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Learning Chinese is a lot about memorization and repetition. This actually seems to be a central component of Chinese culture. In the past, scholars would memorize the Confucian classics, actually memorize entire books. Students of calligraphy would write characters thousands of times, and the repetition is not just limited to language learning. In Chinese martial arts, students practice patterns of movements thousands of times, until movements seamlessly flow into each other.
So what does this mean for the student of Chinese? Unfortunately for you, it means you have to memorize thousands of characters. But don't worry, it may not be as hard as it sounds.
For me using flashcards to memorize characters has been the best method. I use a program called iFlash on the mac, and if you are on PC there is a flashcard program called Cue Card and also several other options. These programs let you create a set of flashcards yourself. So I simply copied the vocabulary from every chapter of my Chinese textbooks into the program.
iFlash lets you create triple sided flashcards (physically impossible in real life, I know), so I use one side for characters, one side for pinyin and one side for English. Then there are two methods of studying, one is you look at the characters, say the pinyin, check it and then say the English and check it. The other method is you look at the English, write the character down on a piece of paper and then check it.
You can then tick a box to say you know that word, and the program will take it out of the set, so the set gradually gets smaller each time you study, until you know all the words. You can also tell the computer to bring back cards you have marked as "known" at a time of your choosing in the future.
This method worked so well for me, sometimes I even felt that I was cheating!! Even on the train to go do my final exams, I had my iPhone out testing myself on flashcards on the iFlash mobile app.
Disclaimer: I don't work for either of these companies, and they have not paid me to advertize them.
If you know other good flashcard programs, please share.
Ben's YouTube Channel for learning Chinese:
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