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Using Radical-Organized HSK(1-6) Wordlist to Learn Chinese


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I presented such list some time ago. I found that 85% of the HSK(1-6) 5,000 words could be attributed to only 42 radicals, which facilitated greatly learning them. The radicals were divided in four parts: 1 - very frequent, 2 - not so frequent,  3 - not so rear, 4 - very rear and unique ones. The frequency was counted on the basis of a dictionary for 20,000 words according to the number of characters of a given radical in the Index. So, it's an ability of a radical to create characters, not the frequency the radicals can be encountered in texts or speech, however it's a rather adequate measure. When I say that a word can be attributed to a radical, that means the word includes a character of that radical regardless the position of the character in the word. Such characters are called "supporting" ones. Of course, if to start listing the words from the most frequent radicals to less frequent we'll need even less radicals to cover the bulk of the HSK(1-6) words than 42. However, it's not reasonable, because too many words per a radical in the beginning of the list would make it less possible to use this approach to learn them. While very frequent radicals were attributed by a great number of words, less frequent ones closer to the end of the list would get only few words because many words including characters of those radicals were listed already in the beginning of the table. The solution is to place the part 3 "Not so rear radicals" first, than comes the part 2 "Not so frequent radicals" and only in the third position comes the part 1 "Very frequent radicals". The part 4 "Very rear and unique radicals" remains in the very end. Even in such sequence the five very frequent radicals are still attributed by a sufficient number of words and supporting characters: 亻- 80 supporting characters / 191 words, 扌(on the left) - 126 supporting characters / 239 words, 口 (when not crossed) - 101 supporting characters / 166 words, 木 (朩) - 57 supporting characters / 129 words and 氵- 75 supporting characters / 140 words, but the numbers are not too big to deal with. At the same time in the part 3 that now comes first the numbers are bigger, which is also convenient - dozens of supporting charaters and some 50-200 words per a radical. 

The part 3 with 27 not so rear radicals covers about a half of the whole 5,000 wordlist, the part 2 with 10 not so frequent ones - 18%, part 1 - 17%, the remander, part 4 - 15%. 


On the left you can see a columne indicating the HSK level of the word. 


Now how to work with all that. I belive that in learning a language the most important are two things: phonetical plunge in it (I don't use the term 'immersion' because of its certain meaning in the language learning) and developing an ability to express oneselfe in speech. When one becomes able to distingish all sounds of a language, to imitate them himself and, secondly, to express his ideas in it, he grows not be affraid of this language. That gives him a capacity to move further. I also  mean here that ability to speak is somewhat more important than ability to understand foreign speech at the beginning, though distingushing sounds of a foreign language is basic for acquiring speaking skills. In my opinion, this can be done at the quickest by usining Zamiatkin's matrix method. However, it's not enough to start to speak despite his assurance. Now a Mandarine matrix is available at his site. https://zamyatkin.com/


Zamiatkin's matrix must be supplemented with a tool that would give a capability to use the most frequent words in one's speech. And this is the point to use the radical organized list in learning Chinese. What I'm doing. I took a book of stories for kids, not adopted for foreigners. An example of a story is enclosed. I read some number of these stories  and remembered the words in their particular usage with the help of cards written in transcription, so I learnt in blocks, whole centences or parts of them. I use mupin instead of pinyin, and normally don't show tones because it's better just to remember them (only if it's difficult to remember a tone it's shown). There is a Russian translation on the reverse. The cards are learnt from Russian to Chinese, not the opposite, because it is this direction of learning, which provides capability to use the words in one's speach. Then I took the radical organized list and started to  learn all the HSK(1-3) words that didn't happen to occure in the stories I'd read and learnt. For each word I found simple sample phrases with it, selecting those that could be inserted to some of the stories, in their context. These centences are integrated to the stories, in some cases with the help of pieces in Russian - I believe it's better to use such inserts in Russian instead of trying to say that in Chinese at this stage. The found samples are inserted in characters in the text presented in mupin as in the picture, the words are marked with coloure: red for HSK(1-3), blue for the others included in the HSK(1-6) wordlist, some are in black (either well-known or not included in the HSK). For such phrases cards of a different type are made, see pic. In the cards in red comes the new HSK(1-3) word, in which only the supporting character is shown, the rest of the word is in mupin. The blue word in transcription is for a word that happens to occure in the HSK(1-6) list somewhere further. When I came to that position in the list the word would become red if it was HSK(1-3) and a new card would be made, or remaines blue if not. Well-known words, which I can automatically write in characters are in blue characters. In black mupin are words that are beyond the HSK(1-6) list. See pic, how the text with inserted phrases looks. This is the end of the 运动会 story in another picture. After all the words of HSK(1-3) are learnt in such manner the words from HSK4 come. Thus the words are learnt in an integral text, and learnt from Russian to Chinese. As to typing in characters, it's not a problem provided that you know how it sounds. Also one can train himself to write that by hand. 


For HSK5 and HSK6, I think, more serious basic texts would be needed.


As to the book I use, it's even more than just a book. Each story is duplicated in another view, with Russian word-after-word interlinear translation and grammatical explanation, see pic. Such books can be purchased at the http://www.franklang.ru/index.php/kitajskij-yazyk/177-teksty-na-kitajskom-yazyke-adaptirovannye-po-metodu-chteniya-ili-franka

The link leads right to the Chinese books section, they are very cheap, 2-3 USD. All the books are original, not adopted for foreigners, but supplemented with the interlinear translation and grammatical notes.


Hope it's useful.










текст с вставленными фразами.png




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I just want to make more clear the procedure and the main idea. The cards of the first type are finally converted to the second type cards. The second type cards, both made as such initially and converted from the first type cards, are learnt:
firstly, to be able to say it in Chinese what you see in your language (Russian in my case);
secondly, to be able to type it,

thirdly, to be ably to write it by hand.

And as the words are mastered, the cards of the second type are replaced by cards with an increasingly complete record of Chinese characters

Edited by Pall
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I'd like to show some details of the procedure.


At the first iteration the second type cards contain, as mentioned above, the target word in red, only the supporting character shown, the rest being in transcription, then well-known words in blue characters, further also in blue, but in transcription other words from HSK(1-6) list that are located somewhere farther in it, and finally in black transcription come words that are beyond the HSK at all. Words in the list are marked with colore correspondingly.


When I can, looking at the Russian translation on the reverse, say it in Chinese, the card is rewritten as this: red words are written completely in characters, blue words, which were in transcription only, now come with the supporting character shown, the rest still being in transcription, the other things do not change. On the reverse (or the face side, it's better to say, because it's that side from which the learning is, from Russian to Chinese, not the opposite) you can see below the Russian transcription in the write corner the figure 2 (second iteration), and in the left corner a Russian letter meaning TO TYPE. It means that next time when I see the card I should not only say it Chinese, but also to be able to type it, at least all that come in red and blue. 


When I can type the card, it can be rewritten in the 3rd iteration view as shown: all come in characters exept the words, which are not in the HSK(1-6) list. At this stage one can train himself to be able to write the card by hand (without words that are in black transcription).


So, all that resembles how an artist paints a picture. At first he usually applies some spots of light and shadow, some contours, then he draws more details and, finally, the final details.





The third itereation card is shown here because of the size of the image. Кунтчонъ  is kun̄chhonǵ and   биенхуан is biaǹhuaǹ



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I do believe, that speaking at basic level must come first. And then it lays ground for mastering characters. Why so? Three years ago there was a Chinese student at my course that I delivered to Chinese at their first year in the university. She'd been brought up in Kazakhstan, attended a Russian school and didn't know any characters, even most common ones. Nevertheless, she could discuss in Chinese rather complicated things. Once I engaged her to translate my lecture to the  others because I wasn't sure that they would understand it due to its complicated content. She did that brilliantly, I saw that everyone in the room understood her. And it's no coincidence that people say 'Do you speak English (or other language)?" Not "Do you know English?" The same in Mandarin 你会说汉语吗? That is because any language originates in its oral form and only later writing may be added. 


Also it's important to take characters just as images, not to try to distingiush and explain its constituents because a human's thinking is based on semantic signal network, not logical, as it is the case regarding AI. Maybe some of you remember that I started with a row of attempts to find some correspondence between characters, and it proved to be a wrong way, my mind resisted to it actively. Every time when you see the letter 'w' you don't analyse it in the way that it consists of two "v", you take it as a whole, similar tho the way you recognise your friend instead of thinking that his hair is this color, his nose is that shape, etc. At maximum you need to distinguish radicals, which was tought by Chinese scholars from anciant time. 


I might need to improve my English in the same way, too. Although I already determined French as my next goal.

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However, I decided to concentrate on the individual sections of the List, this is more effective. So, instead of inserting examples of the word use first for the entire rest of HSK (1-3), then for the whole HSK4, and after that for HSK5 and HSK6, using other more serious texts this time as a basis, I will cover the entire spectrum of HSK (1-6), basing on the same original simple texts, these children's stories. The system of marking the text will be less sophisticated, see pic. Here very simple words are in characters, more complicated HSK words are shown with only one character, the supporting character, the rest of the word being in transcription. The words beyond HSK are in transcription only. Also colors are used. In black and red (for more complicated HSK words that come with only one character) is the original text of the story, in blue and dark red - the inserts to give examples of the use for the HSK words, which didn't occure in the sory. 


First of all, I'm going to do that for the Part3 of the List, from which it begins. It's exactly a half of the LIst, 2,500 words.  It'll be in three portions of the stories. In the first portion, 8-10 stories, I'll take only eight radicals of the total 27 ones of the Part 3 - 米, 刂, 八, 人 (入), 阝(on the left), 力, 山 (in this part radicals come according to the number of the strokes with the exeption for the first radical, which is 米, so happened). They cover more than 1,000 words of the List. There will be a version of these stories for all HSK(1-4) words, another version for HSK5 in addition and a seperate version for HSK6 added. The only difficulty will be, as I expect, that inserting additional sentences for HSK5 and 6, in particular, will require to use junctions in my native language, otherwise it'll not be possible to find proper examples to insert them in the context. Of course, it can be done in English and any other language, the junctions will be whole centences or relatively completed parts of them. If that all proves to be succesful, I'll go further. I think, even if I manage to learn in this way only the Part 3 of the list, 2,500 words, it'll give new opportunities in further learning and reading anyway. We'll see. 


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So if I understand your flashcard format correctly, you take a story and transcribe the words in it depending on whether you're at the appropriate stage of learning, with stage of learning determined by what radicals you've been exposed to so far?


It also wasn't clear to me, are you using radicals, as in Section Headings of the Shuowen Jiezi, or just components, when you use the term "radical"?

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On 10/7/2021 at 3:32 AM, NinKenDo said:

So if I understand your flashcard format correctly, you take a story and transcribe the words in it depending on whether you're at the appropriate stage of learning, with stage of learning determined by what radicals you've been exposed to so far?


It also wasn't clear to me, are you using radicals, as in Section Headings of the Shuowen Jiezi, or just components, when you use the term "radical"?

I think it's better merely to upload the List in its current state to show what it is like, find it enclosed, please.

What I'm trying to do.

 I took simple language kids stories, composed from the Ist person, and learnt them so that I could translate each sentence or comparatively completed parts of them from my native language to Mandarin. It's important not to overload the fleshcards with unnecessary information at this stage, so they contain only very common characters, the rest being in transcription. The first principal goal is to be able to say that in Chinese. 


I concentrate only on a particular section of the list, now it's approximately the first 1,000 words of the eight radicals, listed above. 


Of course, first of all I should learn more frequent words, so I target HSK(1-4) firstly. If a word doesn't occure in the stories, I find such example of its use, which can be inserted in the context of one of the stories I use. The target word is shown on the fleshcard with the supporting character and transcription for its other part.


When a card is learnt to reproduce it orally, I rewrite it so that the target word is written in characters completely, while other HSK words in the phrase are shown with their supporting characters, the rest of them being in transcription. The words that are beyond HSK are always in transcription only. The fleshcard is marked to be learnt also for typing. 


When a card is learnt to be orally reproduced and typed, it's to be learnt in handwriting, exept the words beyond HSK. 


After all HSK(1-4) words are learnt in the section in this way, new centences are inserted to cover HSK5 words, then the same for HSK6. In the last two cases I may have to use many "junctions" in my language to fit new centences to the basic stories.


So, the section of the first 1,000 words will be learnt for all HSK levels, 1-6. Further I'll do all the same with the next portion of the List, and it will be easier, because some words in it are learnt already at the previous stage. 


I think, I should memorize in this way the words of the total Part 3 coming in the beginning of the list, 2,500 of them. They are of 27 "not so rare radicals". The other part of the list might be learnt differently.



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It looks like it's better to type the phrases from the very beginning. I was wrong when I argued that at the first level of memorization of flashcards, they should be reproduced only orally. Formation in the mind of a certain visual image of the words, as they are written, will facilitate memorization of their sounding, too.


But at the same time, rewriting the fleshcards in three steps was a good idea: first, only the most frequently used words in characters, as well as the supporting character for the target word, the rest in transcription, then the target word is fully written, and the supporting characters are shown for other HSK words, and finally, everything is in characters with the exception of words outside HSK. So, even at the first step, we try to type the entire card, despite the fact that on the back, almost everything is in transcription. If we need to check what we typed we look up somewhere else then at that step.

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One more option: looking at the special radical-oriented text, in which more complex HSK words are shown with only the supporting character, the rest being in transcription,

(1) to type the entire text,

(2) to rewrite the text by hand, writing more complex HSK words,  marked in red, completely.

The words beyond HSK are underlined, they may be learnt in writing  later.



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By the way, I also use some of the tools, developed earlier. That work was not in vain. For  example, sometimes there are words that for some reason are difficult to remember. So, I couldn't memorize the word 遮住 in any way despite the fact that I inserted a corresponding example sentence in the basic text, "突然 云彩 遮住了 太阳, 下起了 雨,可巧 我 带了 伞。" Then I turned to my old table of "macro-characters" and made this card consisting of two pages. On each of them a character constituting the word is in black, sitting exactly as it sits in the macrocharacter in the Excel table. In the bottom right corner the so-called "anchor character" is shown in red with a figure indicating the proper tone for the 遮 . The anchor  character, representing the entire sillable 'zhe' of any tone, has itself the second tone as it's known. On the accompaning sheet of the table this character bears the name 'to shield'. The other character in this word comes as 'to live somewhere' . So, on the backside of the double page fleshcard (the face side in fact, because the card is to be learnt from one's language to Mandarin first of all) it's written 'to screen - to overshadow with accommodation'. And I memorized the word very quickly after going through the card a couple of times.




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@imron I'm about to finish the first level of the one-file text  to learn the first ten radicals section of the HSK(1-6) wordlist, the level is for HSK(1-4). At the next level I was going to insert phrases for HSK5, and then for HSK6 for the same ten radicals. Each of the three levels would be marked with the colour of the text. Then we'd have one-file text to learn 1/4th of the total list, about 1250 words of all HSK grades, 1-6, for the ten radicals with their "supporting characters". I believe, learning words in such cross-list direction regardless the HSK grade would inhance greatly human's ability to remember the words and, in particular, much quicker recollect them while speaking thanks to the new type of links in his mind, arranging the words according to their supporting characters and radicals.


Unfortunately, the macros function in MsWord became disabled, and I cannot put it in operation according to the Microsoft instructions at their cite. Without it I cannot type tone marks in mupin, which I use instead of pinyin. Can anyone help with it?

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By the way, it will be possible to use the text even for those who aren't familiar with Cyrillic letters, because I'm composing it in such a way, that one can look up the words in the list to see it's translation in English  by copying&pasting the words' partial transcription like   阳гуа̄нъ, чджэ̊нъ齐, etc., as well as transcription in mupin for the words beyond HSK, which I'm adding in the end of the list. The dictionary woudn't be needed at all. There will be pinyin for all the words in the list, both HSK and beyond it.

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Some may doubt that it's possible to combine example phrases to have a coherent text. Please, see,  how it looks like. 


大学是高等教育的生产资料. 今天是星期五,爸爸和我一起陪哥哥参观他的大学。爸爸在一家公司工作。他是一名合格的员工。他最近工作压力很大。这个公司的领导被大家尊重。There  was history with him, but he is a good man. 他看到自己的妻子和一个男人跳舞,嫉妒得发狂。爸爸现在是公司一个分部的经理。This is a publishing company. 他们修改词典.这家公司经过数十年的努力,终于缔造了一个国际知名品牌.
十分钟后哥哥出现。实际上他是一个严肃的人。哥哥比我个子高。他真是名副其实的“活字典”。可是,爸爸很关心哥哥的学习。他十五岁的时候就毅然放弃学业参加了军队。But then he changed his mind. 我们有共同利益。
哥哥今年刚刚考上这所大学,这次考试很简单。它的名字叫“中山大学”。It is located in Guangdong province, not in the capital. 北京真不愧是中国的首都。大学举办新生晚会.


Here only the sentences "今天是星期五,爸爸和我一起陪哥哥参观他的大学" , "哥哥今年刚刚考上这所大学" and "它的名字叫“中山大学” are from the original text.


In this piece of the text about 50 HSK more or less complicated words are introduced, including 26 such words of the ten radicals of the beginning of the radical organized list, the latter up to the HSK4 grade only so far (HSK5 and 6 are to be added).


The grammar is very simple regardless the complexity of the words, it's the principle. This text is not for learning the language as to its grammar, it's to learn the HSK words as quickly as possible. The learner will master the grammar later by reading much - reading without stumbling on every new unfamiliar word.

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On 10/19/2021 at 12:48 AM, imron said:

Hi Pall unfortunately this is not something I can help with.

Thank you for your reply! I have reinstalled the MsOffice, and now it's OK with the Word. I just cannot type the transcription in the Excel table, in which macros function is different, so I have to copy it.

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I finally decided how the tekst will be organized. Here's an example. So, firstly I'm to learn all HSK(1-6) words of the ten radicals in the beginning of the list, it is 1/4th of all the HSK words. It'll be done at tree stages: HSK(1-4), HSK5 and HSK6. HSK(1-4) level will be covered with ten stories plus inserted sentences in blue, see pic. All words relating to the ten radicals section will be marked in red, they are in semi-character-semi-transcription view in mupin. They appear in this view only once, at their first occurence, later they  will be in characters. All other HSK words, having supporting characters of another radicals (coming in the list further) will be marked in orange and have semi-character-semi-transcription view, but in pinyin, and they will appear in the same view in the materials of this section (for ten first radicals). In the materials for next sections they will become targeted words and therefore will be marked in red, and after first occurence  appear in characters only.


In blue are inserted sentences to cover the rest of the HSK(1-4) words, which don't occure in the basic text. Later in green will be inserted phrases for the rest of HSK5 and then, in violete, HSK6 (and more basic stories will be, of course). In these sentences all words of the first ten radicals, representing lower HSK levels, will be in characters.


In characters from the very beginning are shown: (1) very frequently used words of HSK 1-3 (but not all of them, only some dozens), (2) all one-character words regardless their HSK level, (3) all words of the Part 4 of the list, of "Very Rare and Unique Radiclas". Those words are considered not having "supporting characters" even if there can be several words with the same character in their compostion. The number of supporting characters is limited for convenience, they can be only of one of 42 more frequent radicals and constutite parts 3, 2 and 1, coming in this sequence. 


Words that are beyond HSK appear in transcription only, pinyin.


All words presented in semi-character-semi-transcription view and only transcription view can be found in the Excel list by coping-pasting-searching, where will be their view in characters, pinyin and translation.


After the first  1/4th of the HSK words, first ten radicals, are learnt, I'll do the same with the next portion of 1/4th, i.e. to cover the whole Part 3, 50% of all HSK words.


So, it'll be gradual introduction of HSK words according, first, their place in the table because of their radicals, second, according their HSK level, third, from semi-character-semi-transcription view to complete character view.



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I do believe, that memorizing words firstly as to their sounding only, i.e. transcription, and then in semi-character-semi-transcription view like  jīng常 , guān察 ,  昆chóng, where only supporting characters are shown, will make learning a way easier. In particular, if this approach is combined with the above described sequence of fleshcard view (from ones, in which more complicated words are in transcription only, to complete character presentation), it'll be most efficient. And all that is in correspondence with the Radical Organized Wordlist, section by section. Now I shut up and start working according to this guidence. Let's see where I'll come to in some six months or so. 

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