What is your strategy for learning characters?


No one’s claiming anyone can write ALL the characters just by reading. The point is that students could write a substantial number with no instruction and no warning. That would suggest that what we’d want to do is find the best balance point between memorization and extensive reading to maximize writing ability (if that’s something the student wants to develop). Extensive reading benefits more than just writing, while copying really only benefits mechanical writing skills (not even compositional ones, unless you are copying articles or something, which wouldn’t get much intensive repetition for memorizing how to write characters).


If you read Japanese, you’re also starting from a different perspective with regards to characters than someone who had no exposure to kanji. It’s like when I took Japanese, I couldn’t figure out why they insisted on giving us kana instead of the (common) kanji, since it was easy for me to recognize the meaning of the kanji in most cases. The students who had no Chinese had quite a different opinion of course.


Yeah, it is quite interesting moving over to Chinese study coming from Japanese. I certainly do feel it’s easier to learn Hanzi having experience with Kanji, but it does at times add a bit of extra confusion :slight_smile:


Interesting. I’d say reading definitely helps with my Chinese writing skills, but not at the “writing individual characters” level. Thank god for Chinese typing software. The better kinds (like Sohu) seem to know what I want to type almost before I do.


Skritter is pretty cool. I guess such tests tend to be for simplified? I need to brush up.


What media would people suggest for practice anyway?

I haven’t found much in that Chinese that interests me, although admittedly I haven’t made a big effort to try.

I’m not interested in things like pop music and soap dramas. Actually I don’t watch the news or TV here in general because from what I’ve seen it looks incredibly banal. I know there are some good films out there which I haven’t got around to watching or watched when I was a beginner.
I’m more interested in things like history myself, although the language used there is probably too advanced for me

I can see why Japanese learners generally seem much more motivated.


There’s a certain author who may or may not be on forumosa, and she has a few useful guided readers. Traditional or simplified. I don’t remember seeing them for sale in Taiwan, unfortunately.

John Pasden, who used to be with ChinesePod in Shanghai, is involved with a different series of guided readers, simplified only I believe. Somewhat disappointingly, the focus seems to be on Chinese versions of famous western stories, rather than easier retellings of Chinese stories.


EDIT: I’ve also got a collection of children’s books of Chinese and Taiwanese legends / classic stories, with zhuyin beside the characters. But, um, I’m lazy, and I can’t say how useful they actually are. You can find that sort of thing at many bookstores, or at least you used to be able to, back in the days when there were many more bookstores.


It always seems silly to me that most school programs emphasize writing-by-hand-from-memory even when adults living in the target culture just never have to do that after they get out of school. It’s such an enormous time suck and that time could be better used to get more actual language into the students, and for them to recognize many more characters. It also “selects” for those who are good at memorizing (I don’t think the numbers have changed much from when I was in college – we went in with 60 1st year Chinese students and 7 graduated having stuck it out through Chinese 4.) Those just aren’t acceptable numbers.