Memorization techniques

I have a test tomorrow in Chinese that I haven’t yet studied for. I’m going to need to memorize about 20 Chinese characters for it. I’m just curious, how do you guys learn a bunch of new characters fast? Is there a perfected cram method? I usually just write them out, over and over, but I hate doing it that way. Just wondering what works for other people. Oh, and if there’s a thread for this already, please point me to it.

I suppose trying to see something within the character that reminds you of the meaning would help. It is said that Chinese characters evolved from pictographs and that some characters like “woman” still resemble a woman (a pregnant one though).

The other thing is just to believe you can. Just believe you have a photographic memory. There was a time when I believed I could never memorize a long number, but I just decided that I had the ability and now it’s a easy as nio-pie. Believe in your ability!

I had a really good method for never forgetting anything. I’ll see if I can remember what it was …

Start Chinese-English (recognize character, give pronuciation and English meaning)
Do 3 or 4 at a time, repeated exposure quickly over and over.
Once you get them in short term memory go to the next 3 or 4.
Once you get those in short term add the previous 3 or 4 for review.
Go to the next 3 or 4.
After that add in all reviewed characters, and repeat each time you add a new group to short term. Increase review time.
Repeat for English-Chinese (give pronunciation and write it with your finger)

After you have them all in short term memory at the same time, do something recreational with Chinese. Come back to the characters after 30 mins and review again and get them back in short term.

Repeat after 2 hours and then the end of the day.

Make some flashcards (memo pads will do) and play solitaire.

Write them on the bottom of your shoe, or on a stick of gum, then if you get caught you can chew the evidence!
If your not a cheater, then use the methods posted above. :sunglasses:

Try to form multiple mental associations, which increases the number of paths your brain can use to reach a given datum. For example, the first stroke in a character is harder to get out of your pen. So try to associate that stroke with meaning and sound, like for 大 big, it’s made of 一 + 人, so you think “big one man” and then try to associate a picture or joke with it, like you’re watching a porn video, and your reaction is “that’s a big one, man”.

Then you write the character five times, repeating that, and chuckling to yourself like a moron.
Then you go to the next one.

Totally stupid, but it works. So you have the lobes of the brain, frontal, parietal, occipital, temporal, going from forehead to nape, then curling back to the temple. FPOT. That’s some f**ckin’ POT, man! F-POT.

And so on. It has always worked for me.

The more you learn what the components of characters are, and their pronunciations (using something like Harbaugh’s book, even if not etymologically accurate), the more pegs you have to hang your hats on, too. But in general, for writing, getting the first stroke or component out is the big struggle, since once you get the ball rolling, the rest often flows (especially if you have also done your rote writing practice, as you also should).

It doesn’t matter how complex the graph, there’s always a mind-in-the-gutter mnemonic. :smiley:

A method which works for me is to post all my new charachters on the fridge. Every time I go to it, I glance and review one or two charchters. Of course buy the time I’ve had my third beer, they all look the same :unamused:

On that note, I find my limited chinese is much more understandable when I’ve had a few.

yeaah true, but only someone else equally as drunk is equally as fluent, maybe its like alcohol is a secret language and only initiates who drink it can share da secrets in meaning?
… but back to da topic, I think application of characters will increase familiarity, so the more u see them, use them, think them, the easier it will be to remember them…
Right? (hic)

Draw them on your partner’s body with chocolate syrup, and then…

Tell yourself: “Everyday in every way my memory is getting better and better.”

That phrase is too long to remember.

Yeah, I think memorizing the radicals is essential…then just remember what radicals are in the character.

One way to ‘remember’ characters is to
practice writing them (in the correct line order).
Tips appreciated on memorizing and reading characters.
One student of Chinese (Mandarin) said ‘complex
characters are ‘easier’ to read / remember than simple ones.’
Search language resource one line.
They give hints (in English) for remembering phrases
in several foreign (non Engllish) languages.

I have a book called “How to Learn Any Language.” It’s a bit old, but one of the things it reminded me about was the memory peg system that someone alluded to above. I first look up the character, and see whether it has a pictograph story to go with it (many of them do not!). If it does, and you can see it then it’s easy to remember. Tell yourself a little story about the picture, and make it as goofy/sexual/exaggerated as possible. Try to hook in the sound of the word too, if you can.

If the character does not have a pictograph contained within it, then it’s up to you to make one up, following the above steps. It really works, and long after you’ve forgotten the funny story you’ve told yourself about the picture, you will still remember the meaning.


There are lots of people who have studied memory and intelligence. Kevin Trudeau, Donna Cercone, and Wil Wenger are the ones that come to mind.

There are many systems for organizing and remembering things. The Major Memory system is great for numbers.

Take a look at the Memory Olympics if you’re curious about what some people are able to do.

Generally, I think mnemonics is the common method for remembering vocabulary. There are books about it for specific languages.

For example, the german word for soon is bald. So you can remember yourself soon going bald. :slight_smile:

I like the ABC dictionary included with Wenlin. Looking at the origin of characters helps quite a bit.