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Aqua's avatar

What's the best way to study and retain Chinese characters?

Asked by Aqua (2546 points ) September 27th, 2010

I’m learning how to read, write, and pronounce Chinese characters, and I’m wondering if there’s a more efficient way to learn them for long-term retention. Currently I use a mixture of the flashcard program Anki, 3×5 cards, and spending some time every day at the chalkboard practicing writing characters.

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12 Answers

weeveeship's avatar

Flash cards

Arp's avatar

When I was learning Hiragana, one of the Japanese “Alphabets”, I found it helpful to relate each symbol to a picture. I know it sounds silly, but just make up a story for what each symbol represents, and if you can make the thing it represents involve the actual sound it represents… Hard to explain, but here is an example I found on google: http://kanjipictographix.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/ogre.gif

As you can see, they took the symbol for “o” and created a cute little picture to represent “ogre”, which reminded them of what sound it makes.

It worked for me, I hope it works for you! :)

JustmeAman's avatar

Good luck there are thousands of characters and many chinese don’t know them all.

Aqua's avatar

@Arp: Yeah, I do that sometimes. Learning all the traditional radicals has been a big help with that as well. I’ve also heard of things like Remembering the Hanzi where you make a story for each character. I haven’t bought the book yet, but it’s on my to-do-someday list.

@JustmeAman: Thanks.

JustmeAman's avatar

My son lives in Japan and has for years now. I know the characters are very difficult to learn at least all of them are. There are much more than an alphabet and I hope that my saying so doesn’t discourage you from going after it. I think it is wonderful you are doing that.

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wundayatta's avatar

There was an interview with a psychologist this morning who summarized some recent research. He said the research suggests that if you study the same thing in more than one room, you will retain it better. Going over and over it in one place is not nearly as effective.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Knowing the origin of the symbol will only get you so far. For example, the symbol for mountain looks like a mountain. Fine. The numbers 1, 2, and 3 are obvious. The symbol for a person, man, looks like he is bowing. Fine. So why does the symbol for entrance look like the person symbol only facing the other way? When I first started to learn Japanese I had a book that made a story of the hiragana characters. For the “me” character (it looks like an eye with a long lash) they said “Melonie puts on make up” Sure that enabled me to remember the character but It slowed the reading down to a meaningless crawl. Like teaching a kid to read by saying the word “dog” looks like a puppy dog with a tail. Ridiculous. You need to know each character, it’s sound and its meaning without the extra junk attached or you will never get up to speed.
Use flash cards, good computer software, write to friends in the same class, look at examples. It just takes time. Don’t expect to learn it in a day.

The_Idler's avatar

Meditate on a few each night, as you go to sleep.

I was recommended by a scholar of many years.

chubbychu's avatar

From one student to another. The only real solution is practice. You can do all kinds of little tricks and cramming to boost your short term, but what it comes down to (like anything) is repetition and practice.

I have taken both, Chinese and Japanese in college, and find Chinese to be the more difficult language. Although, Japanese has hiragana, katakana, and kanji. Whereas; Chinese has all kanji (unless you learn via the BOPOMOFO system)

Arp's avatar

@Aqua Get “Remembering the Hanzi”! I used it to learn my characters, “Rembering the Kana” is what I used! It is from the same people, right? :S

Anyway, yeah, that book is very helpful, just remember to take it very slow and let the mental images sink into the character so that you will remember it next time you see it :)

jesienne's avatar

Just learn from easy to difficult.. there’s no quick way to learn a second language.Many characters are formed by two individual characters such as 日 is the sun ,月 is the moon, and 明 means bright,and 女 means daughter, 子 means son, and 好means good, etc. so you can first remember the single structure character then move to the left and right or top and base structured characters. I believe that learning a second language is not how good you are but how good you want to be.
There’s no stopping you if you TRULY want to achieve something. Good Luck!

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