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trusmis

The best way to learn characters?

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trusmis

Possibly the two main challenges in chinese are :

1.- Writting system

2.- Pronounciation

About writting system, there are a number of ways to attack the problem, first, how many information learn at a time:

- Character an meaning

- Character, pronounciation and meaning

- Character, pronounciation, meaning, some compound with other character.

Now, what characters to learn:

- According to HSK

- According to your text book (I mean lesson by lesson)

- According to frecuency in text (it is said that 的 is the more widely used character)

- According to complexity (so you'll learn 木 before 的 just because is "easier")

Currently I use a mix approach:

Character, pronounciation and meaning for characters in my textbook

Character, meaning for anything else.

What do you think ? Any other, preferred way to learn hanzi?

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shiaosan

I recommend the priority:

1. According to frecuency in text

2.Character, pronounciation, meaning, some compound with other character.

3. Extensive use of all the characters you have learned in a format of sentences, conversations, short passage.

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百變星君

I like all your suggestions... I try to avoid laboriously learning certain characters unless:

1. I simultaneously learn words/expressions they go well together with.

2. I am sure I've seen them used before.

for example... you could write the character 既(ji) a million times... but if you didn't know any examples of how it's used... it's rather useless just to memorize that it means "both" or "already". In fact, this character, like many others, takes on a slightly different meaning depending on what context you put it in.

By the way, I've been trying to learn vocabulary for the HSK, and I've found it very useful to download a small vocabulary list (such as from http://hmarty.free.fr/hanzi/index.html) and then work my way through it with a flashcard program (many of these are free for downloading on www.versiontracker.com or a similar site)

I think it's great to discuss this. It's good to have a system/strategy, otherwise your left just copying words out of the dictionary, which is just as bad as memorizing the telephone book! :mrgreen:

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lau

I use a different approach. I just read - i have a Harry Potter book for reading in public transport, and read just about anything with the help of annotation tools found on xuezhongwen.net or similar sites while indoors.

if i really really like a word - I write it out.

I don't think vocabulary is the answer

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xuefang

I'm a beginner in Mandarin Chinese and I'm learning the characters also. I have text book and I learn the words when they come along while I use the book. I try to remember the character, pronounciation and meaning. I write new characters few times and then I use them in sentence's to remember them better.Now I remember about 40 characters but that's a start.

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atitarev

We have to think of different methods for different ages, I think. What works well for young people may not work for older people but there could be some other more effcient methods. LOL (I am not too old, only 38 but I feel I don't pick up languages as easy as I used to).

Nipponman, you're doing the right thing, learn now while you're young! Keep at it and don't give your Japanese too.

---

Back on topic. I use combinations of methods.

1) Learn the pinyin version of the text, so I know all words, their pronunciation and address all grammar issues.

2) Listen to the recordings of a text after reading and understanding it fully - so I memorise how the words and sentences sound. I do this with the text and without. If you can understand all words spoken without looking at the text, you know the words.

3) Read the character text, making sure I know the pronunciation of all words and characters, focusing on new words and more complex characters. It's worth looking up some characters and checking possible combinations. For example 随便 (suíbiàn) and 便宜 (piányi) have a common character, pronounced differently. I make sure I know the corredt pronunciation and tones for each word/character.

4) Write the text or new characters, complex characters. I sometimes skip person's names or rarely used words. At first, I copy characters looking at the original.

5) Write chinese text without looking at the original - I use pinyin text and then convert them to characters. Any problem characters can be repeated but I am not trying to reach perfection. Same words will appear again in other texts if they are common.

Note: it's still passive learning and because I work full-time, it's a bit hard to be consistent with this but I find this efficient. I use Wenlin software. NJStar could also be used. Teach Yourself Chinese, New Practical Chinese Reader, Colloquial Chinese and other textbooks have both pinyin and character texts.

Of course, for developing your speaking and writing ability you need other methods. Classes, penpals (language exchange) and Chinese friends.

To 百變星君,

You can look up some characters but better learn characters from a text, whcih makes sense to you, use words that are common. Learn characters in combination.

On character 既 and how to learn it (examples from Wenlin, just needed to do some conversions):

既 [jì] since; already

既然 jìrán since, now that

既然你不要,那么就给我吧。

Jìrán nǐ bù yào, nàme jiù gěi wǒ ba.

Since you don't want it, give it to me then.

既要上学,就得做功课。

Jì yào shàngxué, jiù děi zuò gōngkè.

If you want to attend school, you have to do homework.

既不实用,又不美观

Jì bù shíyòng, yòu bù měiguān

Neither useful nor attractive

You see that in combinations, words will make more sense. But try to to learn from dictionaries. Use textbooks, popular texts and lookup the characters. If you start learning from dictionaries, you can get rare characters, nobody uses!

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百變星君

Dictionaries and Textbooks can both be useful, but can also get you really mixed up, and usually are just downright boring.

The only time I use a dictionary is to check the pronunciation or strokes of a character. Trying to use words simply because you saw them in the dictionary hardly ever works. Also, trying to have a conversation while you're check words in a dictionary is not very fun. Shouldn't language learning be fun?

Also, (and this is just my personal opinion), I usually find textbooks unmotivating, expecially beyond beginner's level. Once you've studied enough textbooks to get the basic grammar concepts, why not move on to popular media, like TV, radio, childrens books, pulp fiction or short stories. If you understand the grammar but don't know some vocabulary, then you can look it up and add it to your flash cards if you like. I've tried a number of textbooks that just taught me dumb useless vocabulary that I'd never use in a conversation. In other words, if you like sports, find a sports magazine in chinese.

If you want to sound like a textbook when you speak chinese, than read textbooks.

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trusmis

It's surprising how many ways there are to learn characters.

It seems that each learner has his own tricks or method.

So far we have:

-Character, meaning, pronounciation all in one (nipponman)

- Pronounciation first, later on character (atitarev)

- Learn as you read (lau) I suppose that you need a good dictionary here

- All in one (xuefang), anyways still a beginner ...

- Learn all you can find of a character ordering your study according to frecuency (shiaosan)

- Select previous known characters (百變星君)

Amazing

I suppose there's no magic tricks here and any method is good enough if you are confortable with it.

Language learning ... how hard!

:wall

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Dennis

When you have mastered the basics you should indeed move on with the things you wanted to learn in Chinese.

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nipponman

:-? That is a lot of methods. So, why don't you try them all out instead of trying to select the best? Because everybody learns differently and maybe a different method will work for you.

nipponman

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赫杰

There has been some controversy over this, but this is a link to the top 3000 characters in Chinese based on frequency.

http://www.zein.se/patrick/3000char.html

If you want, you can select to learn how to write like the first 800 to 1000 or so and then just learn the rest of your vocabulary through watching, listening, and doing things you enjoy. I also feel it is important to have a good base in the beginning.

Or, you can try beginning to watch drama (with Chinese subtitles) or listen to radio (try to find the written transcript to the radio though) maybe half way through your selected amount of characters. After translating the dramas and radios try to use in everyday life situations, even if you don't live in china, this will all help you remember how to write it.

Finally, when you feel like you have enough to converse, I recommend getting QQ to chat with other Chinese. I am not saying you should spend all your time on it, though. Just every now and then. It is great resource if you have questions about the grammar or if you don't know what you are saying sounds "right" Some people recommend spending all your time on it (as I know some people that have learned the entire language this way), but I used to spend quite a while on it, made many friends, but frankly got sick of answering the same questions over and over, and (because I did not have a video feed) trying to convince people that I am an American and not Chinese. Also, I am by nature not a very talkative person, so I generally don't know what to talk about on QQ, so watching dramas, movies, and stuff works more for me.

O! If you try to find dramas, radios, etc. find some that use more of the current vocabulary like in everyday situations. You know, something practical.

hehehe, good luck. Look forward to being constantly frustrated. hehehe

HJ

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百變星君

Just find what's best for you. Different people have different learning styles. I think the most universal rule might be "be consistent." A little bit of consistent practice everyday adds up to a lot of progress.

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shiaosan

that 3000 characters link is a good link. it will be great if there are some text attached to it using very small amount of characters. this is what I wrote using the first 65:

not a 100% natural passage.

去年, 有一个人去了中国。他说, 中国的日子不好过。出国的人多。这个人也说,出国的人也好也不好。大国有大国的不好,小国有小国的不好。中国对中国人还是好。说到中国,国家自然大,人也自然多,中国人为了中国好,能在中国过日子自然好。

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Quest
出国的人也好也不好。中国对中国人还是好

These two sentences don't make much sense.

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shiaosan

it means "the life of people who went abroad can be good or not good. For Chinese people, China is still good place to live." :)

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Natureboy

I am now living in Beijing and someone back home in Canada forgot to tell me that if I cannot read Chinese characters reasonably well, I am a dead duck in China! The 3000 character site will be helpful; as it turns out, I do not know how to look up characters very well using number of strokes. So everytime I hit the streets here I am scared half to death that I will be lost irretrievably, and I am totally unaware of signs that are necessary to know. It comes down to this: be able to read it or go home. I cannot go home, I am teaching under contract. I am also 55 years old. This is sometimes a cool adventure but often a frightening cultural version of 'Survivor'. Any other good ideas about learning Hanzi Biao are MOST welcome!! Thanks everyone for your comments so far in this thread! :shock:

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atitarev

I wish you good luck but you may not be able to read all possible signs, street names in a matter of days or weeks. The more you know, the better, of course but there are just too many characters. Besides, knowing characters, you should know them in combinations, that is words, grammar, etc.

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gato

Get a Chinese map and learn the characters in the signs first. Some characters in signs are more uncommon and not usually taught to beginning Chinese learners, but since it's a "survival" issue for you, you can go skip ahead to these more advanced characters. Learn their pinyin and stare at them hard until they become familiar. Review one hour when you rise in the morning and another hour before you go to bed.

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trusmis

Yes, it is very important that you see those characters a lot and get used to them.

Make photos to the signs if necesary!

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