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Four element system to learn characters, their pinyin and meaning


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(About the most important fourth element read below)
It's an alternative to the endings (韵母)structured table (and corresponding mega-cards), this approach is very different to that one. However some principles (some table, some mega-cards) are the same, see there, please 

What are the three elements and what is the difference as compared to the above link?

The three elements are:

1) the Table, but organized in a normal way, according to the beginning sounds (声母), not endings. In the link above this kind of Table was consedered as additional only. 

2) again mega-cards, but also organized in a normal way  - one card for a syllable with all tones in it, see picture

3) However all this normalization has its price, we have to provide some alternative in order to take the advantage of combining syllables according to phonetic correspondence blocks, see first page from textbook phonetic section.
What can it be?

First, the second sheet of in the table again comtains formulas, linking characters in the lines. But in addition on the first page of the table there are another formulas, linking the first characters for different tones of the same syllable, one of these being considered as the key character. In the picture 次 is considered as the key, and pointing with the cursor to the left of it we can see the formula, linking it with the two other starting characters, 此  and 词  . The phrase says: "This time forget to use these bad words!", so 'this time' is connected with 'these' and 'words'.


Second, for each block a verse, a short poem is composed, in each stranza of which all initial sounds (声母)of the block are used. Let's take the Z-C-S block as an example. Below you can find a verse, in which the meanings of the key characters are combined with some additional words to make some sense, and in each stranza the first target word is for Z, the second (with a shift downward) for C, and the third for S. I underlined those for Z with a single line, one for C with a double line and for Z with a bold line. Where a syllible with a certain tone doesn't occure either in the HSK5 or at all, there are suspension points and some additional words are given in parentheses.

Z‑C‑S Poem

            следы от блюда
Какой там отдых?
            Мне участвовать в этом



                                    в своей глотке,
Что рано утром

                                    не выметали.
Ведь КГБ предпочитает
                                    изменившийся цвет,
И как траву
            ………… (мяли)
                                    в чаще.



            хоть когда-то
                        ………… (что-нибудь)
Самому себе
            хоть бы раз
                                    так до смерти хочется.
Но обобщает
            умный в свою пользу
                        с всклокоченными волосами.



Пройтись с
            ………… (вы поняли)

                                    и покашливать,

                                    со строгостью
(………… а на самом деле
                                    печально подсчитывать расходы)
К самому-самому
                        и торопить
                                    несмотря на годы.



Руководствоваться надо тем,

            Что поможет Земле существовать.
                                    Внукам это всегда говорите!

Работать над этим упорно,
                        отлынивать - это ошибка.
                                    И поэтому надо так!

For better orientation the verse is organized this way: 3 stranzas, 4 stransaz, 3 stranzas, 4 stranzas and the remainder.

I'll give a translation of the first three stranzas.

Wipe colorful spots,
Somewhere the tracks from the dish compete.
What rest? I have to participate in that three times.


So you can see it has some sense, not just a mixture of words. And the rest of the poem is even better. 


It's not difficult to learn the poem. And knowing it means that you know all key words for the whole block, for Z, C and S 声母。 Totally you will need to learn only six bigger verses for syllables that begin with 声母 , and five smaller ones for syllables beginning with no 声母 , inclusive 'y' and 'w', to remember about 400 key characters for all possible syllables (somewhat less for HSK5).

In addition for better results I'm making a dictionary of characters basing on the Table.




ci example.png




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In order you grasp better what I propose I show the key words of the first three stranzas and the key characters of that meaning:

пестрые (пестрый)  -  杂 (zá)

вытирай  (вытирать) -  擦 (cā)

брызги   - 洒 (sǎ )

где-то - 在 (zài)

блюда (блюдо) - 菜 (cài)

состязаются (состязаться) - 赛 (sài)

какой там - 咱 (zán)

участвовать - 参 (cān)

трижды - 三 (sān)

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Also the Poem can be presented in the following two modes, which can accelerate the memorization of the key characters. And in these modes not so much Russian is needed, just several words from time to time.


Z‑C‑S Poem


            следы от
в этом




Z‑C‑S Poem

            следы от cài
Zán отдых?
n в этом




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Here is a translation of the whole poem:



                                       Z - C - S Poem


Wipe colorful spots,
Somewhere the tracks from the dish compete.
What rest? I have to participate in that three times.


It's dirty to hide in one's throught
That they didn't sweep the grass early in the morning.
You know, KGB prefers to document the changed color of the grass,
And how the grass was ...... (crushed) in the thickest.


To increase at least some day ...... (something)
To myself at least once, so I want to death.
But the smart clears in his favor with disheveled hair.


Walk with ...... (you understand) and cough,
With your foot with severity
(...... but in fact sad ...... to calculate costs)
Encourage your companion to do the most important thing and rush despite the age.


It's necessary to be guided by what will help the Earth to exist. Grandchildren always say this!
Work hard on it, to take off is mistake. And therefore it's necessary so!

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The key characters are:

杂       擦       洒
在       菜       赛
咱       参       三


脏       藏       嗓
早       草       扫
择       策       色
怎       ...        森


增       曾       ...
自       次       死
总       聪       松

走       ...        嗽
足       促       肃
...        ...        酸
最       崔       岁


遵       存       孙
作       错       所


       In the poems I do not distinguish between the use of a character in the meaning of a noun, adjective, verb, except when it is used separately. Because it's just to remember it, and nouns, adjectives, verbs are normally presented in the form of two (three or four) character words in today's Mandarin. In any case knowing one of the meanings of a character just helps to memorize it and later it will help to remember compound words. Of course, in the compound words other meaning of a character can be more appropriate than the one I selected for the Table. However, it's up to you to look up other meanings for the character when learning words with it if you can't memorize the words basing only on these single meanings (I believe any meaning is a help to make some menthal association).


     To remember characters it's neceassary to learn all three components: mega-cards, macro-cards and the poems, in some sequence. It's better to learn first macrocards that include frequently used charaters and ones for syllables represented by a big number of characters, then to learn mega-cards with those macro-characters, and at this stage it's good to learn some key character poems to cement all and to involve other syllables. 


   When adding new characters (on the top of the HSK5 set), they should be marked in different color (eg. green) in the Table and cards of all types. There should be also new linear formulas for them, starting with the last character in the initial formula (on the second sheet), while the formulas on the first sheet (if new tone is added) should be just expanded. The poems also can be corrected if new key characters appear.

Edited by Pall
additional considerations
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It's necessary to add the fourth element: intermediate presentation of the poem in characters. The reason is that I found it rather difficult to switch from the poem right to the mega-cards because all three kinds of formulas had to be involved at the same time (horizontal, vertical formulas and the poem). The intermediate poem presentation in characters means just simplified mega-cards with head characters only (ones with which macro-characters begin), maximum of 4-5 characters, arranged in the sequense the key characters appear in the Poem, see pictures (stranzas come from the left to the right). The orange characters are the key ones, the purple characters are the other head characters. Also it's convenient to mark in some manner (I did that by circling in red) the characters for which there are other characters with the same pinyin. As a result, with the means of only the Poem one can rewise 77 head characters of the Z-C-S block instead of only 43 key characters (in the block there are 130 characters totally). Doing that he should mark the characters for syllables represented by more than one character and then recollect and draw these on another sheet. 


And what is the most important finding: the Poems can serve not just some supplementary tool to hold together the macro- and mega-cards in one's memory, but as the basis for the whole set of characters in the HSK5 (and consequently for the entire language). One can even begin with learning the Poems, first memorizing the key characters only and then including other head characters. And after that he can extened his knowledge of the syllables represented by more than one character. In the HSK5 there are about 880 syllables accounting for tones, and so 880 characters sounding differently can be learnt by the means of the Poems only. 




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Here is a simplified way to revise the poem in the itermediate presentation, the first two verses: the first iteration is for the key characters and the second is for the other head characters.  Those for syllables having more than one character are circled.  The crossed out character in the second photo is one for which I made a mistake, it had to be shown in the first tone. 




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I've composed a B-P-M-F poem. The first, third and fifth verses have four line each, the second, fourth and sixth ones have two lines(4-2-4-2-4-2). However this is not enough to navigate in the poem easily, since there are more target words in each line of it as compared to the Z-C-S poem and it's longer. Therefore stricter rules are defined for its structure. In the four line verses the fourth line rhymes with the second line, and in verses of two lines these rhyme too. At last, the whole poem is in metrical poetry (the first syllable is stressed, the second not, the succession being repeated), the metric is broken only in one or two places. Also it's important, that the whole poem is dedicated to a single topic (the Z-C-S poem was rather a set of not linked to one another verses).


To have an idea how it's arranged here are the key characters for the B-P-M-F block of syllables. For the benifit of better poetry, which is necessary for learning it easier, key characters are not everywhere the most used ones.

把 - 怕 - 马 - 法

白 - 排  -卖 - ...

班 - 盘  -慢 - 饭

帮 - 旁 - 忙 - 方


饱 - 跑 - 猫 - ...

... - ... - 么 - ...


杯 - 配 - 每 - 非

本 - 喷 - 门 - 粉

... - 朋 - 梦 - 疯

比 - 匹 - 迷 - ...


便 - 骗 - 面 - ...

表 - 漂 - 妙 - ...


别 - ... - 灭 - ...
宾 - 品 - 民 - ...
丙 - 平 - 名 - ...
脖 - 婆 - 默 - ...


... - ... - 某 - 否
不 - 普 - 母 - 复


In the picture below you can see first four stranzas. Target words for B are underlined by a single line, for P double, for M triple and for F wavy. Later I'll post a translation of the whole poem. 
The Z-C-S and B-P-M-F poems taken together cover nearly 400 characters from HSK5 (397).










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  • 2 weeks later...

Here's a translation of the whole B-P-M-F poem. It's not easy to translate poetry even of such kind, but it looks very good in Russian. 


The groom holds but afraid, the law is not written to the stallion.

The white does not want to stand in the row, a traitor, ....... (tin).

In the group all look at the plates, chew food slowly.

Seeing no help, the groom keeps to a side and is only busy

    with a task to escape into a corner.


All are fed up to the brim but they don’t run to the stable,

                                    like a cat  ....... (waiting for something).

…… (They ) …… (are waiting for)  something,  ....... (Brutus).



And they're  also raising wine glasses, marriaging, each is

                             putting forth false reasons, it's just laughter,

Fundamental reasons, and they're spitting with saliva zealously

                   and looking at the door with a drunk, dull pinkish eye with anxiety
                             on their faces.

....... (Hey), friend,  not in a dream are you  or in insanity black stripe?

You compare, perhaps, horse power all of us with that horse,

                   and it will become clear: we all are confusing).


It’s so convenient for us to sit here  and deceive each other,

                               hiding faces because of ....... (shame).

Expressing by swearing, what melts right there in the heights,

                          we are tricky cowards  ... ... (m-mda).




Are we different ....... (in something) from those who have lost

                                             ....... (conscience)?

We were invited to visit tasting lunch but we should not put humankind to     
                                 shame  …… ( ?

At least at "satisfactory" mark  if only exactly

                           ride a horse to respect your name  ....... (),

Grasping the horse's  neck like a frightened old woman silently

                                              ....... (just a ride - and we are needed).


... ... (Maybe)  ....... (it's not us) 

                                     or we, but we are not here, no?

We didn’t want shame to be known everywhere so mothers know

                       as we did not fulfill the plan, we only ate the whole dinner.

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