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Christa

Which book was most useful for learning characters for you?

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Christa

I've only ever had two books for learning characters, the one by Heisig and the one by McNaughton.

 

They are the only books on learning the characters I have any real knowledge of. Personally, I preferred the McNaughton one but I get the feeling I'm in the minority there.

 

Which books have you used and which did you find most useful (for the first two or three thousand characters)?

 

 

Christa

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Shelley

I have so many books on learning characters that it would take ages to list them all here.

 

I used my text book New Practical Chinese Reader for the major bulk of my character learning. I also used the Tuttle series, DeFrancis, and many more. 

 

I never liked Heisig and had to look up the McNaughton one to see which one you meant, which version did you use?

 

My most recent and very useful addition to my books on characters is Regular Script Graphemics  https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/55888-regular-script-graphemics-how-chinese-characters-are-written/?tab=comments#comment-431030

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Christa
1 hour ago, Shelley said:

I used my text book New Practical Chinese Reader for the major bulk of my character learning.

 

That's interesting, Shelley. You actually learned the characters in the book you were studying the language with. I never did this. I used pinyin to learn to speak and then did characters afterwards.

 

1 hour ago, Shelley said:

I never liked Heisig and had to look up the McNaughton one to see which one you meant, which version did you use?


I used this version of McNaughton's book: https://www.amazon.com/Reading-Writing-Chinese-Traditional-Comprehensive/dp/B01JXQT3DG

 

Did anyone else use character-learning-only books like me? If so, which were the ones you found most and least helpful?

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Hofmann

I have McNaughton. At some point long ago I was reading through it slowly, trying to slowly build literacy, but the information presented is minimal for all but the most common characters, and minimal or inaccurate for characters with real explanations. Also, the lack of context made characters ultimately very forgettable. I think a book just for learning characters is less efficient than just learning the ones you encounter in your normal study materials.

 

(Disclaimer: I work for Outlier, which makes a competing product.)

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Shelley

Yes, I believe there is no other sensible way to do it. Pinyin for the first 5 lessons then straight in with characters, in the first book it is actually both and and from book 2 on we leave pinyin behind for the most part.

 

Trying to learn characters out of context seems entirely unproductive. If you learned French for example using only phonetics and then go on to using the alphabet it would be almost like starting again. No point in my opinion.

 

Start with characters and you save time and learn more .

 

I disliked the mnemonics in Heisig, waste of time, just learn the meanings, there is so much information in a character that if you learn radicals/components and etymology, half the work is done for you.  Regular Script Graphemics is excellent help for writing as is the Outlier dictionary for Pleco is for etymology.

 

I also believe that rote learning to write especially in the beginning is useful and teaches good habits if you follow stroke order and actually learn what you are writing. As you progress writing out rows and rows of characters is not needed as much.

 

This is my opinion and my method it may not be for all, but I do recommend it.

2 hours ago, Christa said:

You actually learned the characters in the book you were studying the language with

You sound like you are absolutely amazed and shocked that this is what I did,  it made think "How else" 

I wonder if this is one reason you have many questions about characters:shock:

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Tomsima

I used Heisig, and had great fun doing it, it really suited my personality. Once I finished I moved on to drilling compounds that the 3000 characters appear in most frequently. I found that many of my mnemonics really got in the way of remembering compounds, as the depth and variety in meaning of a character meant I was often having to 'forget' the keyword I had assigned to a character so I could get to the compound. I would still recommend Heisig for beginners, as its approach finally made learning to write characters palatable for me...but to be honest, in the long run, what made everything stick was just brute force repetition and practical application (as usual I suppose)

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Dawei3

Hi Christa, My learning process has been different:  I first learned to speak, then learned pinyin and then much much much later learned characters.

 

I haven't found any books to be useful for learning characters.  It felt like rote memorization.  Instead, I have many Chinese friends with whom I communicate with via email & wechat.  This has worked wonderfully.  When they send a note, I want to understand what they write, so trying to understand them is a pleasure.

 

I first try to read the characters in their notes.  If I can't, I copy the note into Microsoft Word and have it add the pinyin.  It places the pinyin write above the corresponding character, so you see them together (and learn to associate them).  Also, there is no English on the page  (In contrast, googletranslate separates the pinyin from the characters and I find it too easy to accidentally see the English on the screen).

 

When I type a note, I use googletranslate to check what I wrote before I send it:  I translate it back into English.  Googletranslate isn't perfect, but it's great at identifying many of my mistakes, i.e., if I picked the wrong character or forgot a word.  It's a great learning tool.    

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imron
15 hours ago, Christa said:

Which books have you used and which did you find most useful (for the first two or three thousand characters)?

I think you'll find graded readers are going to do more for your actual Chinese reading ability than other books.

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NinjaTurtle
On 7/11/2018 at 11:06 AM, Christa said:

Which books have you used

 

Christa, I want to share a different system that works for me. (It does not involve using a textbook.)

 

I believe in a "learn it as you need it" philosophy. Write a sentence in English. Then translate it into Chinese characters. Then practice those characters.

 

You can write, "I am American."

 

You can then  translate this into Chinese as 我是美国人。  Then you can practice learning these characters.

 

I find this system works well. It removes the mindless learning of columns of random characters, and teaches you characters that are meaningful for you.

 

 

 

 

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dtcamero

heisig 1 & 3 for japanese, and then heisig 1 & 2 for chinese. 

adding all kanji and hanzi flashcards together i reliably know something like 8,000 characters now which is crazy.

 

an often overlooked component of the heisig books is the order in which the characters appear. they build off of themselves from simple to complex, in a way that you really understand them visually so they become (slightly) easier to remember.

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NinjaTurtle
3 hours ago, dtcamero said:

heisig 1 & 3 for japanese, and then heisig 1 & 2 for chinese. 

adding all hanji and hanzi flashcards together i reliably know something like 8,000 characters now which is crazy.

 

an often overlooked component of the heisig books is the order in which the characters appear. they build off of themselves from simple to complex, in a way that you really understand them visually so they become (slightly) easier to remember.

 

Hey dtcamero, I envy you living in Tokyo. うらやましい!

 

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mungouk
9 hours ago, NinjaTurtle said:

mindless learning of columns of random characters

 

If you're actually learning the language (as opposed to just trying to memorise the characters), then I can't see how anyone would be doing that.

 

Plus anyone who's aiming for HSK/TOCFL exams has a set vocabulary to learn, so hardly random.  How personally meaningful that vocabulary is — that's another question. :) 

 

 

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Christa

Hi guys,

 

Sorry, I think I gave a false impression.

 

I can already read and write Chinese - 2,000 characters anyway. I was more just wondering how the rest of you had gone about it.

 

My experience was similar to Dawei3. I learned to speak then sort of learned pinyin and then used McNaughton to learn the 2,000 most useful characters.

 

I actually have a lot of friends who ask me how they should go about learning them. And I was sort of wondering if McNaughton was the best stand-alone character book.

 

 

Christa

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DavyJonesLocker
On 7/12/2018 at 4:59 AM, Tomsima said:

but to be honest, in the long run, what made everything stick was just brute force repetition and practical application (as usual I suppose)

I never really found anything  useful but actually brute force repetition.

I found guides on looking at compounds radicals just not that useful as there was too many other alternative possible logical explanations in my mind.

 

Of course looking at a character as a picture is pointless so nothing some components does help but my own made up explanation was just useful as printed guides.

 

1 hour ago, Christa said:

I can already read and write Chinese - 2,000 characters anyway

 

That's pretty good Christa   I seemed to really struggle after the 1000 mark (and the daily repetition got very tedious). Maybe a revisit is in order. 

 

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dtcamero

i think doing some preliminary work understanding radicals is important for disambiguation... which becomes especially useful later on when there are many identical characters but for a slightly different stroke or two. 

 

otherwise yes i generally agree that there is no 'method' that will get around the daily grind of a few hours study for several years.

 

this is our masochistic hobby and we masochists all love it!

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mungouk

I'm only at HSK 3 so about 600 characters, but would be very interested to hear what you guys observed as your vocabulary increased up to 1200, 2400 and beyond... did you notice it being qualitatively different?  New learning strategies developing?

 

For example I've read in another thread about moving beyond the beginner's "crutch" of having mnemonics for some characters.  At my level I think I still need this for some troublesome characters though — mainly to differentiate similar ones. 脚 and 腿 spring to mind...  my brain's struggling with those two right now. 

 

 

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dtcamero

the thing that a lot of people misunderstand about mnemonics is they think you'll keep using them forever...

that would be crazy hard to do as you scale up, e.g. recalling every mnemonic for the 800 or so characters on a single page of text.

 

once you start repeatedly bumping into a character in real life and in other words, the connection becomes much more immediate from character to meaning/sound, and you won't need the mnemonic anymore.

 

i only remember mnemonics for less than 5% of them...

 

its just to get you started. and when you've seen a character enough then you'll have a mnemonic 'scaffold' as heisig says, where you just remember the crucial pieces of the mnemonic but the details are all gone.

and then the whole thing falls away because you're self-sufficient and don't need it anymore

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Wurstmann
8 hours ago, mungouk said:

脚 and 腿 spring to mind...  my brain's struggling with those two right now.

 

Did you learn 退 already? Then remembering 腿 shouldn't be that hard. 😉

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mungouk
6 minutes ago, Wurstmann said:

Did you learn 退 already? Then remembering 腿 shouldn't be that hard.

 

Only by accident, this week in fact... I'm only at HSK 3 level and 退 is HSK 5.

 

But my teacher told me 退休 when I was preparing for HSKK (so I can say my mother is retired), and 休息 is in the HSK 2 vocab list, so I joined the dots. :)

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pross
On 7/14/2018 at 12:43 PM, mungouk said:

I'm only at HSK 3 so about 600 characters, but would be very interested to hear what you guys observed as your vocabulary increased up to 1200, 2400 and beyond... did you notice it being qualitatively different?  New learning strategies developing?

 

My experience: somewhere around 3500 characters, reading became noticeably easier.

 

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