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trusmis

The best way to learn characters?

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querido

To Baron:

To be supportive, I'd like to point out that even Imron tried a method that he no longer believes in, as he posted in #29, which he probably thought was a good idea at the time! (Hope he didn't tell anybody!) It's a mistake that I made too (children's books) and defended vigorously here! See my old posts; on the other hand, don't bother. :-)

And, despite using better-regarded methods since then, I also spent "'one or two years of (my) life' to end up with a not 'great vocabulary'" (quoting OneEye's construct). You're in good company no matter what methods you use! :-) (But I myself would humbly follow those here who've been vastly more successful than I.)

"The fact that something "works for billions of kids" doesn't mean it's efficient, it simply means that it works."

Well I should get started then. :-)

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OneEye
'Spending 2 years' wasn't mean to imply that there is no time to do other activities.

But you'd have even more time to do other activities if you were using a more efficient method, right? Personally, I'm interested in maximizing the results I get from the time and effort I put in. If I can do something in 2 years instead of 3 by using method A instead of method B, I'm going to do it. If it allows me to avoid using children's books, even better! :mrgreen:

In fact, I don't recommend going this route for a number of reasons. Most importantly is that these kids are learning how to write words they already know. They already speak the language by the time they start learning characters. Unless the same is true of a learner, meaning he already speaks the language well and is now learning to read and write, I wouldn't recommend trying to learn the way Chinese kids learn. And even in that hypothetical case, there are better ways of going about it.

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Tomas Tomas

I'm doing the Heisig Hanzi books and have been very happy with this approach. I'm at 2,500 / 3,018 characters in the books at the moment.

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JustinJJ

My method for learning characters might be a bit different as I try to learn new characters, new words and do my daily reading all in one go, seems to be working for me. I first learnt to recognise the most common say 2400 or so characters using Anki and a frequency list. Now I'm reading to learn more characters. Each time I see a new character I will put it into an Anki character deck. For each of these characters I will also learn it within a new word (e.g. the word from the text) and learn this new word within an example sentence. These example sentences I have in a separate anki deck. Once I hit 10 unknown characters I will stop reading for the day.

Currently I'm not looking up any other unknown words other than the words from those new characters (however I'm finding that the more characters I know the easier it is becoming to guess the meaning of new words, as there are less unknown characters in the text to distract me). The whole process of reading + adding new anki charcters to my character deck + adding the example sentences to Anki + doing the reviews takes about an hour. The process of doing the Anki review of the character deck is about 3-5mins a day.

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DespikableMi

Being a native speaker and fluent writer, now and then I would still experience character amnesia so I have to practice writing every two or three months. Personally, studying the character's liushu classification is most efficient for long term memory. But then I still have to know the standard character formation 詞形 for words (詞). For example, 萹豆 and 輩份 should be written as 扁豆 and 輩分, according to 『第一批異形詞整理表』.

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JustinJJ

What do you guys do when you encounter a really rare character? Do you actually go to the effort to learn it or forget about it if doesn't lie within the first X thousand most frequently used characters. Simple example: I just looked up 堍 (tu4) from 桥堍. Apparently its the 6889th most frequently used character. Have people found it most efficient to just ignore these rare characters? Cheers.

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OneEye

If it's useful for you, learn it. Who cares what a frequency list says, beyond a certain point? Your reading interests, presumably, aren't going to line up exactly with any corpus. What I personally find works for me is to learn things that I notice repeatedly come up. I usually only look things up if they keep me from comprehending the sentence and I can't make a good guess based on context. If I have to look it up again soon (in the same book, let's say), I make a note of it. The third time, I make sure and learn it. If it seems useful. If I don't think it's something I'll need again once I'm done reading whatever book it popped up in (authors have their pet phrases/terms), I don't bother with it. If it's a book I'm pretty sure I'll refer back to, I'll make a note of it on the inside cover.

This is a loose "system." But I think it weeds out the stuff that won't be useful for me pretty well. And if it isn't useful to learn, why expend the effort?

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querido

To JustinJJ:

I tried to study from materials that had some added-value to me, something I really wanted to know, so I always tried to learn everything without regard to considerations like that, just trusting the authors. But with a policy like that one should choose materials modestly at first.

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lvn

Back in my twenties I developed my own methods for studying Chinese characters: every week I had a list of characters (say 100 more or less) to learn which I write from seven to ten times. I rewrite all the characters once every five minutes. After ten minutes I just rewrite again; then, after another ten minutes I rewrite again. It goes on after every half an hour, after two hours and so on.

I repeat this process every day, every week, until the next list of new words.

 

I also took the habit of reading texts in loud voice in order to improve pronounciation and acquire a natural rhythm, and to check monolingual Chinese dictionary for every word I don't know.

 

For short text I also write a summary (using synonyms) and perform it in loud voice.

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Lou

你 好!

I'm pretty much desperate at the moment.

I am a beginner on Mandarin, and whilst my vocab, pronunciation and grammar all are going fine and I'm making nice progress in all of these fields, the characters drive me insane.

I think the problem is that I always was a bad visual learner-learning always came easiest to me by listening. So whilst everything relating to actual speaking comes really easy to me (after two and a half weeks of learning Mandarin, I'm able to greet people a couple of different ways, introduce myself, say where I'm from, describe my family, use pronouns correctly, name some common every-day objects and describe them with around three dozen of adjectives, I am able to use 是 and 很, make questions with 吗, and describe things using this and that, as well as ask questions using "what"), and I think I'm catching on smoothly so far, but characters? I mean, it's not as if I know absolutely nothing, but I really have huge problems learning them. I use Flashcards (characters on the front, pinyin and meaning on the back) and have a Flashcards app on my phone, so I'm training everyday on the bus. I spend around 30 minutes each day on Chinese (not even counting the 15 minutes in the bus!) plus 90 minutes twice per week with my Chinese class, and my private daily training time is nearly entirely consumed by characters, what makes me very sad because I want to expand my knowledge in other parts of the language, but always need to study characters to be able to follow the lessons. That's especially frustrating since I can use the words I know in a conversation perfectly fine and everything is great and all, but when I see the exact same sentences written out in Hanzi, I don't understand a lot. Also, I'm spending a lot of time on characters and I simply don't see a lot of progress.

Currently, my learning system is based on repetition of the flash cards, and using the characters in sentences. I mostly type them, not actual hand-write, because my handwriting is pretty much as bad as things get and my characters essentially unreadable.

I think that maybe that could be part of the problem-many other students in my class are actually handwriting the characters and they are having a much easier time with them.

I thought about buying Hanzi grids, you know, these little squares with the characters printed in them in light grey, and then you need to follow the lines when writing, to improve my handwriting.

Would you recommend this? Do you have any other tips for cases like me?

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imron
the characters drive me insane.

Don't worry, they drive everyone insane to various degrees.  It will take time and practice before characters become comfortable for you, and it's the same for everyone.

 

My advice would be to focus on a few characters per day (5-10).  Writing them out will definitely help in the beginning to help you get a feel for stroke order and how characters are composed.  Over time you'll start to notice common components across different characters then it will start to become much easier.  The vast majority of characters are just two or more other characters/components squashed together.

 

I think the problem is that I always was a bad visual learner-learning

Actually it's probably not so much that you are a bad visual learner, just that you haven't developed your visual learning enough.  Like almost every other skill, this is something that will improve with practice, and Chinese characters are a great way to practice visual learning skills.

 

I thought about buying Hanzi grids, you know, these little squares with the characters printed in them in light grey, and then you need to follow the lines when writing, to improve my handwriting.

Shameless plug - I created a website that lets you make these yourself online.

 

If you have the budget, Skritter is also a useful tool to help you learn to write characters.

 

Flashcard apps can be useful, but if you only practice characters on the front you will only ever be practising passive recall (seeing something and then recognising it) rather than active recall (being able to recall it completely in your mind without hints or prompts from elsewhere).  Try putting characters on the back and see how much difference it makes.  If you find it difficult, realise that it's because you are doing and learning in more depth and that level of learning was something you were choosing to ignore previously.

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Shelley

I would agree with what imron has said.

 

Hanzi Grids is excellent, I use them and for the small price it is excellent value.

 

Writing the characters out over and over helps you memorise them. It doesn't matter too much what you handwriting looks like, it should improve with time, the important thing is to use the correct stroke order. The correct stroke order makes the writing flow and is the most logical way to do it.

 

If you have the budget, Skritter is the best for learning characters.

 

There is no substitute in my opinion for practice practice and more practice. This how Chinese children learn characters, lots of writing.

 

Pleco is the best chinese flashcard and dictionary app. It does so much, too much to list here so checkout the website https://www.pleco.com/

Free Pleco is good to see what it is about but you get the best when you pay for it. It is not expensive in my opinion.

 

It is best to start with the basic package and as you learn what you need add them on, but I would recommend investing in the stroke order add on for your needs.

 

Don't get too stressed about, put in some practice and it will slowly start to make sense.

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Lou

Thank you for your replies! I now got some Hanzi grids and started writing characters by hand. It looks horrid and is essentially unreadable-but it becomes a little less horrid and unreadable with a every character, so I conclude: there is some sort of improvement going on *lol*! Seeing something improving is great, I was so frustrated with the Hanzi already.

Since I'm studying for the HSK1 exam, characters (reading and writing) are crucial for me, and whilst I'm pretty sure they won't become my favourite part of the language anytime soon (but I also thought that about the Latin grammar, and the French pronunciation...) I think with lots of practice through writing, however horrid it may look at the beginning, they should be doable now.

Thanks yo all :-)

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lulaoshi

Would anyone recommend using a calligraphy mat for learning writing? I have a wonderful mat, it just needs water for the brush, no ink, and the writing fades from the surface within seconds. I'm sure some of you are familiar with the product I'm describing.

BTW, this is my first post! So happy to have found the forums here! 谢谢朋友们!

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Shelley

I think the mats are a good bit of fun, but I think you really need to take pen to paper to be able to practice writing in a realistic way. It helps with what I call "muscle memory" if you do it over and over you will not only remember it with your mind but also with your muscles.

 

Also read my post #52 earlier in this topic.

 

You might also like to try a great app called HelloChinese you can find out more here http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/49944-hellochinese-%E2%80%93-new-chinese-mandarin-learning-app-learn-chinese-speak-chinese/

 

Welcome to the forums, you will find people here very helpful and friendly.

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