Learning Chinese Characters Doesn’t Have to Be So Hard (Book Review)

sun mingguo
Learning Chinese is easier to do when you have the right tools. (Image: Sun Mingguo)

Chinese characters might be the hardest aspect to learning Chinese. Trying to recognize and remember characters can cause champion language learners to throw in the towel.

I speak from my own experience. Learning characters has been like a wall I’m forever trying to knock down. Over that wall lies complete fluency. I’ve yet to get there. It’s been a task in mental endurance. I welcome any method that can ease the process.

Studying Chinese characters is an exercise in getting individual masses of strokes to form meaning in one’s mind. Learning Chinese Characters: A Revolutionary New Way to Learn and Remember the 800 Most Basic Chinese Characters, published by Tuttle, helps this process with a comprehensive method using story and image.

learning chinese characters

Learning Chinese Characters (Image: Tuttle Publishing)

This isn’t the first appearance of such a method. James Heisig set out on such a course in his series of character learning books.

There’s been a few more texts to take a similar approach since then. Chineasy is notable for its approachability but lack of comprehensiveness.

‘Learning Chinese Characters’ is an evolution in story-based character assimilation methods.

Learning Chinese Characters is an evolution of those methods. Its unique points include methods for internalizing pronunciation and tone as part of the visual image paired with the story, precisely what other texts lack. Many of the illustrations are also quite intricate. They offer up as many vivid cues as possible in hopes the characters will be retained in mind.

As for character learning methods, I don’t see any more comprehensive than this one. The only drawbacks are that the method only deals with simplified characters, and is limited to 800. Heisig’s method goes for 3,000 characters, and in both simplified and traditional volumes.

The one thing to remember with character-only methods of learning language is to not rely on them in isolation.

As much as possible find context for the characters you learn.

At the same time, work on mastering your spoken Chinese. Learning the characters will need constant support from all possible areas of stimulation from the language

It’s best to use a book like this to accompany your studies. Look up the characters you receive in text dialogues and on vocabulary lists during Chinese class, and use this as a way to cement them in memory.

I sure wish I knew about this when I was taking intensive Chinese studies.

I would have failed a lot less pop character quizzes.

Win a copy of the book “Learning Chinese Characters”!

Send an email to coolstuff [at] visiontimes.com and tell us in 25 words or less why Chinese is a great language to learn.

Watch the New 'Pitch Perfect 2' Trailer for More Rebel Wilson Antics
Try This Healthy Chinese Vegetable Dish for All Seasons