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Which characters do you learn? -NPCR


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I was wondering what is best to do.


In each chapter of NPCR there is a paragraph where you can learn a couple of characters, thats what I have done so far.


But on the end of the book there is a list with all the characters that appeared in the book, which are much much more than only the characters in each paragraph of the chapters.


What do you suggest in order to learn Chinese most efficiently:

-Learn only the characters suggested in each chapter?

-Learn all the characters of the list at the end of the book?





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When I used NPCR the first time it was my new transition into reading simplified characters over traditional (it was also a different book and I was really behind in the class) as a result I overcompensated and decided to learn everything. Now that I look back it was nice to look smart in class and know all the characters but many characters I learned were totally useless. Also the definition given for some are kind of archaic.

If I had to do it over again I would ignore learning place names and items that are specific to certain places. Learning to recognize them is fine but memorizing/learning the written character is quite useless in my opinion. I think there was one point I learned the characters for the things bhuddist say 'a mi tuo fo' which in hindsight is ridiculous. If you're in a class I would also pay particular attention to the words that the teacher spends more time on. 90% of the time those words are important. In my classes my teacher usually breezed through the less important ones and commented very briefly about them.

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What to learn and in which order to learn it is a tricky subject. I don't know the book so can't really judge about the characters used. It being a textbook probably means that there are few if any real rare characters used. So I'ld say it won't hurt to learn all the characters in the book.


That said, I second grawrt that learning rare characters isn't very efficient and in general it's better to learn words then characters. But it all depends a little on the context too. If you read a book that due to it's subject uses certain rare words frequently the (added) effort to really learn and maintain them is quite small, so I see little reason to skip it. In general I'ld say learn the words that you come across most often and try to skip names as these may contain rare characters and have in the context of the name no (real) meaning, they're there for the sound.


Another consideration might be balance. The time spent learning vocabulary should be in reasonable proportion to the time spend on other activities. It may be better to spend less time on learning vocabulary and more on reading for example as with reading you learn vocabulary in a more natural way and gets you some info on actual uses and grammar points too.    

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I am not sure why you think there is a paragraph with only a couple of characters to learn in each lesson.


In my NCPR I have many more.


For example in Lesson 3 there are 19 new words/characters to learn, in Lesson 12 there are 31 new words/characters and 12 supplementary words/characters.


The supplementary words tend to be place names and peoples names. Words with an asterisks are words from previous lessons.


I haven't actually added all the words from all the lessons up and see if it correlates to number in the character list at the end of the book but I would guess that the list is all the characters from that book. Book 2 has different list so I assume that that is the list for book 2.


If you use the workbooks the correct stroke order is shown and writing practice grids are provided for each lesson's new words/characters.


I would suggest learning the words/characters from each lesson as you go along. If you don't have the workbooks I would recommend you invest in them. They are a big help.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hey all, thx for the responses and sorry for my late reaction.



Ye i mean the characters at the end of each chapter, for example a character likke dao1 (=dagger), this word does not appear in the dialogues. NPCR calls it the basic Chinese characters. I wondered if it would be important to learn them


@Grawt & Silent

Indeed your right, learning place names etc. I skip indeed, they seem quite useless indeed.


What I did now is learning most of the basic characters appearing in book 1 (except the place names or names for specific places). Knowing those basic characters can be quite handy sometimes because certain words include those basic characters and then they are more easy to remember. For book 2 the basic character you have to learn already become a lot less luckily and so far I skipped them, but maybe in the future i will give a look at it again.

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I learn all the characters that are given. Learning the basic characters IMHO is very important. These are like the building blocks of other characters. 


Learning the basics in any subject is important.


I actually learned the place names and peoples names for my own interest.


I may raise some eyebrows , but I followed the NPCR course as it was laid out in the text books, workbooks, using the audio and watching the videos. I figured the course was designed to be used in a certain way and I felt I would get the best out of it by following it that way.


I found I had made the mistake before of picking and choosing bits from text books and then later on finding big gaps in my understanding. When I went back, I realised that I had missed these things that later were important.


"For book 2 the basic character you have to learn already become a lot less luckily and so far I skipped them, but maybe in the future i will give a look at it again."


I don't understand the sentence above, not sure what you mean by "a lot less luckily" .


I would not skip anything in the books, if you have made the decision to use this text book, I think you should have enough confidence that it is set out the way it is for good reasons.


I would use these books as they were meant to be used and then you should get the best out of them :)

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