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Radical Mandarin

Characters that proved the most pain for you to learn

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Radical Mandarin

For me, for some reason, it's 降。(jiang4) descend, mostly because of the rare phonetic compound on the left. I'll still forget how to write it on a regular basis.

 

Every now and then I will also see characters that contain what some dictionaries will refer to as "unidentified glyph" - these are a bummer, too.

Look for example at and 旅, or and  眉.

 

What is your "favorite" character?  :wink:

 

I'm talking about normal everyday characters, nothing too scholarly and fancy  :D

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althea5

I have difficulty with 将 just figuring out what it means in different contexts. I'm just starting to get into learning how read more literary stuff, so if anyone has advice about understanding this character, I'd be glad to hear!

 

But in terms of more everyday characters, at least for a while I'd always confuse 陪 and 部 when writing. Also, I started out learning traditional and switched to simplified and 够 mixes me up since in traditional the left and the right sides are just switched. I know there are a number of super common words that I frequently forget for no particular reason...but I can't think of them right now...

 

I really like writing characters with the radical, because I think it's just a fun shape!

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AdamD

It's funny. I have very little difficulty with manic characters like 警 and 赢,but with some sequences of similar characters (e.g. 脸、捡、检、险、验) I'm effectively useless.

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tysond

Huh.  Heisig is actually quite good for 脸、捡、检、险、验 sort of characters.  Although remembering all the pronunciations is brute force.  Phonetic "hint" more like phonetic "cryptic clue".

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Demonic_Duck

Going by number of times I've got them incorrect in my recent flashcards:

 

“截然”的“截” and “纵横”的“纵” are obviously causing me problems, as they have the most incorrect answers. No idea why this is; neither character seems to have a particularly difficult form. In fact, at least in the case of “纵”, it should be very simple - a 形声字 using two very common components.

 

The next two most commonly incorrect are “暗含” and “临界”. In these cases, it's not a 错字 problem, it's a 别字 problem: instead of “含” and “临”, I always write “涵” and “邻”. These two are a lot less surprising, as the meanings of the characters I'm substituting are close enough that it's not immediately obvious which one to use.

 

“藩篱” also causes me some problems, as I always forget which character is 草字头 and which is 竹字头.

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AdamD

tysond:

 

Huh.  Heisig is actually quite good for 脸、捡、检、险、验 sort of characters.  Although remembering all the pronunciations is brute force.  Phonetic "hint" more like phonetic "cryptic clue".

 

Exactly! Not to mention that 检 and 验 basically mean the same thing.

 

In the past, I've whined so much about character differences like this that the whining made them stick. Whining about things really makes them stick.

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Radical Mandarin

I feel your pain with , very confusing, since it may seem to mean whatever from "future" "will" "by" or "with", "general", and even checkmating ideas.... When I see this character I use the WILL-TAKE-GENERAL approach in translation. In 99% of cases it comes down to one of these for me, but I don't read anything too advanced.

 

离开你 - I will leave you.

此物运东北 - Take this thing, transport it to North-East. (i.e. Transport this thing to North-East)

将军在哪里? The general is where?

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Demonic_Duck

For “将”, just remember that in 99%* of situations, it either means 会 (for things that will happen in the future) or 把 (marker for direct object). Of these two meanings, it's always obvious from context which it is; there's never a situation where the two are interchangeable.

 

It can also mean command/lead (v.) or military general (n.), in which case it's jiàng rather than jiāng (but confusingly, “将军”, which also means military general, is jiāngjūn). If the character is being used as a word on its own, rather than as a part of a compound word, then these two meanings only appear in classical Chinese, so you don't need to worry too much about them in most situations.

 

*Made-up statistic.

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AdamD

Radical Mandarin: Brilliant! Thank you.

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roddy

继 and 续 I constantly got mixed up. I still hate them both. 

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Auberon

No matter how many times I go over it, I can never remember how to write 飛. It simply doesn't like me.

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Lu

Two characters that I used to confuse until I found a mnemonic (which fortunately was pretty early on) were 左 and 右. Sharing my mnemonic because perhaps it'll help someone:

左 is with 工. The political left is preoccupied with workers/labourers.

右 is the other one.

I used to confuse 底 and 低 (tones and meaning) until I brute-forced them at one point. I know them now.

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Takeshi

尷尬

 

I know the word, I can recognize the characters, I use the word all the time, but it feels like I have to look up a dictionary every time I need to write it and then I forget by the next time. It doesn't help that I've only ever seen both of these characters used in this one word.

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AdamD
左 is with 工. The political left is preoccupied with workers/labourers.

右 is the other one.

 

That's genius.

 

Because I'm in Australia I can lean on driving a car. You use the gear stick with your left hand (工 looks sort of like a gear stick) and you put food in your mouth with your right hand.

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hedwards

@AdamD, for quite a while I literally remembered 作 as that character I hate. It's probably because I recognized it, but could remember neither the meaning nor the reading for it.

 

My observation has been that up to a point the more characters you memorize the easier it gets. I think it's partially due to knowing that you can do it, partially due to familiarity with the functional components and partially due to the increased likelihood of a new character being collocated with other characters you know.

 

For me, if a character doesn't stick for some reason, I'll go back and create a mnemonic for it, the further I get the more complicated the character has to be in order to require a mnemonic. 飞 is one I created a mnemonic for early on, but these days there's no way I'd waste time doing that on such a simple character.

 

For the most part, I've found that if I remember the components that make up a character, I don't have to memorize the structure as that's usually already remembered. And if I make note of how the reading of the character relates to the components, I'm usually just about there for the rest of it as well.

 

IMHO, the hard ones to remember are thigns like 龙 where the character doesn't really look like what it means, and the components don't provide much help either.

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AdamD

hedwards:

 

@AdamD, for quite a while I literally remembered 作 as that character I hate. It's probably because I recognized it, but could remember neither the meaning nor the reading for it.

 

Isn't it great? If you hate something enough, you obsess over it to the point that you'll never ever forget it. The same principle applies to Chinese characters.

 

Yesterday I got so angry with 蝴蝶 that it's jammed in my brain now. That one's not going anywhere.

 

My observation has been that up to a point the more characters you memorize the easier it gets. I think it's partially due to knowing that you can do it, partially due to familiarity with the functional components and partially due to the increased likelihood of a new character being collocated with other characters you know.

 

Also, learning how to learn is a skill in itself. I feel that doesn't get enough focus in the teaching of Chinese as a second language.

 

Part of it is also your brain's ability to adapt to language. That just takes time and perseverance.

 

And while I'm sat here making a list, I'll add this point: there's an element of constant reinforcement which comes only with reaching a certain level of proficiency. Now that I'm reading proper books for adults, I see certain characters so frequently that they just sink in.

 

IMHO, the hard ones to remember are thigns like 龙 where the character doesn't really look like what it means, and the components don't provide much help either.

 

Simplification will always get in our way. How great is 龍? Bloody, that's how.

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xiaokaka

I don't get why 尤 + 丿 is harder to remember than 立 + 月 + (something that might look like the body of a dragon if you already know it).

Why not try something like: the dragons is *exceptionally* long, just like a *丿*.

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hedwards

@Xiaokaka, for the same reason that in the beginning pretty much anything that isn't a simple pictograph is hard to remember.

 

Both 立 and 月 are both things that come up relatively soon. In fact the way that I remember that character is to stand meat a long way from your village to lure the dragon away. As 月 is often times used to represent 肉 for reasons that I don't understand. But, if I didn't know that, I could still use moon which would be easy enough.

 

In terms of 尤 & 丿, I don't really see any convenient way of turning that into a dragon. To make matters worse, it's much more abstract with less meaningful connection between the components whereas 龍 has the components separated out in a relatively easily grasped way. For native readers and individuals who are experts in character analysis, it's probably easier, but the amount you need to know in order to turn that into a dragon is much larger in my opinion.

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Altair

These are great ideas.  I think memory depends upon making strong associations, and these will vary from person to person.

 

For those who might find it interesting, I would like to describe a pseudo-academic, pseudo etymological approach.  It is complex, but I find the complexity itself helps create many associations.
I want to learn to recognize traditional with simplified, so my method usually starts with the "original" traditional character.  The more details I find out about its development, the more associations I make, and the easier it is to remember.

 

降 -- A hill with opposing feet coming down: descend

 

派 -- Water branching off into streams: the banks and the main current: a school of thought

 

旅 -- A directional pole and streaming flag to over two or more travelers: travel or troop

 

声 -- Hanging (士) stone (石/厂) chimes (the bottom of 品): a sound

 

眉 -- angled eyebrow over an eye.

 

将 /將 -- Bring along nourishing meat broth (浆) to someone sick in bed: bring along to health: take along: lead or make someone about to do something: to be about to do something

Here I consider the original meaning to be "to be about to."  "Lead" and "take" are then "exoactive" extensions.    将军 is a verb plus noun: "leading the army" = "general."  将 (jiang4) is jiang1 plus an ending ("s" or "h") that made the verb into a noun, changed the tone, and then disappeared: "lead" + "er" = "a general"

 

警 -- knock the indifference (苟) out of you: warn or alert

 

赢 --  (The etymology is not at all helpful here.  Perhaps reinterpret as escape (亡) constraint (囗) for food/meat (肉/月), money/wealth (贝), and everything (凡): win or gain.  Then 羸 would be lose constraint, lose flesh from lamb and everything: "lean"

 

陪 -- 阝 + 倍: hills doubled up: bunched surrounding (protective) hills: accompany

 

部 -- (Difficult etymology and so) reinterpret as 倍 + 阝: Doubled up in the city: many groups in town: a division or a part

 

佥/僉 -- Under one roof, two or more speaking as one: all or unanimous

(I consider that the original word began with a consonant cluster: "kl".  In related words, either the "k" or the "l" survived.  Depending on various factors, there were also changes in the consonant including palatalization, voicing, or lenition.  That means "k" could now be "j" or "q," and  "l" could be "y."  This character/word now has "q" as an initial.

 

捡/撿 -- Unite (佥/僉) in the hand: collect.

 

脸/臉 -- Where the body's expression is collected: face

 

俭/儉 -- Collect and constrain a person: modest

 

检/檢 -- Constrain and control the wood used (to build a building?): inspect

 

验/驗 -- Inspect a horse: test or examine

 

继 /繼 -- Make one thread out of two severed threads (断): link together (ji4 is related to the word xi4, spelled with 系, and shares a final)

 

续 -- Thread that continues like a peddler/hawker calling out his/her sales patter: continue (xu4 has a final similar to du2, spelled with 卖)

 

继续 -- link so that it continues: continue

 

蝴 -- bug that dangles, flutters, or shimmers like a dewlap or wattle (old meaning of 胡): butterfly

蝶 -- bug that looks like leaves on a tree (叶/枼)

 

 

In terms of 尤 & 丿, I don't really see any convenient way of turning that into a dragon.

 

How about visualizing one of the earlier unified versions of the character with the dragon facing the left and with a curl in the tail.  See here and here, among other places, for earlier versions of the character.

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