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Melanie1989

Remembering the Hanzi trouble

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Melanie1989

Another problem...

 

So some of you might know that after lots of recommendation on one of my other threads, i got hold of a copy of Remembering the Hanzi. I'm still early in the book, lesson 13, as i have been very busy with other things, unfortunately. Anyway, i do find the book to be very helpful as far as understanding radicals and the history of the characters. But one thing i'm disappointed about is that it says in the introduction (which, silly me, i initially skipped due to excitement) that it will NOT tell you how to pronounce the characters, nor will it show you how to pair characters to make more words.

 

I don't want to quit the book as so many have said that it really is helpful, but at the minute i can't see how as the two things i needed help with (above) are not included in the book. Does the book get better? I mean is it a complete waste of time learning to recognise what i feel is just a rough translation of a character without knowing how to actually say it?

 

Are there really any benefits to reading and finishing the book at all, besides a slightly better understanding of radicals?

Thanks again you guys for all the help, i will be referring people to the website seeing as my Chinese is not good enough so i can actually contribute any other way or help people.

 

Bloody hell.

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tysond

Hi Melanie,

 

Specific tools for specific learning areas.  Heisig will teach you how to decompose characters, how to memorize characters through visualization, and how to build strong visualizations.  And it will do it in a roughly bottoms up manner starting from simpler components.

 

Should you wish, there are spreadsheets out there which supply the pronunciations of the characters in Heisig, and any software tool can be used to give words that can be combined from them.  You could also draw the characters on a modern touch device and look them up on an app (e.g. Pleco). 

 

Using Heisig I managed to finally move from knowing 100 characters and not being able to learn new ones in any meaningful way, to having a decent knowledge of around 3000 and a strong knowledge over around 1500. Plus I had a skill of learning new characters relatively quickly and reliably.  I did it in parallel with regular textbooks, which are a better way to learn words, sentences, basic grammar, pronunciation, etc.  

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lechuan

Heisig Keywords

 

The Primary Heisig keywords are genuine. If you look up the character in the dictionary, you will see that they are always a true meaning for the character.

The secondary keywords are made up to match the visual look of the character. If you don't like using these more visual keywords, you can always fallback to the primary keyword.

 

Pronunciation

 

There's an appendix at the back that lists the pronunciations for each character. I keep it bookmarked and refer to it all the time.

 

The Method

 

This interview with Heisig is quite enlightening. Using the method he created he was able to learn a lot of Kanji, but didn't learn how to speak Japanese. His premise is that Korean/Japanese students are able to learn faster because they can already recognize a lot of characters, thus other learners should be able to have similar success, if they learn the meanings of characters before they start learning Mandarin.

 

I don't think that's an entirely realistic approach unless you have a large chunk of time to spend going through and memorizing the 3000 character meanings. However, I'd love to hear from someone who has successfully used the "pure" Heisig approach and how quickly they were able to go through it.

 

My experience

 

I personally went through the first 1500 characters in Heisig, including the pronunciation, reviewing with Skritter. In parallel I learned conversation using podcasts and textbooks with Pinyin. Now that I've done the first 1500 characters, I've switched over to a character-only textbook, graded readers, and I'm continuing with the second set of 1500 Heisig characters. Looking back, I personally like this approach because the characters don't get in the way of acquiring conversational/grammar/listening skills, especially during the initial stages of learning.

 

So is Heisig worth it? I think it was, at least for me. I do find it helpful to have a "bag of characters" in my mind ready for when I encounter new words that use them. It was what ultimately helped me transition into real character reading. I can't say whether or not Heisig is the most efficient character learning method. I just stuck with it once I found that mnemonics were working better for me than "write this character over and over 100 times". And I found I've become really good at breaking down a character into it's pieces and developing a mnemonic so that it sticks long enough for me to recall (or relearn) it through real-world exposure.

 

If you do like the mnemonics approach, also check out the introduction to Tuttle's Learning Chinese Characters, which reviews the Heisig method of memorization, and extends it to Pronunciation.

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mouse

 

However, I'd love to hear from someone who has successfully used the "pure" Heisig approach and how quickly they were able to go through it.

 

I'd also be interested in this, as it seems from reading the forums that most (all?) people who used Heisig to learn Chinese had already used the same method to study Japanese first.

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Melanie1989

Thanks guys.

 

i found an old thread on the forum about this method after i posted. i agree with mouse that it does seem to be successful for those who used it for kanji beforehand. i didn't see the pronunciation at the back of the book, that is good to know. in any case i will finish the book, but i think it was built up a bit too much for what it actually provides. Glad that it helped some of you, that is encouraging.

 

Being a pain in the bum again, but can anybody recommend a website that will show you how to pair up characters like on the apps suggested? I can't use apps, i am a technophobe and only have a basic mobile phone from years ago......

 

Really appreciating the help everyone, thank you

 

PS I have googled how to pair characters many times, i'm not being lazy. But maybe my slowness when it comes to things like this is stopping me from finding anything, at least as far  as simplified hanzi is concerned.

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Lu

Not sure if I'm understanding your question correctly, but to my knowledge there isn't any set rule about pairing up characters. Words consist of characters (often two, sometimes more), but it's not a 'you have the characters, now go build your own words!' thing. I think perhaps you need to approach this the other way around: learn new words (from a textbook, story, whatever) and find that you already know (many of) the characters those words consist of, which helps you remember the meaning of the word.

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tysond

I didn't learn Japanese first.  But I didn't do it pure as I was already in China and needed to be able to improve everything straight away.  

So I did 1 hour a day for a year, alongside textbook, 1:1 lessons, Anki, and other methods.  And I was already at about HSK2 level before starting.

 

There's no need to rush through Heisig.  It's a good technique, but 5 characters a day is plenty.  If I did it again I would stop at the end of the first book and consolidate all I had learned (pronunciations, example words, etc).

 

I think it does work better in Japanese mainly because modern Japanese seems to restrict itself rather well to 2000 odd core Kanji (i'm no expert on this).  Chinese textbooks are almost always within the top 3000 hanzi, but not necessarily.

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Yang Chuanzhang

 

 

However, I'd love to hear from someone who has successfully used the "pure" Heisig approach and how quickly they were able to go through it

 

I used Heisig's first book after 9 months in a language school in Taiwan, so not completely AJATT-style pure, but also without any prior knowledge from Japanese. When I used the book, I memorised 20 characters per day, taking lots of stories from the Remembering the Kanji website (I just finished a post about my experience with the book yesterday :))

 

I can not give a definitive answer to Melanie1989's question. The reason that Heisig doesn't include readings in his books is likely because he developed his method for Japanese first, where it makes a lot more sense to learn readings in context. I can only say that his 'divide and conquer' approach worked well for me. I could usually remember the reading of a character I had learnt using his book after seeing it 2-3 times "in the wild".

 

I'm sorry about not being able to offer you anything to help you make this decision, but I think how well his method works varies from person to person.

 

There's a book that Heisig wrote to memorise some of the Japanese readings of Kanji, "Remembering the Kanji 2". It doesn't seem to be very popular in the Japanese learner's community, but maybe it would be interesting for you to have a look at that book and see if that method could be adapted to be used with Chinese.

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Melanie1989

Yang Chuangzhang No, that was very helpful :) I think i will continue with the book after everybody's comments, but this time i'll have my eyes open. It's a shame that he didn't feel the need to include pronunciation with the lessons, but i understand he was just recycling the method for Japanese. Also, did you mean it worked well for you learning Chinese or Japanese?

 

It's reassuring to know that it still has helped some people. I guess it is good for remembering radicals and the history of Hanzi. I feel a little bit more ''bonded'' with them now.

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lechuan

 

but i understand he was just recycling the method for Japanese.

It's reassuring to know that it still has helped some people. I guess it is good for remembering radicals and the history of Hanzi. I feel a little bit more ''bonded'' with them now.

 

 

"Recycling" may be too strong of a word. A lot of thought went into keywords and order that made sense for the Chinese language.

You won't get any history of Hanzi. The mnemonics are for memorization, but don't make any attempt at explaining the etymology.

You will learn a lot more than just radicals (radicals are the pieces that are mostly used to make up individual characters). You will also be learning a lot of stand-alone characters, which are valid words on their own.

 

I'd recommend reading through The Chinese Language: It's History and Usage if you'd like to clear up more about how the language works (including radicals, characters, words, among other things).

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Melanie1989

Nothing offensive was meant by my poor choice of word, or in any of my posts. As far as the history of Hanzi is concerned, i know the mnemonics are made-up stories but learning and understanding radicals does make me understand it all a lot better and how complicated characters that, at first, look overwhelming can actually be easy to understand and write when you look at how the character is made up. 

 

I find that when you really think about a character, you can appreciate more of the history and their way of thinking.

 

Thank you for the recommendation, it sounds very interesting and definitely something i will check out.

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Yang Chuanzhang

 

Also, did you mean it worked well for you learning Chinese or Japanese?

 

I used his book to learn Chinese.

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fabiothebest

I think the "Remembering the hanzi" approach is very good. I started using it some time ago, then I didn't continue using the book because I didn't have time (and it's also my fault that I didn't manage to study regularly, I should have put a bigger effort before). Lately I'm studying Chinese more seriously and I'm noting a big progress. I wanna try to open the book again and try to write characters by hand, anyway in this period I used memrise and skritter. You can study the same list of characters included in the book, you can make your own mnemonics, you can also see the pinyin and hear the sound of characters at the same time, so when you learn a new character you also learn the pronunciation. I studied HSK 1 wordlist thanks to memrise.com in about 1 month. I think I wouldn't be able to do it by myself. Memrise also uses a SRS system like Anki, it is engaging and lets you review characters multiple times at the right frequency. Yes, because it is important to make studying and reviewing characters a habit. Writing 1 character 100 times once (and then "forget" about it) is less useful than writing the same character once in 100 different moments. A regular study is more effective than an intensive study.

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Melanie1989

Fabiothebest Thank you! Very good advice! I have never heard of memrise before (that i recall), it sounds great. I will check it out now, aswell as giving Skritter another go. Thanks again!

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fabiothebest

I think that both memrise and skritter are very good and lately I'm using both daily. What I feel is that skritter is very good for practising how to write (the best tool for this I believe), instead memrise helps me better to recognize characters (reading), I think they complement each other. Memrise works faster for me for recognizing characters, so for reading (which is already a very good skill) but it doesn't allow to write characters (except using the keyboard). For this I use skritter. I guess it's normal that it takes longer time to learn how to write characters stroke by stroke then just being able to recognize them when you see them. Then I think I'll have to spend some time and write with pen and paper, that is the true way to check if I really learnt how to write some characters.

 

Memrise and skritter also let you build your own lists of characters, so you don't have to follow only a limited number of lists. When I encounter new words that I would like to memorize, I just add them to a list on memrise (and eventually on skritter). Also Anki is a very good program and it has more statistics that show your progress. I use it sometimes, though it is less engaging, memrise and skritter have a beautiful interface and make you consider your learning not as a boring thing to do but as a fun thing and they organize the study for you so you keep doing it. This is also one of the biggest advantages.

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Melanie1989

Well memrise looks pretty cool, i have been looking for a while. I will definitely be signing up! It seems so far a lot like FluentU (who i used to have an account with, til the trouble started) but better! Thank you very much!! 

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fabiothebest

You are welcome! Definitely signup! I'm using memrise a lot and I also started contributing by creating public courses available also to others. It is very good and free. They are likely to add premium features in the future, anyway all you see now is entirely free.

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Melanie1989

Done!

 

Oh i assumed that was what the "upgrade" button was, the money side coming in? Either way, i can honestly say that is one of the best websites i've been on since i started studying (and i've looked at a LOT)! So again, 多谢,多谢!!

 

I would definitely recommend it, haven't found a fault so far.

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hedwards

The main problem with the book is that somebody elses mnemonics are never as strong as ones you create for yourself. I also like Easy Chinesey By Dr. Hoenig, but it has the same downside, but since it's ordered from simple to more complex, it has a different set of disadvantages and advantages. Definitely one that I recommend looking at.

 

I used to think that learning the meanings separately from the readings was a problem, but after the time I've spent studying, I've come to realize that it was an effort to bring bad habits from reading English into Chinese. You should be reading purely based upon the meaning of the characters.

 

From my observations, most of the time you're going to want to use either the characters or the pinyin/spoken and not usually both at the same time.One of the reasons why subtitles come and go so quickly is because the Chinese absorb the characters so fast. And one of the reasons they can is that they aren't translating characters to sounds to meanings.

 

Keep in mind that a word is a unit of meaning, not a sound or a written character. If you learn the written character, then connecting the meaning to a spoken one is much easier than trying to take a character and simultaneously learn both the reading and the meaning. And if you try to just learn the reading first, then you wind up in a situation where you can't really use what you've learned.

 

The other option is to focus on learning to speak the language and then learn the character after you've learned to speak the word. I think that probably works as well for a lot of folks.

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studychinese

If you are one of those many people for whom mnemonics do not work then the Heisig method is worse than any other method of learning characters. 

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