So, I have been teaching myself Chinese, and I enjoy it soo much. At school I had to take a Spanish class, and honestly did not like it, but I do enjoy Chinese. I have gone through a beginner book, and about to start an intermediate book. I have not been learning the characters, but i would love to.

I feel as if I would do better to learn it from a teacher, instead of teaching myself and making it sloppy. I was thinking maybe in a few years after i am better at speaking i could begin to learn characters?? any tips on if I should or not, and why you are or are not learning them??.. also where i live i have absolutely no one to practice with, which is a big interference to learning properly.. any others with this issue...?? thanks :)

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Hey!

I'm learning at uni, and I think it's pretty important to learn the characters. I can write, but not all of them off the top of my head, but the ones I have learnt I can recognise enough to read. I think if you practice reading / writing chinese, then you get a better feel for the grammar (which is very different to english). I'm not very good at listening though, which is something I really want to fix. Like you, I don't have anyone to really practice with which is a massive interference. 

Why do you think it would be better to put off learning the characters?

Hi Lauren - 

I think that if you want to get past the basic level then you have to ultimately learn Characters.  I actually wrote a post here that talks about why specifically you should take the time to write by characters by hand.

I tried to avoid learning characters for a long time but ultimately found them to be one of the more 'fun' parts of Chinese. It's frustrating, sure, but feels kind of cool after a while. Plus it's a nice alternative to grammar/exercises as it feels like it uses a totally different part of the brain.

As far as language practice, you can find lots of partners for skype calls on italki.com & I suggest Chinesepod to improve listening.

Alison and Laurence Matthews 's " Learning Chinese Characters " published by Tuttle (2007) gives you everything you need ( but I do skip many of the corny "to help in remembering stories").  Claudia Ross's "Chinese Grammar" is also good but concentrates on whole sentences.  It is a Schaum's Outline book and does not care about strokes ( which in the current days of electronic dictionaries and "cut and paste " word processors makes sense to me ).

If your goal is to master this language someday, you definitely want to learn characters.

But if you only want to be able to do basic talking, you can focus more on listening and speaking instead of writing and reading.

I would highly recommend learning Chinese characters.  Of course my wife MX didn't have a choice as she grew up in Shanghai but for all learners of Chinese, it adds so much to the language, so much to the experience and it teaches you perseverance.  

One question in response to your question: "Would you recommend someone learning English to NOT learn the alphabet?"  How could they possibly learn on their own?  

About learning characters on your own... I would recommend someone who grew up in China, who can still remember all their characters, to watch you or give you initial lessons. It will not only help with stroke order and proper posture but it will give you an idea on how annoying teachers can be and how to deal with it. (Grin and bear it.) 

We have tons of learning Chinese character comics at our site. Hope they make you laugh.  

http://www.mandmx.com/tag/chinese-character/

Hi!

I'm learning at a center, my teacher is very strict with characters, grammar, reading and pronuntiation. She told me that when she learned to teach chinese they told her that the student should learn every aspect of the language at the same time.
About books to practice them, my teacher give me copies of children books so i can copy the character in order to learn how to write it. I've be able to memorize some on them using that method. Other thing that I do to practice them is to describe scenes or conversation or anything that I can, them my teacher check it and tell me what I should improve.
About speaking and listening it's a little difficult to me since I'm only use to listen my teacher I haven't speak with someone else in chinese. And I'm the only student in my class.I'm also looking for someone to practice with. If you want you can wirte to me, it would be nice to practice pronuntiation with someone else :D

Hi Lauren.

Characters are very important part of Chinese language. They are difficult to remember too, even for some native speakers. But it worth your effort, just like the effort I try to remember the spelling of the English words. We can not avoid this difficult part of language learning, can we? ;-)

I have been developing some youtube videos about learning characters, which include the reading, writing and some basic usage of those characters.  The link of my channel is : http://www.youtube.com/user/sdh929?feature=mhee

Enjoy your learning and feel free asking me questions and giving me suggestions. 

hello , Lauren .  I'm a native Chinese speaker . there are many overseas students in our school who can speak and listen to Chinese well , but they can not read or  write the Chinese characters . however , one can not grasp the essence of Chinese unless he knows the characters . I mean  , there's no doubt that you should learn the Chinese characters . Chinese characters is the  cultural treasure of Chinese nation for thousands of years . In fact, to learn more Chinese characters, you can  understand the meaning or  allusions better , that's quite good for you to read Chinese newspapers and books,also you can understand Chinese people better . meanwhile , there's really lots of fun to learn Chinese though it may be difficult for you to learn it . Dictionaryis the best textbook , you can get a Chinese Dictionary or an English-Chinese Dictionary first . Also , The New Practical Chinese Reader (with tapes ) is very popular to people who are learning chinese . at last , communicate with Chinese people as much as you can .

Hi Lauren,

I think that learning characters is very important. I have been learning Chinese (simplified) characters for many years and I enjoy reading Chinese books and newspapers and practising writing. I get a lot of satisfaction from this. I lived in China for a few years and getting about and ordering food was much easier because I could recognize a few characters. When people couldn’t understand my speech I could write a small note and be understood.

I found that reading was always hampered by the long time it took to search for each unknown character, so I wrote a book to speed up the search time. I hope plugs are allowed. It is available on Amazon / Barnes & Noble - Chinese by Numbers 

Hey Lauren,

There's lots of discussion here and I didn't go through and read it all.  Finding the time to practice the characters is really tough - at least for me.  I tried learning characters/words individually about a year ago and I found that it just didn't work for me.  So I decided to start keeping a written journal of my daily life - just activities I did, places I went, etc. - nothing "deep."  It has definitely worked for me. I think writing the characters in context and practicing the words that are important in my daily life has made learning 汉字 a lot easier and more meaningful. 

Also, I don't know what kind of phone you have, but I've been doing pretty well practicing on my iPhone just because it's convenient.  I use the trainchinesewriter app.  I dropped the $10 to upgrade and get all the characters and I've made my own packs.  The game is really fun too.  The new Skritter app is the best, but clocks in at about $10 a month - I think it could be worth it though.  I also try to text on the WeChat app using the character recognition pad.  I think it's almost as fast as typing. 

Hope this is helpful!

I have recently started learning to read Chinese using a site I got recommended here on study more chinese - memrise.com It's has surpassed all my expectations, it's free, and I have learnt or at least begun to get familiar with 700 characters - in maybee a month! give it a try

Yes. Learn to read and write Chinese. You will really enjoy it. And it will be a challenge, but a FUN one.! 

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