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adamnhms

Heisig's Remembering the Hanzi: YOUR take?

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adamnhms

Hello,

For those who have or are in the process of completing Heisig, could you share your study routine? Ive completed a couple of chapters so far, but am not sure how to review what Ive learned so that Im able to really take away what Ive learned. Do you pick say, 20-30 characters a day and practice them via rote method? What boggles me is how one could truly reach 1000 characters and write them all with the same consistency (as a self learner). 写字比认字难!

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lechuan

I went at a pretty steady 10 per day, and reviewed reading and writing with Skritter. There's a Skritter option that supports Heisig keywords. I finished book 1 this way. I also learned the pronunciation at the same time, especially because I could relate it to vocabulary I had already learned pinyin style.

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tysond

Here's what I did to revise:

 

I actually put them all into Skritter and used it to do spaced repetition.  I set it up to show me the Heisig keyword, and then I had to write the character correctly.

I would add around 10 new characters a day to the mix.  Spaced repetition software will remember which ones you know, and schedule them further into the future.

What you get wrong will be scheduled again soon.  If you get one wrong, study it properly (don't try to brute force it, think about it for a minute or two, re-do the learning technique).

 

I completed 3000 within a year doing this.  I spent around 1 hour a day on it.  I am not a student - I work full time, so it was a pretty major investment of my spare time.

 

You can also use Anki to do this and write them on paper, Skritter was very useful in getting stroke order right and noticing some of the subtleties of the characters that you might gloss over if you just write them with no feedback. 

 

Can you learn 1000 characters? 

 

When I started I could not get past learning around 150 characters.  It seemed impossible to break through to a higher number.  I had a dictionary of the top 500 characters and the idea of knowing them all was breathtaking.  

 

But one year after doing Heisig, I can write around 1500 characters quite reliably when prompted to fill in the blank in sentences (and I can pronounce them too).  I can probably do another 500 less reliably.  

 

The other 1000 or so I studied with Heisig are pretty fuzzy because I stopped doing Skritter based practice and focused on sentences/words.  So many of them have simply not come up yet in my more holistic study of sentences and vocab - sometimes a new one comes up and I recall it from Heisig, sometimes I don't, and sometimes it wasn't in Heisig at all.

 

But I still find it pretty easy to learn or re-learn "new" ones, although I don't really stick religiously to Heisig's keywords and stories so much because I have a big enough framework in place that I can use the Chinese pronunciation and actual meaning rather than the keyword.  

 

So, I feel like I over-studied a bit - especially given my timing limitations (if you were a full time student this might not be such an issue).

 

What I would do differently in hindsight:

 

As soon as I finished book 1 (1500 characters), I should have paused, and focused on learning the readings of these characters too, as well as the most common word they occur in (preferably learned in a sentence).    I could have done this at the 6 months mark for example.  This would have more quickly solidified a smaller set of characters, giving less opportunity for me to forget over time.

 

Then more slowly learn the next 1500, along with the readings and sentences - 3 to 4 a day would be enough.  I feel like this might have put me a little ahead of where I am now.

 

But I am still super thankful that I broke the barrier.  You do develop a skill of recognizing and writing characters over time and it gets much easier.

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hedwards

If you haven't already bought the book, I'd recommend getting Chinese Characters by Dr. Hoenig instead. It uses a similar methodology for memorizing the characters with stories, but the book is ordered roughly from simple to complex, so by the time you're learning complex characters like 建 or 绝, you've already seen basically all the components in previous characters.

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philwhite

Hi adamnhms,

 

Are you studying only Heisig or are you studying vocab, sentences, grammar etc more holistically, as tysond mentions?

 

How I learn and review

As a complete beginner, I have been studying RHS1 alongside my Open University course since October 2013. After my tutor recommended Anki, I found this shared Anki deck for RSH1 which I am using for review.

 

I apologize that the following might not make sense until you have first installed and tried using Anki.

 

I suspended all notes in the deck and 'unsuspend' just a few characters as I learn them first thing in the morning. I then leave the review in the evening to test my memory. Initially, I write the character on paper but subsequently only draw it my finger to save time. These Anki reviews take me an average of 12 minutes a day.

 

I've been adding characters in two ways:

  1. Working from the start of RSH1, I was learning about 10 characters a day at first (I didn't learn the readings). Initially, this went well and the learning+visualization only took about 20-30 minutes a day, partly because I had used RTK1 before, but not completed it. Now, I am at character 560 but have slowed to about 2 or 3 characters a day, when I have time. On many days I don't have time.
  2. My OU course is broken into a number of  'sessions', each to be completed over the course of a week. I learn vocab and sentences aurally then by reading, and then finally learn the writing of some of the new characters. I have to learn about 10 to 15 new characters a week, so I  analyze each of those down to their components, study them all in RSH1 and 'unsuspend' them all in my Anki deck. That takes about an hour or two at the weekend. This unconventional 'out of Heisig sequence' approach works surprisingly well for me. After nine months of study, I now have a total of 719 mature cards out of 838 in my RSH1 deck (plus a few in an RSH2 deck)

 

Tips

  • As Heisig recommends, drill only from keyword to writing, never the other way round.
  • If you are learning vocabulary by another book or course, then don't have another deck which drills vocab from English meaning - it will only cause confusion (I made this mistake initially. Now I drill vocabulary from audio to meaning, with the Hanzi displayed on the front to help distinguish between homophones, but I close my eyes, focus on the audio and only look at the Hanzi if really necessary).
  • Limit the Anki maximum review interval to 60 days, at least until you are seeing these characters regularly in your reading (I was forgetting quite a few cards at the 3-4 month interval because I wasn't seeing them in my OU course).
  • As tysond wrote, if you get a card wrong then take a few minutes to work on the visualization
  • Set the Anki Leech threshold low (I use 4) and just tag leeches, don't suspend them. If a card becomes a leech then really focus on what is wrong with your visualization and whether you are confusing it with another character.
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adamnhms
But I am still super thankful that I broke the barrier.  You do develop a skill of recognizing and writing characters over time and it gets much easier.

 

I've used Anki in the past for studying radicals and HSK lists, so you're right, I should probably start using it for Heisig.  Skritter is excellent for vocabulary, but honestly, writing characters out for me really demonstrates the stroke order and style of writing.  Nonetheless, I think you're right, I should stop at some point to learn the uses of these characters.  Thank you very much!

 

Are you studying only Heisig or are you studying vocab, sentences, grammar etc more holistically, as tysond mentions?

 

Right now, I want to begin learning to write using Heisig.  I've been studying for quite a while so far, and am on the beginnings of HSK 4.  As I was continuing Heisig, I did start to realize that most of these characters may not be all too common, so I guess that's another concern as far as finding out their use in sentences, but honestly Heisig is only for writing.  I have my resources for grammar, text, sentences, etc.  I've used Anki for awhile now, but to be honest, I've never used any of the advanced options such as 'Suspend'.  I appreciate your advice as well! Thanks.

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