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Guest tgilbert

Learning strategies for Chinese characters

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chris.

When I am learning characters I just write them say about 10 times, wait 5 minutes then see if I can remember them. I keep doing that and I have memorised at least 5 characters in half an hour.

I HAVE to know how to write the character properly otherwise I don't bother learning it..is the word for me perfectionist?

I have one of my teachers telling me it's not important to know how to write the characters properly as long as I can recognize them, and I have another teacher telling me it's very important! :?

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skylee

Yes I think it is important to learn the proper sequence of each stroke. In fact some of the Chinese input methods, e.g. those used by mobile phones, require input of the strokes in proper order.

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smithsgj

The stroke order is completely logical in 99% of cases and doesn't need to be learnt on a character-by-character basis. But if you don't get it right, your writing will look funny. I never actually put pen to paper, just use a computer, but you probably do on your course.

Your method is probably a good one. But I recognize a heck of a lot more characters than I can write; I've never made a point of formally "learning" every single character that I come across in a text, because there aren't enough hours in the day!

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ax

My method is called "devide et impera", the colonialist should love this :-)

You can go thru the radical tables, or scan current newspaper for any characte elements that you don't know and then classify them on your own. Just memorize all this character elements and there is no chinese characters that you cannot write, because they are all made up from these basic elements. Just as chemistry, you memorize the periodic table, and all you need to learn is how to make a compound.

for example the character 龍 [long2], dragon.

You can break 龍 [long2] down to 立 [li4], 月 [rou4], 卜 [bu3], 己 [ji3], and 三 [san1].

By remembering parts, it makes it easier to remember because it takes less memory in your brains. All you need now is a rule to associate these elements together to make up a character.

good luck

ax

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skylee

ax's is a very effective method. When I was a kid my teachers also taught us like this -

贏 (traditional form of "win") - 亡口月貝凡

聽 (traditional form of "listen/hear") - 耳王十四一心

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Quest

I remember that method too, but our 十四一心 was for 德. Same thing for 赢, 亡口月贝凡.

Actually reading 十四一心 and 亡口月贝凡 brings back some memories haha, it feels like so long ago.

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pazu
Yes I think it is important to learn the proper sequence of each stroke. In fact some of the Chinese input methods, e.g. those used by mobile phones, require input of the strokes in proper order.

And I like this idea, so it's easy to correct your stroke order now.

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ax

@skylee & pazu

Don't you think Chinese is a bit undictatable. With the devide et impera method you can easily dictate Chinese.

In English, if you are dictating someone and come across a word like osteoporosis, or haemoglobyn, you can easily spell it down to them going oo es tea oo pee oo are oo es aye es, then go heitsch ae ee em oo gee el oo bee why en.

What what you gonna do with Chinese when you tell a 9 year old to write the 聽 or 贏, or even more complicated strokes like 鑰匙‧

Well, this might me your 鑰匙 to chinese character mastery if you start doing 金亼口口口冊, 日疋七‧

ax

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Quest

for 钥匙, I would tell him 金字旁右边一个月亮的月, and 是字上面一个匕首的匕。In fact, we do this very often when people ask how to write a character.

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Guest De Sade

.... that one of the games in school was to compete to see who could make the most compound word out of a radical or a one-element character. Sandra

Here is a game. Try add one stroke to the character so that it will become another word, example: 目, 旦.... See how many you can come up to. :roll:

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ax

does that game involves writing on paper or whiteboard?

btw here's some, 早 杲 暑 昔. but there are too many you can add to 日‧

ax

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Guest De Sade

Hey, you made the game too easy. I said one stroke, just one single stroke....

Most chinese can come up to nine but I understand there could be more.

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Quest

白,田,由,旦,甲,目,旧,申,曱,甴

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Guest Emerald Eye

Radicals are a perfect way to start, I worked in Korea and Japan for a while so I've a little knowledge of the old Chinese script although the meaning isn't always exactly the same

I started with Japanese, and made sure I learnt 600 of the most common "Kanji". Kanji is word the Japanese use to describe the adopted Chinese characters.

Don't just learn radicals because some characters are rarely seen again.....Learn the most common first

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Jamie

Resurrecting an old thread.

When you guys are talking about learning characters, are you referring to just memorizing the character and it's meaning, or learning the pinyin word and pronunciation as well?? I've found that learning the character and meaning is relatively simple to retain in memory; it is learning the pinyin word that is the hardest!

I am using a method where I learn the character, it's meaning and the pinyin word (while practicing the pronunciation) all at once. I feel that while it takes longer, it is the only way for me. I simply cannot break up the learning process into segments (i.e. learn to read and write now, learn to speak later). My brain doesn't work that way.

Is this true for anyone else?

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smithsgj

I think your approach is probably the best one Jamie. Especially in the early stages, many people do however learn pronunciations first and worry about the written forms later on.

But the third approach,

> (i.e. learn to read and write now, learn to speak later)

is not one I have ever heard of and not one that anyone would recommend (unless learning classical Chinese perhaps, or for some specialist purpose not involving communicating with Chinese speakers -- they may be one or two people on this forum in that category?)

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skylee

I think, for native speakers, ususally we learn to speak/listen first (as a kid), and then we learn to write what we speak/hear, but in characters instead of pinyin, and at the same time we learn to read. (Pinyin is just a tool to us, it is not "word". It is not an essential part of the learning process for native speakers.)

But I think for foreingers learning Chinese, the "speaking/listening" part will definitely involve pinyin. I think it is ok to learn how to say a word (the pinyin) and how to write it (the character) at the same time, though it will take more time (it may be easier to set the goal at recognising the characters instead of writing them, as writing seems to be quite difficult, even for Chinese kids).

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Jamie
the third approach, (i.e. learn to read and write now, learn to speak later) is not one I have ever heard of and not one that anyone would recommend

I confess I did not know that. :)

Since this thread is about methods, I'll go ahead and share mine. I have hand made flashcards, on the front is the Hanzi character and the pinyin, on the back is the meaning in English (roughly). I started by studying these, but found I was NOT remembering the pinyin very well! I could remember them, but only by referencing the order of the flashcards, and not by relating it to the character, so obviously that wasn't going to help me much.

So I now take my daily flashcards and cut out little pieces of paper, one for each character, pinyin, and english meaning, and align them on the table. I focus on learning the character and it's meaning first (which for me is the easy part), and when I feel I have a good understanding I take away either the character card or the english meaning card. From there I make a point to connect each pinyin to what it represents, while doing a lot of pronouncing out loud. Sometimes I make strange and silly connections, but it really helps me to remember the pronunciation! Just using as an example 'bing1' is 'ice', so I imagine I am using an icepick and chipping away at the ice, all the while it makes a "Bing!" sound... Someone else would probably think of something very different but it really helps to retain it in memory.

I'd love to hear some other methods that people use.

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smithsgj

Well yeah native speakers of whatever language learn to speak before they can write, one would expect.

Except... tell us what happens in HK, Sky. First off, don't you use some sort of Cantonese pinyin when starting to learn to read and write (as they use Hanyu pinyin and bopomofo elsewhere)?

Thinking about it, I suppose not. Because there's no standard romanization for Cantonese; and that's why nobody ever really knows what tone a syllable is or how to write it alphabetically?

So you just learn sequences of characters, perhaps by order of complicatedness, with a Cantonese pronunciation? Do you learn Cantonese or Mandarin characters where they differ (eg what do they teach you for 'he', kui or ta, etc etc)? And (assuming you agree that they are sometimes different, I know some people believe the grammars of Cantonese and Mandarin are identical but I can't remember if you're one of them) which grammar system do you follow?

What happens, too, over the border in Guangzhou, where Mandarin is the medium of instruction? Presumably there the Cantonese-speaking kids *are* learning characters at the same time as a set of hitherto unknown pronunciations? Are they told what the Cantonese equivalents are, or do they have to guess? Or do they speak quite a lot of Mandarin by that age anyway? Must be very confusing.

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