Writing Chinese


I found Writing is the hardest skill set to conquered in my attempt to learn Chinese. Several factors exacerbating my progress. First,
we are all in Information Age. We keyboard rather than scribe. Chinese handwriting is simply more complex.

I’m looking for a training material for Chinese Writing. Sort of a wordlist that let you drill everyday. Have anyone ever see Wordlist for Chinese based on level of vocabulary? I would like to know where my level is right now and which group of characters I should be practising on.

Best regards

anton xie


Have you considered working through the standardized elementary school texts, levels one through six? I found that most helpful in both determining my level of competency in writing Chinese characters, and in practicing my writing.

Of course, I’ve very rusty because, as you wrote, I type everything out now.

Another classic writing text is William McNaughton’s Reading and Writing Chinese, available at most Caves Bookstore locations.

Good luck.



Useful workbooks to start out with are

Far East Chinese for Youth, especially the workbooks. I got mine at Eslite Bookstore.
You could almost use the workbooks on their own I think.

They give you the vocabulary and common word combinations with some practice texts…the best I’ve used (if you are working on your own).

Mr McNaughtons book is very helpful for getting the feel of writing chinese characters and looking up meanings and practicing the difficult ones, especially when you are starting out and again are working on your own.


[quote=“Tomas”]Another classic writing text is William McNaughton’s Reading and Writing Chinese, available at most Caves Bookstore locations.


Yes to the McNaughton book, I use it, it works.


Will take a look at that book this weekend.
Probably check the elementary books too:)




God, indeed, it’s the labour of a lifetime to master writing Chinese (unless you were lucky enough to have the opportunity to learn as a child).

The only way is to write and write and write for thousands of hours until the characters flow from the pen automatically. After many, many years of practice, I’ve found that, although sometimes I can’t picture a character clearly in my mind (to describe it to someone on the phone, for example), if I put pen to paper it will form as if by itself. My hope is that some day – perhaps in another ten or twenty years – I’ll be able to do this for every character that I need to write. (And then Altzheimer’s will set in, and the whole lot will be lost. Ah, Sisyphus, how easy a task you had in comparison!)

My favourite practice method is to sit listening to the radio and trying to write down as much as possible of what I hear. When I hear something that I find I can’t write, I look it up in a dictionary or ask a native speaker about it, and then add it to my vocabulary list. This method also helps me pick up new vocabulary and improve my grasp of sentence patterns – and is rather enjoyable, especially if the radio programs are interesting and informative.


I’m with Omni Lo on this one. Chinese characters are not that difficult. They just require lots and lots of time. If kids can learn it, why can’t adults? Kids learn it the same way; writing the same character over and over again - they are just lucky and get to do it at school. We adults have to find free time to do it.

Back in my studying days, I tried to find an hour or so every day to write the same character about 40 times (usually at teahouses). Then I’d write the next character (or set of characters) 40 times. I’d have a list of 30 or 40… when I knew all those by heart, I’d get a new list. I learned my first 600 characters or so within 3 months, probably another 2000 (?) in about a year after that. If you use that book mentioned above, it also helps you see the pattern; you have to learn quite a few before you pick up the pattern, but it does help at intermediate level and beyond.

Hope that helps someone out there…


Good idea Omni.

I think I try that too…I actually love listening to the radio. Used to love listening to pop song back in Indonesia. But don’t know why I turn my music taste to listening to Middle Eastern while I’m here:)





Sure they’re not difficult – other than that minor detail of having to spend many years of full-time study to master them … only to forget details from lack of use :shock: :laughing: :unamused:

Oh, I’ve got to stop now. Everyone in the office is looking over here, wondering why I’m laughing so much.

No, wait. I almost forgot the useful part:

The approach is available for free download.

Whew! I’m still chuckling over that. :laughing:


I find that just writing the same character 40 times, or even using flashcards is not enough. I need some good way of writing a range of different characters regularly. Any good ideas? The radio idea sounds OK. At the moment I’m translating bits out of textbooks into English, coming back later and writing them in Chinese (that way I can check my work easily), but it’s pretty boring.



Cranky, you’re such a character. :smiley:

Perhaps what you’re talking about is more the classical Chinese and associated characters? That’s something I haven’t had the time to even touch yet. Now THAT stuff is hard from what I’ve seen.
But as for standard ‘I want to read newspapers and typical modern lit’ Chinese, I still don’t think it is very difficult (it doesn’t take ‘brains’) to learn the characters, just time to practice; hell, if I can do it… :stuck_out_tongue:
(Plus you want to give some encouragement to those learning…)


Juggling knives while blindfolded and standing on a trotting horse, for example, would also fall under the category of things that don’t take brains, just time to practice. Face it: Characters are difficult – not unlearnable, but undeniably difficult. (I wasn’t talking about Classical Chinese, but that’s even harder :frowning: .)

Of course. Millions and millions of people can write Chinese characters. If you study long enough and hard enough, you can too. But they are difficult. :wink:

I would advise people not to worry about writing characters by hand until after getting good at inputting them through a computer.


“reading and writing chinese” is highly recommended, learned a lot out of that little book. very systematic approach, gets you into the system.


[quote=“cranky laowai”]
Juggling knives while blindfolded and standing on a trotting horse, for example, would also fall under the category of things that don’t take brains, just time to practice. Face it: Characters are difficult – not unlearnable, but undeniably difficult. (I wasn’t talking about Classical Chinese, but that’s even harder :frowning: .)

Learning Chinese characters is not that hard. Really, you need to put forth some effort. Face it : Chinese characters require work. It doesn’t come for free. Classical Chinese is not THAT hard either, it is that you will never see some of those Characters in real life and you will forget them quickly.

As for a book, “The Independant Reader” by Vivian Ling has a good word list in the appendix. I would copy it from someone, as the book is a little bit , well, bookish


Anton, follow the advise of the replies and get the elementary books. I’m not sure how kids in Taiwan learn these days, my mom says she see kids writing the characters wrong all the time, even among high school level, so I’m pretty sure the level has gone down.

When I attended elementary schools back in late 70s, 50% of our homeworks were writing basic Chinese characters, we’d write those repeatedly (at least 40 times for each word), we’d spend 2-3 hours a day outside schools doing this for 6 years, yup, from grade 1 to 6. Purpose was to perfect your writing skills, not just been able to write. 6 years of those gruelling work covered only the basic characters (I think less than 6000)

2 tips to get your skills quickers.

-Word root, get a dictionary, each word has a root, ie: fish, water, human, hand, heart, etc. In a dictionary, they go by number of strokes.

-Still have trouble finding a word? Use NJ Star, just put the pinyin and the word options pop out.

But I’d get the elementary books though, I think grade 1 to 4 will cover enough to write basic composition, again, it’s a lot of work, but can be fun though through how words are put together with a root.


I’m putting up a new version of Chinese Squabble. I haven’t prove that it will enhance writing ability, but I sure hope it will, and I can’t be more certain that it will enhance character recognition.

Vince, if you’d like to see the game in action, come to the Gameclub on sunday.

I also have the grade school book from 1 - 6 now. The only problem is, I haven’t been giving it enough time :slight_smile:




What’s NJ Star???


So you would want to spend hours and hours of your time learning to write Chinese characters by hand because…er…help me out here!!

Like juggling knives on horseback, a very few may get paid for it, but most end up with nothing more than cuts and bruises, and little outlet for their talent.

I’ve been in the Chinese game for 20 years now and NEVER have occasion to write by hand outside of filling in forms. If I write anything major in Chinese, I type it on the computer, because obviously it will have to be revised to be made acceptable, and why go through copying it all over by hand again?

I strongly vote that writing be made a separate skill for the purpose of teaching Chinese, so that those who don’t want to (which are a sizeable percentage of the beginner crop each year) can put their attention where it will be more fruitful, especially at the beginning. Those who want to write should learn at least to be able to say what they’re attempting to read and write first – common sense if you’re dealing with a modern language.

And while we’re at it – let’s knock off whomever thought up the “dictation exercise” as a pretense for a valid form of testing. So what are you testing? Aural comprehension? Ability to produce characters? Speed? The only pedagogical advantage is the ease of grading for the teacher, and the smugness to be found in the staff room: “Those foreigners just don’t study enough.” ('Course the Spanish teachers in the US used to say pretty much the same thing, but without the word ‘foreigners’…)



What’s NJ Star???[/quote]

Well, go to this page


You can download trial version and use it for a while, since I don’t use a lot, if they don’t let me use it again, I just uninstall the software and reinstall into my computer. The advantage, instead of flipping through dictionary, just enter pinyin (there’re other methods but this is the quickest) on the work sheet and copy/paste characters into any BBS.


[quote=“ironlady”]So you would want to spend hours and hours of your time learning to write Chinese characters by hand because…er…help me out here!!

Unfortunately for many people, the only way they can learn or memorize things is through repetition, alot of times written repetition. I totally envy those who either have photographic memory or an affinity for languages, they just baffle me! :?

I am on my 15th lesson of my Manadarin pinyin class now, it’s only 2.5h on saturday mornings… but I currently spend about 3h x 3days per week(need to also work, sleep, exercise, read msg boards etc) just constantly writing chinese characters over and over and over and over and over again in order for me to pound these words into my head so that the next time I read a sign, or watch tv or see a newpaper I can give myself a chance to decipher its meaning.

The same was for me when i took my French classes in late elementary and throughout high school. I would spend hours each week repetitively writing out new vocabulary or conjugating my verbs. Yes my hand would cramp up alot and yes I wish I don’t have to do it, but alas this is the only way that i could learn the stuff. :unamused: