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Melanie1989

Remembering the Hanzi trouble

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renzhe

I really don't think that visualising mnemonics takes that much effort or time.

My mnemonic for 推 was sneaking up on a penguin and pushing it over. Hand behind a bird. Nowadays, I simply recognise the character, but if I ever do forget it, I'd just look at it and think, hand, bird... oh, I know this one :)

Like you say, once you make the recognition instant, it doesn't matter what you used in the beginning. But hand-bird-push helped me get to that stage much faster, because this character was suddenly impossible to forget. I've forgotten (and re-learned) a whole bunch of characters, but not this one. I'll never need to look this one up in a dictionary again.

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imron
I really don't think that visualising mnemonics takes that much effort or time.

Compare:

My mnemonic for 推 was sneaking up on a penguin and pushing it over. Hand behind a bird.

With:


So I told him. Imagine TWO fat bald men. They're sweaty. They're greasy. They're oily. They are naked. They are spooning. In a box. A wooden shipping crate, with the lid off. The crate has 'MEAT" stamped on the side in big red stenciled words. The inside of the crate is lined with plastic. To preserve all the sweaty, oily, greasy goodness. Their eyes are closed, but if you get close enough to the crate, you can hear one of them whisper contently: Rou... Rou... Roooouuuuu.... and the other echoes him by murmuring 'meat... meat... meeeeaaaat...."

Now let this little video clip play in your mind for a minute or so. Make it clear, bright, smell the sweat and baby oil, hear the whispers, see how rough the wooden crate is and wonder, wonder about possible splinters.

(emphasis added)

 

Completely different levels of visualisation going on here.

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Gozer

They point really is not how much time you spend creating the mnemonic or how elaborate it is.

They only thing that matters is how memorable it is to you and on that scale, picturing a hand pushing over a penguin can be just as memorable or even more than my less savoury example.

 

The length/complexity of the story really doesn't matter as long as it works for you.

I also found that the more you do, the less complex they have to be because they are less confusing and your brain is getting more and more used to 'seeing/thinking in hanzi'

 

It generally takes 2-3 weeks of reviewing for me before the character/keyword/mnemonic trio has 'sunk in' enough to no longer 'need' the mnemonic and go from 'seeing' to 'knowing/understanding' all in Chinese.

 (I use an SRS-based flashcard system for iOS with keyword on one side, hanzi on side two and chinese pronunciation/tone on 'side' 3)

 

I think that's pretty efficient. I remember that before I started with the Kanji at home, I shopped around for 'proper' lessons and a tutor at a London university told me it would take me 6-7 years of part-time study at their institute to learn to read/handwrite the  常用漢字(Jōyō kanji). I simply did not have that much time (or money...) so I hit the Heisig road.

 

Again, your experience may vary, I seem to have a knack for languages - but am utterly and completely hopeless at algebra/math

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hedwards

I tend to create the mnemonics when the meaning or reading isn't obvious but when I try to recall I don't bother accessing the mnemonic unless I'm struggling to remember. IMHO, that's really the best way as the objective here is to remember the character, not remember the mnemonic.

 

I also wind up creating a new mnemonic every time I see a character that I don't recall. I've never found it useful to actually write down the mnemonics I'm using, because the point isn't to learn the mnemonic, the point is to learn the written and spoken representation of the word.

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tysond
I also found that the more you do, the less complex they have to be because they are less confusing and your brain is getting more and more used to 'seeing/thinking in hanzi'

 

 

I also find this.  Which is why I am going to give Imron's technique a go, because I am not sure that I really need any more intermediate steps anymore.

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fabiothebest

I also think that mnemonics have to be memorable and the simpler they are the better they are. I usually try to find the origin of some characters and use the authentic origin for the mnemonic (if possible), else I build a mnemonic myself but I try to do it focusing on building blocks and common patterns that I can reuse with other characters. Besides I link the components of the character with its meaning, not directly with its pronunciation. If I see a character with a phonetic component I'll also try to think about that, but the main focus is on meaning, pronunciation is just something I add separetely, even if I study meaning and pronunciation at the same time. I try to think of any character as a mental representation of its meaning, without associating it too much with a list of English words. Characters may have multiple meanings and they are better understood when studied in context rather than in isolation, that's why reading is very important. Most of the study material I use is in Chinese or English language, so I often find myself associating meanings to English words, but I try as much as possible to avoid focusing on just a foreign language and I also try to think of an equivalent translation in Italian because I'm Italian and although I'm used to read and speak English everyday, my brain may like to have an association with Italian words and maybe recall it faster or be able to recall it  better when under pressure or when the character hasn't been used for a long time and it is less vivid in my memory. Native English speakers have many resources in their own language, instead I often have to study Chinese through English texts :) No problem, though. I'm not yet at the level of imron, I mean, when I study a character and I see it written I have the habit to decompose the character but my writing skills aren't very strong yet, so I can't imagine and visualize perfectly characters in my mind yet even if I'm able to recognize them. I think his way is valid though and I just have to try harder. Working on improving writing skills will also help improving characters' recognition and retention.

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kikosun

I think that mnemonics are helpful, but I try not to rely on them much. I agree with Imron that the fewer intermediate steps the better. On characters that I just can't seem to get, I will usually try to remember from the etymology of the word if possible. I look it up in my Harbaugh chinese genealogy book. If that doesn't work, I'll try a simple made up mnemonic, but it never anything as complex and visual as the example above. That's what works for me, and I feel like I don't clutter my head with excess stuff.

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