What advice or techniques have you heard, tried or been told about that you think are just not that effective?  It could be things like 'starting with pinyin first is wrong' or 'learning without a teacher' or 'only using flashcard apps' etc. 

I feel like rote memorization / mass character writing is not that effective. Handwriting & repetition are definitely important but I think a person needs to be focused on creating stories about the characters to remember them rather than just blindly writing stroke after stroke.

What do you think simply does not work for learning Chinese?

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I'm in the process of trying new methods of mass memorizing Chinese characters so this thread couldn't have come at a better time! :) I found that writing a word a day on the back of my hand solidifies the word in my mind for me. But since that's too slow, I'm aiming for 3+ a day. I'll definitely get ink poisoning by the end of it so if anyone else has a better idea... haha 

P.S. know the pinyin, the meaning, etc. about those characters you write on the back of your hand/wherever



That's wildly crazy.  Basic English, which is rally brutal, has 850 words in it; that's three years of your program.  Usefulness in a language starts somewhere in the low thousands of words, and facility is in the low tens of thousands.  

 First year Chinese at Harvard runs on a 60 characters a day schedule.



For characters, I can't recommend Skritter (www.skritter.com) enough.  On a computer, you really need to get a tablet to write the charaters, but you can also use a tablet or mobile phone.  There is an iOS app and it works (to a lesser extent) on Android using the website.  There is a subscription cost, but it's not too bad.  Using that, you can easily learn a lot more than 3 words a day without a fear of ink poisoning :)

As an added feature, you can use the colour coding for tones as mentioned on another reply so you can learn in many different ways.

I would say that this is great in addition to other learning, it is not a way to learn Chinese, just a good way to learn the characters.

In case anyone wonders, I'm not affiliated with Skritter at all, just a very happy user of the service :)

I find Skritter.com very useful.  Thank you for sharing.  Very helpful in learning stroke order.

Man, studymorechinese has just been a fantastic website for learning.  I can't thank everyone enough.

Hey Eileen - great idea! but yeah, ink poisoning is definitely a possibility. i always thought about having a few places in the home or work to put post-it notes - character on front, pinyin/english on back. then whenever i see them in the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, desk etc etc, i would have to remember it in my head. that might get you some more 'vocab' space since you only have 2 hands. Have you ever tried anything like that?

I would be interested in hearing other people's 'mass character' strategy also because I struggle with that as well. I think some of the 'spaced repetition' software could help but i personally needed to write characters by hand to have any chance at remembering them.

I will say also that i'm not convinced that volume really is the best approach though on a daily basis. For me, it was far better to really concentrate and really learn a smaller number of characters because then i could recognize & use them in real life. In the high-volume per day approach, i found myself always thinking 'yeah i remember studying a character that sort of looked like that but now 2 weeks later, i can't remember what it means'.

I think when it comes to writing, starting and learning the base radicals would be a good idea. That makes the whole writing process very easy. 

hey thomas - i completely agree. i actually made this mistake of not learning the radicals first and it was definitely not a good approach. 

did you start out learning radicals or have to go back & learn them later?

Hey Brandon, 

                     I focused on speaking and listening skills first. Then I ventured into the endless intimidating world of Chinese characters. Initially I started the writing/reading part without learning the radicals, but after reaching a certain level the I found it very hard to retain the learned characters. Later when I tried with the radicals it became very easy to remember the characters, since we can actually build up on the base radicals. 

      I think you already posted a TED video which stress the learning of radicals. Adding a little bit more work to the method she presented in that video (such as looking up the pinyin and pronunciation in Chinese esp. giving proper attention to tones) could make the learning process more easy and fun. 

Then why don´t you try with Post-its? you can add them to your cellphone, or something you are constantly watching :) 

Hope it helps you!

I had a thought about eliminating the 4 tone symbols or numbers when learning characters.  COLOR CODING in on-line and in some text books.

tone 1    RED                            tone 3  GREEN

tone 2    BLUE                          tone 4 BLACK

Any comments on this?????

Pin Yin is still necessary and the colors can be used there as well.

As a veteran or romanizations, with Yale, Wade Giles and now Pin Yin, we all need a little help.  The colors will make the text less busy.

Hi Gordon - i agree with colors as an idea. i have seen it used sometimes and it kind of helps. part of the problem might also be in not having a 'universal' color set, meaning some books may do it differently which reduces the value. it unfortunately is mostly good in sentences. if you see a big paragraph of characters all in different colors it is headache inducing.

but nonetheless, something needs to be done to help that out, you're right. i would be curious if anyone has spent a lot of time with hand motions to help master tones? like making your hands go up for 2nd tone, up&down for 3rd etc. anyone do that much?

That approach helps a lot, but, of course, you should get rid of it when you are talking to a native speaker or they´ll look at you as if you were crazy. :p

It is proven that motion helps a part of the brain to assimilate information, so if you accompany the pronunciation of the words aloud, along with the motions for the tones it´ll help you remember the words themselves and the tones as well.

Also when learning action verbs, and many other words,  acting the word as you say it can help you fix the vocabulary.

If you watch kindergarden teachers in their classes they are often singing with the children and dancing along. Many of the movements the kids are copying from the teacher correspond to the word/accion they are learning. It is called TPR approach (Total physical response)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_physical_response 

I am preety sure this can be applied to chinese learning as well, but again, it is just a technique,  just one of the many tools we can use in order to learn the language.  


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