chinese words to native Japanese vocabulary (e.g. 蜘蛛 is pronounced 'kumo', which is a native Japanese word and has absolutely zero relation to 蜘 and 蛛) or even English loanwords (e.g. 西藏 is pronounced 'Tibetto'), but thankfully they started using katakana for words like this in the recent years.

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Touchstone57

I think it is an issue that a lot of people have opinions on, but if it works for you, then go for it!

As to the original question - it can depend on you. For me it is a matter of motivation - if you can manage to learn 1500 characters without actively using them then go for it. Sometimes however you can lose motivation along the path and it may be beneficial to start using the characters you have already learned - building vocabulary and reading small texts. Nothing is more motivational than making progress with real word material! Heisig himself suggests not learning pronunciation at the same time as learning the characters, but I think you should tailor it to your own goals, learning style and motivation.

Using RTH itself shouldn't be the center of your study, but it is excellent for building the blocks of Chinese study and for individual character recognition. Using this method has allowed me to build very strong visual associations with every individual character and its meaning, which in turn has made it very easy to associate a pronunciation for each character. This also makes it very easy to learn new words with characters I already know, and I think it is important for building strong associations with everything.

I think learning character etymologies is great if you have a passion for the Chinese writing system. It is something I plan to pursue later, but I don't thinking it is strictly necessary for character recognition. RTH is (in my opinion) an extremely efficient method of learning Chinese character recognition, using radicals and associated meanings in a structured way. Using this method I was able to learn 25 - 30 new characters per day, using a little more than 1 hour each day, including time for review using SRS.

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li3wei1
I wonder if there's a way of finding the phonetic component without cycling through a whole list of the character set. The zhongwen.com web site only lists a small subset. :shrugs:

http://www.archchinese.com/chinese_english_dictionary.html

has a 'part of' function that will give any character that contains the given character. Trying it with 召 gave me 17 characters.

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Sobria-Ebritas
淨土極樂 2) Learn the most of the 'building blocks' (i.e. primitive elements). There's only a couple hundred.

Could you please tell us where we can find a list of those primitive elements? I for one would very much appreciate it.

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tysond

I did Heisig 1&2 in the last year or so. I used Skritter to practice writing, and that included audio and pinyin so I absorbed a lot of pronunciations at the same time. Recommend doing something like this.

Simultaneously I practiced pronunciation and reading from a normal textbook with a teacher. Pretty soon my characters passed the textbook, and I was learning the reading of characters that were already familiar. I found it so much easier to remember the whole pronunciation in a full word/expression/sentence than remembering individual units. I could have finished Heisig faster without this approach, but I did find, as others have pointed out, that learning the pronunciations is good for your sense of progress and accomplishment.

Phonetic components are still really useful, although I tend to use them more to guess pronunciations than as a mnemonic to remember how to write the character. If i have a bit of a mental blank when writing, 洋 conjures a visual of a sheep being washed up by waves at the seaside, not a "three drops-yang". But if i see 洋 I start thinking of yang right away, and frankly often the context will remind me of the tone before seeing the three drops.

Fundamentally, Heisig is a radical based learning technique, although it is a sort of "hack" in that it controversially ignores the traditional histories, delays the need to memorize pronunciation, and doesn't follow the usual order of textbooks (e.g. "好" as the first character to learn). I think there some great parts that very few other books/techniques bother to cover or provide -- it teachers you how to memorize characters by components, how to use visualization techniques to aid memory, encourages the use of SRS style revision, suggests many mnemonics/visual images for tricky components, and provides an ordering of learning that builds on components, and finally it covers more characters than most other books of this type (3000).

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Glenn
1) Learn the basic stroke order and other general rules.

Heisig covers this.

2) Learn the most of the 'building blocks' (i.e. primitive elements). There's only a couple hundred. 90%+ of the Chinese characters are not random pictures, but combinations of the already existing elements. This stage does require some rote learning and/or mnemonics, there's no other way around it.

This is the entire foundation of the Heisig method.

3) This way when learning a new character, all you have to do is remember its signific part (形旁) and phonetic part (声旁). The phonetic system is far from perfect in modern standard Mandarin, but it's still a huge pronunciation hint. E.g. 就 is 京+尤. There's absolutely no need to write the character 100x times to remember this much (unlike the scary stories you may have been told). Truth to be told, even most Chinese teachers will try to explain new characters to you like this.

This is where it gets a little different. Instead of saying "it's pronounced zhao and has to do with giving orders, so the signific is 言," Heisig's approach is "召 has the meaning of 'seduce' (or whatever it is in that version) and 言 has the meaning of 'say', so when you put them together, you have 'seductive words' -- 詔, which means 'imperial edict'. Now make a story that ties all that together." Really, just using the reading clues can lead to confusion too, since there's more than one zhao, e.g., 兆. How do you keep it straight that 詔 isn't 誂? You'd have to already be reading and have lots of exposure to know that, wouldn't you? Granted, 誂 is tiao3, so I'm sure there are other, better examples of this. That was just off the top of my head, but in this case, wouldn't you also have to already know that 誂 is tiao3?

This is one of the benefits of the Heisig method. Another is that 兆 is zhao4, yet is the phonetic of 誂, so that's not totally helpful either. "It was tiao3 with phonetic zhao4 that had to do with speech, so 言... which zhao/tiao went with 言 again?" This can work really well when you're already used to dealing with characters, but when you're first starting I can see where it can be confusing.

I realize that isn't enough for a lot of people, and they find that it doesn't outweigh not knowing how to pronounce something. I've heard some people complain that all you've done is learn a party trick and not any real, useful skill, but to me, getting an idea of what I'm looking at because I know (nearly) all the characters is very useful, perhaps more so than being able to get meaning out of less than half and still only be able to put sound to less than half of the characters in a text. Also, I know some people don't like the story idea because you're spending time inventing stories instead of learning the language, but it's kind of like coding something -- it takes a lot of time at first, but once the code is in place, the output comes rather quickly and easily.

For me, the method worked great. Granted, this was with Japanese, so renzhe's caveat applies here, but only concentrating on one meaning and the writing of the character let me get that down really well, and things I was seeing on a page made a lot more sense a lot more quickly. The readings came along later and without too much effort and stress using exactly the reading-from-phonetic-component method when it worked, and careful study of the exceptions when it didn't. Yes, there are pitfalls, like thinking a word means something that it doesn't because it's what the characters appear to be saying, even though the meaning of the word doesn't come directly from the characters, but I find that to be minor in the broader context, and can easily be cleared up with exposure to the language and a dictionary. All this is to say that I totally disagree with the sentiment expressed in #2, and ultimately, either method can be equally effective, but it depends on personal preference and style.

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lechuan

I am using Heisig (currently at character 1300; I stop and start a lot), and I use Matthew's style mnemonics to learn pronunciation. Check out the intro chapter on Google books to see how it works: http://books.google....5EC&redir_esc=y

I could see Heisig's proposal to ignore pronunciation working if you could study the characters full time and can cram them all in a month. I suspect that this would build a nice foundation to bring with you when learning Chinese.

However, if you can't do that, I'd suggest learning the pronunciation right away so you can start making connections with any vocabulary that you are (hopefully) learning in Parallel with Pinyin.

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淨土極樂

@Glenn

Um, I'm sorry, but does Heisig really teach you 誂 and 詔? 誂 is never used in modern Chinese, and 詔 is pretty rare. Why are you wasting time on such characters instead of slowly building a good vocabulary like everyone else does?

And 兆 is almost always read as tao/tiao when it's the phonetic.

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Ruben von Zwack

It was me who came up with the whole 召 thing, not Glenn. And then Kobo-Daishi posted that scary list of 召s :mrgreen:

Don't know on what basis you comment on Glenn's vocabulary building, but maybe you know his study schedule (I don't) - in this topic, he/she's just commenting on what others said.

Glenn is right anyway, to point out that these phonetic components only make sense when you are more familiar with the whole writing system.

All I meant to say was, as the original question of this topic was whether to learn pronunciation with the Hanzi or not: when you don't, you will miss out on that nice little built-in feature of a lot of Hanzi.

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tysond

Heisig covers slightly over 3000 characters by frequency. Rare ones are only included if they are a building block.

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