Any specific order for learning the characters?

I’d like to start in advance before attending Shida next semester. Is there a listing online of the order in which the characters are being taught?

you know the numbers? pronouns?

i have been piddling with chinese characters for well over twenty years. give me an hour and i’ll completely recast your perception of 'em. they are so far up me brain that when they provide just a mere din i am thankful for the quiet.

you buy the lemonade and bring you’self a thick notebook…


Perhaps I should have mentioned that this is for the beginners class,
as in for those who don’t know the numbers and pronouns.

I have been using Rosetta Stone Mandarin software – absolutely magical in its effectiveness. As far as understanding or reading a bit, I can manage some but it might not be relevant for the class.

So, I should start with numbers and pronouns?

Can you give some details about your experience in using it? I’ve been itching to buy it for some time, but I had several concerns:
a. effective?
b. fun to use? (i.e. I’ll actually use it)
c. value for someone who’s not an absolute beginner (I can get by in simple conversations / equivalent of 1st year college Chinese)

Also Rosetta Stone seems a touch expensive!

Thanks in advance for any insights you can share.

i started back in jr.high in 81 with the defrancis red book and gubo. started out with “ox” and “I” if’n i recall. laoshir had us memorize our stroke orders: hung preceeds shu… computers?i don’t know nothin about computers cept’n they can be recycled as boat anchors. doesn’t matter where you start at, all that matters is where you are going. the simple characters combine to make complex ones.

where to start…do you know your alphabetS? english,hebrew,psalter, greek (2 or 3… should suffice, maybe a monumental and a miniscule) that’ll set you up for cyrillic (russian). stop by and have your printer hooked up. everything is related to something else. the more synapses you have on this end, the more neurons’ll be firing over there. we all learn by association. the more things you have to associate, the more quickly you’ll set the learnt associations into long term recall.

do a google for willian fradkin and the evolution of the alphabet. if you don’t UNDERSTAND one written system (ours) how can you expect to fathom another, yet more esoteric one?

WHY is “a” a and why is “A” A? once such realizations are gleaned the inherent similarities come into full light and things just get so…simple.

do a google on how napoleon’s trooper champillion cracked the rosetta stone because of ptolemy and cleopatra and antony. understanding how egyptians structured their “words” is invaluable to chinese as they are heavily redundant: determinant on one half/phonetic on the other. sir wallis budge wrote the book on hglyphs well back in the last century.

so…fradkin, champillion, greek, hebrew, psalter (which is a chinese alphabetic script), sir wallis, cleopatra, omniglot and defrancis… but it is worth it. if such is too much, don’t worry. know the hebrew/phonecian alphabet. knowledge of such is indispensable.

but, more importantly…where in taiwan is there guinness (on tap?)?

skeptic yank, dear, you’re wasting your talent on this poor thread :slight_smile:

I actually do know Hebrew and studied French and German, so I’m not too worried about learning a new language. It’s more of a combination of that and being a newbie in Taiwan. Your musing is indeed quite interesting – in a popular-science kind of way – and will be sure to look it up when the hour is not as late.
Oh, and what’s with that last question, there must be Guinness on tap…


If you can get by in simple conversation then it probably won’t be of great use to you as it is directed mainly at beginners. At least that’s for lessons 1-19, as far as I can tell. You’d probably learn something new, though.

So according to Skeptic your half way there? :laughing:

Sorry John, this may be aiming a tad low but Skeptic was on to one good point,or at least I think he was. The (can’t remember how many there are this week) radicals. Building blocks for other characters and learning to write them improves your written Chinese.


I suggest that you learn the most difficult ones first, so then “the more you study, the easier the characters will become.”

Arguably the most difficult character is the 32-stroke yu (4), which is used in hu1 yu4, which means to “urge” or “implore.”

However, I can never remember how to write the Chinese for “sneeze”, so from another perceptual standpoint that may be more difficult.

Your best bet is to buy the book ‘Reading and Writing Chinese’ and maybe ‘Fun with Chinese Characters’ and start studying the characters before you get to Shida.

The problem with the way Shida and other schools teach you characters is that they give you a list of the vocabulary words and tell you to memorise them. This doesn’t make sense.

What you need to do is learn the radicals - the building blocks of Chinese charatcers - first. You need to start from the easy characters and work up to the more dirfficult ones. This is much different from starting from easy vocabulary words. ‘Reading and Writing Chinese’ will do this for you.


[quote=“Hartzell”]Arguably the most difficult character is the 32-stroke yu (4), which is used in hu1 yu4, which means to “urge” or “implore.”

However, I can never remember how to write the Chinese for “sneeze”, so from another perceptual standpoint that may be more difficult.[/quote]How many letters have you written to lawmakers or whatever urging them to do something ? I imagine quite a few more than you would write to them about sneezing.
Different needs for different er… people.

western eurasian scripts tend to go L to R.
Eastern eurasian scripts tend to go R to L (such as with school names in Taiwan yet). Chinese is also written top down. just this little realization is of incomparable value.

We, westerners, tend to look at Chinese from a L-R layout. this bass-ackwords. for those aiming low, look high. take out a pad and pencil. write the chinese character for hope (pinyin’d as xi). got it? good. notice three primary components. they are stacked in a top down fashion. unstack them.
the top one: x.
the middle one is yod, which is also “y”.
the bottom is an upper case E.

xyE=Xi? i certanly HOPE so. would be a cute drinking game if i didn’t have 500 or so Chinese characters which were phonetic spellings. however, a good many of us don’t even know the greek forms. how are we going to make connections if we have limited exposure?

one more, just so the skeptics/sceptics have yet another reason to blow coke out their laughing nostrils. what is the chinese word for dog? yeah, there is more than one. the most common seems to be pinyin’d as gou. write the chinese character for dog de “gou”. see it is composed of two upright halves. on the L is the determinant:a stylized representation of a dog. got it? good. what the heck is on the right? hopefully, you can recognize this as the phonetic for gu/ju. now…why?

this is where the chinese teacher always said “wei qi li(my name)…ni xiang tai dou! bu yao weisheme! zhi yao zuo!”. being the cowed adolescent i never replied “you scold me because you also don’t know!”

why is the “gou” chinese phonetic sign the form it is?
eastern eurasian scripts tend R-L. you know “phonetic” but do you know Phoenician? the largest element of the “gou” phonetic is CLEARLY gamma.
in the “armpit” of gamma/gimel/old G is a “kou”. “kou” is opening and opening is “o”. gamma + O + plus a suspended diacritic u off the top of the gamma= gou.

an arguably false analogy/nmonic is better than none. symbols are whatever we say they are. we want students to ask “why” but then teachers are irritated whne they ask questions.

like i said, you bring a thick note 'n an open mind and we’ll set to some serious rectification of names, if you know what i mean.

some characters have changed a great deal overtime. others have virtually never changed over the years. one of latter is “jin” as in today (jin tian). ask any chinese person the story behind this character. hope you get an answer other than “bu zhi dao” because i never have. no cute little story, just any everyday charater little changed from its inception. hmm…i wonder why it is what it is.

write it down.
“stacked form”, top to bottom.
top elemet: side resting gamma/gimel
middle aspect: dot, the earliest vowel (ala Phonecian) here as i/iota.
bottom element: nu, the predecessor of our “n” and looking alot like a sideways lowercase n.

so: the pinyin is “jin”. breaking it down we get: gamma, iota, nu.
does the pinyin “jin” of jintian (today) roughly equate to gamma, iota, nu?

if one has but cursory knowlege of older western scripts, it gives you more to liken chinese script to. some of the similarities are down right eerie. yes,similarity does not equal causation.

497 to go.

I believe that writing Chinese characters is taught very badly. Most courses take the approach that you should learn the same characters that you use in basic conversation, hence you learn the pronouns, common prepositions, common verbs and a few nouns first. This approach leaves the student totally confused as there appears to be no logic whatsoever to the characters.

A far better approach is to learn characters separately from conversation (just use pinyin to learn conversation). Start learning the common radicals first. Fire, water, earth, woman, person, rice and so on. These are easy to write and recognise. They also form part of most other characters and give clues about the meaning. So when you start writing more complicated characters the whole thing doesn’t look so daunting as you can at least understand part of what you are writing.

I started with the 300 or so characters I learned in each of the John DeFrancis books. I then used a box of 1500 character flashcards to review these characters and learn some new ones. Then I went through the elementary school Mandarin texts, grade by grade, until I finished junior high school level texts. This took me about a year or so, and I did it on my own while living in Taiwan during my first stint. It got me literate enough to read the newspaper and some stories. I later returned to university and changed my major to Chinese lit.

I’m sure my method has its drawbacks, but it worked for me.
Good luck.

Thanks for all the great info, guys. I’ve started with the radicals using Supermemo flash cards and it’s been going great. No doubt this will help at Shida.

I did it the hard way, write every character you see hundreds of times and you will never (hopefully) forget it again. If it’s not burned into your mind, your hand will remember…