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How I learned 4,000+ characters or Tuttle/Matthews “Learning Chinese Characters – Part 2”


HSK Pro
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On 1/8/2021 at 10:38 AM, HSK Pro said:

Now, I think learning through stories is not necessarily for everyone –

 

Amen. I never did that at all. Seemed clumsy and unnecessary. 

 

On 1/10/2021 at 3:26 AM, Jan Finster said:

Personally, I cannot imagine learning it with stories. Even the stories in your examples sound incomprehensible to me.

 

Agree with this. 

 

But if it works for you, that's fine with me. 

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When I've had trouble remembering a character, I've found that writing it several times, spaced out over the course of a day or two, worked better for me than making up a story about it. I would have never even considered learning someone else's story about the problem character. 

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Worth pointing out that these stories are partly systematic, rather than one-offs, so if you've just got the odd character that's hard to remember, writing it out a few times makes more sense.

 

Long ago it was the silly stories that suddenly allowed me to memorise enough characters to start properly reading Chinese texts for the first time: I quickly forgot the stories but remembered the characters. I figure now I've restarted studying Chinese I should really be confident with 4000 or more of the things, and for memorising how to write the last 1000 I've gone back to stories. But it's quite tiring making up stories, so I can understand using someone else's or at least using them as a jumping off point for one's own. However I presume I'll have finished by the time the OP publishes.

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I printed out the sample pages at 100% scale on 8.5"x11" paper. Here are my suggestions:

  • the character components in the equation box don't have numbers on them (I don't know if this was something you're planning on adding or not, but it would be helpful for printed out versions)
  • at the bottom of page 3, the border line that normally marks of the end of a character's section was pushed to the next page
    • this gives character 9's section a top border
    • otherwise character sections have a bottom border but not a top border (like Character 1) (I don't know if this was intended or not, just pointing it out incase it was an oversight)
  • for Character 2, lín, the example word shàolínsì lacks the 3rd character (sì)
  • the number for the characters in the top left could be a little larger (like by 1 font size) (I don't think it's that big of a deal though)
  • there's a lot of space around the main characters, particularly above and below them. It looks like if you were to scoot the character up so that it's touching the border above it, you could fit a whole nother one in between the first character and the equation box. I don't necessarily think this is a problem, I like the spacey minimalist feel that the lots of space gives, but:
    • that means there's even more room to increase the main character size! 😜 (but if they were too much bigger, it might start to look weird)
    • if you reduced that by just a little bit (by like x0.9) it might be easier to fit the borders on the same page
  • the general font size for the English is fine, but if it were smaller, it would start to become hard to read (for me at least) (so don't shrink it!)

On the whole though, this looks quite amazing and I'm pleased with the layout and feel. I've already learned some of the characters and can't wait for more!

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@HSK Pro How have these 4000 characters been selected? Are they just the 4000 most common according to some corpus?

 

And are you splitting them up or sequencing in any particular way, or is it just alphabetical-by-pinyin?

 

I'm in two minds about mnemonic stories generally.... when I was using wanikani.com to learn Kanji the stories weren't to my taste (including cultural references that didn't work for me) and it put me off.  Having said that, yours seem quite reasonable. 

 

Providing some way of users modifying or writing their own replacements could be useful.

 

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@srghma – Thank you! I need to finish the e-book first before releasing any excel, anki etc. – otherwise might be tricky to officially publish it.

 

@thelearninglearner – Thank you for the support!

 

@abcdefg – Yes, probably not for everybody. However at least for a large number of people, mnemonic memorisation seems to offer better retention than simply writing the character.

 

@realmayo – Thank you! Well, if you’ve finished by the time it’s released this year, I might just have to do another 1,000 stories to offer 5,000+ :D Actually I have all the data lined up for those in Excel too, just missing the stories…

 

@mac n cheese – Thank you for such detailed feedback! Technically speaking, it is possible to add numbers to the characters in the equation box, it will take a little bit of code though. The border line I might have to adjust manually in the final book version – it’s difficult to ensure that it stays on the correct page of a Word document just using code. I think you’re right about the space – I also like to leave some out for design purposes, but at the moment each page on average fits 3 characters – I think it should fit at least 4. That way for 3,200 stories you would have 800 pages or less – instead of over 1,000. Got you on the font size.

 

@mungouk – Thank you. The first Tuttle book had 800+ characters, which reached just above HSK 3. Therefore, my material starts at HSK 4, then 5, then 6 and the remaining characters until 4,000+ are ordered according to character frequency charts (which roughly indicate how frequently each Chinese character appears in an average body of text). I separated out most of the characters that already appeared in the Tuttle book, to avoid content overlap. You will see some grey space beneath each story for the reader to also add their own story or notes.

 

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By the way, it look like the HSK levels are getting re-arranged this year (should be HSK 1 - HSK 9) - thankfully all the characters are in a database format, so it will be very easy to re-arrange them if necessary.

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On 3/21/2021 at 5:09 PM, HSK Pro said:

it look like the HSK levels are getting re-arranged this year

 

Oh yes, see over here: https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/59991-hsk-30-new-new-hsk/?tab=comments#comment-467877

Re-arranged last/this year, and maybe rolled out 2021 or 2022... but nobody knows yet. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi guys,
Sorry for the late response – been busy at work, but also constantly finalising the material!

@china-euro Learning hanzi is just one, albeit crucial part.
When I was purely focused on studying Mandarin, I had:

1. A daily hanzi writing practice (10-20 new characters + revising ones from the day before)
2. A daily word writing practice (20-50 new words + revising ones from the day before)
3. A daily speaking practice (when possible, with a teacher)
4. A lot of listening (mostly either Ximalaya podcasts or CCTV, Chinese national television, because they have a free 24/7 YT channel and their accent is very standard)
5. Daily reading practice (CN Financial Times, Chinese literature etc.)

Nevertheless, I found that focusing hard on mnemonic character study gave me the biggest boost. Before, I had also tried to develop all the areas of my Mandarin at the same time , but I experienced a lot of frustration, because my character acquisition was not fast enough to keep up with the study material.

The two WORST pieces of advice I’ve heard from many foreigners in China:
1. “Don’t worry about the tones – if you speak fast enough, it won’t matter” – wrong, focus on tones from Day 1.
2. “Don’t worry about the characters – focus on speaking, and you’ll get around China easily. You’ll pick the characters along the way in context”  - wrong, focus on characters from Day 1, have a set routine and a smart method for how you study them.

As for the reviews of other people who have studied hanzi using mnemonics, you can check out these Amazon reviews:
https://www.amazon.com/Tuttle-Learning-Chinese-Characters-Revolutionary/dp/080483816X/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=tuttle+chinese&qid=1618043639&sr=8-1


@mungouk yes, so much suspense! Hard to predict when exactly they will roll this out...

@srghma I've never seen this one before - cool!

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It is very difficult to learn so many hieroglyphs and you are a great fellow. Also, I am very grateful to you for recommending the book "Learning Chinese Characters", which I also began to study. I have a lot of different homework assignments in subjects that are difficult for me and I have less time left to study the Chinese language. I found a way out and turned to the Australian company https://essayontime.com.au/do-my-homework which provides professional help in completing various homework assignments in various subjects. This way they free up my time a bit to learn the language.

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  • 1 month later...

Working on it pretty much every day. At the moment, improving the character explanations and adding them for characters above HSK 6 (for example, original meaning, different pronunciations etc. - similar to what you can access on Pleco, for example). Will keep you guys in the loop.

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I've read the conversation hoping that the excel file would eventually be dropped here, because that would allow anyone to do whatever they see fit with the materials (I'd integrate it to my existing Anki deck). 

 

Please share it @HSK Pro. 

 

Thank you.  

 

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