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Learn Chinese in China

Hanzi textbooks and the like

Dan Bang

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as posted in the other thread I'm a beginner in Chinese... I'm searching for textbooks and the like (even premade flashcards) that could be useful in learning Hanzi, that could provide me with different techniques and methods, that could give me an insight in the particular characters that would help me remembering them, etcetera - both in the short and the long run... All suggestions are appreciated! Especially if they include where to buy the stuff... Thanks in advance!

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Depends what level you are really. I am at beginner level and I find that the kids books are good, the one I have has english, pinyin, tone, stroke order, and nice large pictures of the characters, plus pictures of the foot, cloud, old man or whatever it is. Also you can buy flash cards with the characters on them, or posters of nothing but characters, posters of body parts with associated characters, posters of vegetables, etc etc . When I was (trying) to do a chinese language course at a university recently it was very character intensive and so I had to get all these kind of things to help me. Also everyone says that you should write them out many times each, so the blocks of paper printed with larger squares is quite useful to get the positioning correct of the various parts of the character.

I got all these things in a good book shop in a fairly small town in china, but if you are out of china I dont know where you would get them. Perhaps you can get someone to ship them to you from china?

The searches I did on google came up with some chinese book suppliers but these are fairly obscure and certainly wont be stocked.

Hope this helps.

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I really like Reading and Writing Chinese by Li and McNaughton, and the book comes in both a traditional and reformed flavor (I recommend the traditional version even if you are primarily learning simplified).

As for the best way to learn them, I found that some initial playing around with stroke order and radical-learning and basic character learning (from the McNaughton) book was highly beneficial. However, in my experience, the mass memorizations of characters comes with use. Concentrate on characters for a little while to learn the basics of stroke order, radicals, and perhaps some common basic characters, but once you have those basics down then don't concentrate on learning characters except as you learn to use them with words you know and use.

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I like Reading and Writing Chinese as well, for its structured approach. I also advocate learning traditional and simplified simultanously when using materials like this. The only annoyance with this particular book is that it does not give instructions on how to draw the simplified versions, which will end up being confusing for maybe half a dozen to a dozen specific characters. There is a simplified version of the book on the way, which might be worthwhile waiting for for anyone actually living in mainland China.

Depending on your learning style, I would also supplement this book with one that gives more detail about character etymology to aid memory. Harbaugh's Chinese Characters: A Geneology and Dictionary featured and reproduced at zhongwen.com is excellent for this, even though it does not concern itself with the findings of current scholarship. It is also an excellent beginner's dictionary for people who have difficulty looking up characters by radical and stroke.

I would also highly recommend software like Wenlin or Clavis Sinica (or perhaps Kingsoft), which tend to have everything in one neat bundle. Wenlin at least can actually draw each character for you stroke by stroke, while both Wenlin and Clavis Sinica give good etymological explanations that break down unfamiliarity and aid the memory. Wenlin, and I believe Clavis Sinica, support creation of customized flash cards and have information on character frequency. I personally hate flash cards and so cannot give details.

Also, at an intermediate level, these software packages actually allow you to read digital Chinese at an advanced level because of the point and click convenience of looking up words and identifying compounds and idioms. This is really a tremendous help that I think some learners do not fully appreciate. I am not sure, however, how much advantage is actually conferred on beginners in this respect, because the issue of grammar remains quite large.

(By the way, although the surface offerings of these packages are similar, the totality is quite different, making choices difficult. The main issue is that Wenlin is expensive, but the dictionary is absolutely fantastic. I would recommend it for the ambitious and the investment minded, but would recommend Clavis Sinica for those on a budget or wanting just to get their foot in the door.)

As a beginner, make sure that your materials show not only stroke order, but where exactly to begin drawing each stroke. After a while, this becomes second nature, but it can sometimes be confusing to figure this out starting off.

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