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艾墨本

A Short List of Resources for Studying Chinese

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fabiothebest

When I first started learning Chinese characters I also bought the first volume of Remembering the hanzi by Heisig. I used it but I didn't complete it, anyway I learnt a useful methodology. I used Memrise and also there you can find mnemonics for characters in the most popular courses that have more contributors. I usually check the various alternatives available and if I really like one I pick it, otherwise I create one by myself. I also prefer using the ethimology for remembering characters. If I don't find info about that or it isn't memorable enough, I try to find another arbitrary mnemonic based on the shape, that's the last resort though. If the word is made up of 2 characters or more I try to create a mnemonic that involves all of them ideally. Sometimes just one character is predominant for remembering the meaning and it's relatively easy to spot it in a wordlist but it may be harder to recognize the whole word in isolation in an unknown text. Practice makes perfect anyway. This method doesn't require using Memrise though, but you can use it when learning by yourself without any tool. It's useful when you encounter characters that you find particularly hard to learn. For easy things I don't waste time and memory using artificial mnemonics.

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Shelley

I understand that we are all different but I try really hard not to put that extra layer of a story or mnemonic in the way of learning the character. I prefer to just learn it this character X means Y and is pronounced as Z. Nothing confusing or complicated. I do like learning the etymology as an aid and traditional characters have more info than simplified so now I am look at both as I learn.

Sometimes though I have to admit something sort of randomly will provide a memory hook that I can't explain how the connection was made but I will go with it. But as with all the aids I am hoping that eventually I can ignore all the aids and just remember things.

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fabiothebest

Yes, I don't use this method always, but in some cases the mnemonics are helpful and work as a memory hook. When I'm learning, if I don't remember the character I can relax a moment, look at the character and the shape may eventually make me remember the meaning. Not always, I may still have to look at the meaning from time to time, but once I memorized the characters I don't think about the mnemonics at all, I just instantly remember the meaning, which is great. The focus is always on the character itself, the mnemonic is just an extra help that kicks in if needed. So it can be an extra layer of complexity during the memorization phase, but then when I test myself for recognition I don't feel any slow down. I directly associate the character to its meaning and even forget the mnemonic because I create it and read it just once at the beginning, but it helps sometimes. Everyone has its own methods and as I said I don't use this always, only when needed, anyway I wanted to clarify.

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Publius

@Shelleyinteresting. Hard for me to imagine what kind of religious story one can tell from a Chinese character hehe.

I feel ambivalent about made-up stories as memory hook. Sometimes simpler (etymology) is better. But etymological study may not be practical for students with near zero prior knowledge.

Heisig's method, there are people who swear by it, there are people highly critical of it, and there are people basically saying it's rubbish but there aren't many better resources...

Similar situation in China's English teaching industry. There's this famous instructor from a famous institution. You'll probably laugh if I tell you how he teaches vocabularies like 'revolution': revolution -- 阿姨我擼神鬧革命. Yeah, R = 阿, E = 姨. Any word beginning with re- he can turn it into some dirty line. Reply -- 阿姨撲來回答你. Reluctant -- 阿姨拉客不情願. And so on and so forth. One has to admire his creativity.

To me 'revolver' is a better memory hook for 'revolution'. Or simply 'revolve': re- 'back, again' + volvere 'roll, turn' = to overturn. But then I already know these words. Sometimes I can understand why he has his fans. Imagine how desperate one must be to spend real money to learn such simple words like revolution.

 

Sorry, I'm way off topic.

@艾墨本so sad you had to remove zdic.net to keep the list short. I think its quality is far better than Jukuu, though monolingual dictionary with a focus on etymology might not be that useful for beginners.

About offline dictionaries on Windows, have you considered Lingoes? It's free and offers a lot of good stuff (many obviously pirated though).

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Shelley

@Publius Here are the first 2 I came across no. 20 and 21.

HeisigExample.jpg

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Publius

yeah I can understand your feeling. 日 + 月 = 明, so simple. why god has to be in it... :roll:

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furiop
On 18/2/2017 at 11:55 AM, Shelley said:

 I do like learning the etymology as an aid 

 

In effect this is the origin and the motivation of "Outlier" dictionary recently added to Pleco.

Only a first step, but upgrades will be released in next months.

fp

outlier01.jpg

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fabiothebest

I've got it too (purchased the mini edition) and tried it. Still have to use it extensively though. I wish such thing was available when I first started studying Chinese. Well, there were some websites that offered some help also at that time though but this one seems well researched, a lot of time was put in the making and it's handy because it's integrated in Pleco.

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Shelley

Indeed, that is what I am saving up my pennies for. I have been following the progress of the Outlier dictionary from the nearly the first post on the forums and I was lucky enough to get one of the free posters they gave away some time ago. So this is proudly on my wall for reference.

I must look at my options and get this asap. thanks for reminding me.

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Shelley

Had a look, realised it wasn't nearly as expensive as I had imagined, so I took the plunge and now am the happy owner of the mini version. Loads of fun and learning to be had.

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furiop

For a quick look:

 

Settings > Manage Dictionary > Outlier Mini SC > Browse all dictionary entries

 

It's only the beginning...

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mlescano

Fantastic! I appreciate Outlier's team great efforts to bring this project to completion. I already mentioned my friend Nico, the only western I've known personally who can read and write anything in Chinese. I just remembered he mentioned using etymologies to learn the characters, so he's a living testimony of the effectiveness of this approach. Kudos to Outlier, as their work mean more people will reach Nico's level.

 

Some others of my friends have used their very own mnemonics, or even learned to write and read by rote, and they have achieved a respectable level. A couple of them even passed HSK6. But Nico is in another level.

 

Returning to Heisig: When I was studying Heisig's books, I was actually hoping for the imminent release of Outlier, as it would have helped a lot. I relied heavily on YellowBridge's dictionary for character decomposition and some basic etymology. I also made extensive use of Pleco's "CHARS" tab to see what the components were, and trying to figure out etymology from this. Heisig only has "silly stories" during the first part of book 1. He pretty much leaves you on your own for the rest of book 1 and book 2. Actually, the real value in Heisig is in the selection of characters for each volume and the order in which the characters are presented. This is what took Dr. Richardson (the guy who actually brought the Chinese versions of Heisig's books to life, as I understand it) the most time to research... Years, actually. The fact that the books have been translated to several languages, and that this approach has stayed relevant since the 1970s (first Japanese kanji version), are all a testimony of its effectiveness.

 

Of course, no method is good for everyone. Your mileage may vary. People have been learning to read and write Chinese for millenia, well before mass-printed books, smartphone apps, and the like. So yes, you can make it without any of these. :D

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Luxi

One of the oldest and best resources is Richard H. Sears' Chinese Etymology site. Richard H. Sears (Uncle Hanzi, 汉子叔叔)has spent over 40 years developing one of the most amazing sites on the web, which is and has always been available completely free. The site now has over 5000 characters explained in fantastic detail, and is not only used in the West  but also by scholars and students in China. One can spend hours lost in it, learning and enjoying the stories behind Chinese characters, and sharing the author's love for them. I believe Uncle Hanzi now lives in China and teaches at Beijing's Normal University.

 

Surprising how quickly these really wonderful resources become forgotten in the West/

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Shelley

Yes I am aware of Richard H. Sears site and do consult it occasionally. I suppose I should use it more but as you say Luxi it gets forgotten. Perhaps a mention here will help, I would want to add it to the list of useful resources.

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furiop

Richard H. Sears' Chinese Etymology site is a must (also http://chinese-characters.org/ is interesting).

Sear's site has a lot of examples, but also a lot of charachters: the "pro" is that he is continuosly updating etymologies, the "cons" is that this work need time, so not all etymologies are updated.

For example "我"

Primitive pictograph 我. A rake. Borrowed for sound. so: an agricultural tool

in Outlier (Ref. 季旭 昇,2004《說文新證》,台北:藝文印書館印 行,2014年9月二版。page 867)

我 depicts a saw-toothed weapon with a long handle. The modern meaning "I, me" is unrelated to the form

so: a weapon or a tool?

 

Edited by furiop
orthography
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realmayo
14 hours ago, fabiothebest said:

I wish such thing was available when I first started studying Chinese.

 

Wenlin has been around a long time!

 

wl1.thumb.jpg.5dc3a839bb3f881687666c70ad21a43d.jpgwl2.thumb.jpg.8e2455e2c696ea41b1c418bbb810a868.jpg

 

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Shelley

Wenlin has got better I think, but when I used the first version I found it ugly and clumsy. I also found it confusing to use. I have V3.4 now but still don't find myself using it. I am not sure why, it is a good resource.

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furiop

Look at different etymology in Wenlin and Outlier:

FORM
辶 was originally composed of 彳 (half of 行, an intersection) and 止 (foot, here used to express the notion of walking). The two components have merged into one over time. [Reference, p.122]

辶 is the component form of 辵, which is not used as a standalone character.

MEANINGS

chuò

Component meanings

1 (orig.) to walk down the street

2 → to walk, having to do with walking

3 ⇒ movement

 

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realmayo
24 minutes ago, furiop said:

Look at different etymology in Wenlin and Outlier

 

I think they're the same, it's just that Outlier seems a bit muddled in how it expresses the relation between 辶 and 辵.

 

In Wenlin if you click on 辵 you get:

 

wl3.thumb.jpg.5861259e26ddb81af37d8789370b7f1a.jpg

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furiop
13 minutes ago, realmayo said:

The same...

彳,Footprint for Wenlin, crossroad for Outlier: I know that's for experts only... Only a curiosity...

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