- January
Posted By : talkingofchinese
100 characters in 2 weeks (on a ski holiday!)

What do you do in your downtime on a ski holiday?

You could hang out in bars, get drunk, socialise with other ski bums or you could learn 100 Chinese characters (really, I am super fun at parties!)

My Chinese is elementary (a three-year-old Chinese kid could easily out talk me) and I have done what many other Chinese learners seem to do – put off learning dreaded characters for as long as possible.

I’m at the point now where I need to take off the pinyin training wheels and learn characters so I can play with the big kids.

I have tried learning characters before (the usual fail ways – trying to force them into my brain with rote memorization etc). I have read books that try and teach you how to write and memorize characters, scoured the internet and textbooks for help but struggled to remember even 20 characters.

Now, I seem to have stumbled on a combination that works for me ***disclaimer – I would like to stress I am NOT getting paid to write this, it is just what I have found works for me – end disclaimer***

Using Yoyo Chinese (which breaks down character learning into short, logical, easy to understand and remember video segments which cover just three characters per video) and reviewing what I have learned with Anki – helpfully, Yoyo Chinese provides Anki flashcards which I think is a super handy feature – I have managed to learn around 100 characters in 2 weeks.

I’m not talking intensive study here, just a few videos a day and about 10 minutes of Anki flashcard revision (so really, about half an hour a day).

I have no doubt that there are people out there who have a brain for characters/photographic memory who have been able to learn much faster but I have really struggled to get off the starting line with characters so for me this has been a pretty phenomenal.

I should also note that I am talking about learning to read characters not write them (I started out learning characters writing by hand and while I found it useful for understanding stroke order I have taken the view – which I know many other Chinese learners have taken – that my time is better spent learning to read and to just accept typing characters for now).

I know there’s heaps of info out there about cracking characters and different hacks for doing it – why I think this particular method works for me (and again, I am only sharing what works for me here) is because Yoyo Chinese presents the characters in a very accessible, logical, bite sized format.

When I combined this with the wonderful brain that is Anki’s spaced repetition software I really surprised myself with how much I was able to learn (and, more importantly, remember) in such a short space of time.

Being pleasantly surprised by how much I have learned is definitely not a feeling I have associated with learning characters before (more cursing-my-stupid-white-person-brain for-failing-to-remember-characters-that-millions-of-CHILDREN-somehow-manage-to-master type feelings).

Please feel free to leave any character learning hacks – that you think might help a struggling white girl out – in the comment section below 🙂



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  • I’m afraid I don’t have any special tricks! When I went to study in Beijing I spent the afternoons after class writing characters once and over again… at first it took me a long time before I could remember how to write one, but then after getting used to them, you start remembering them more easily.
    Learning to write by hand obviously helped me to read, but yes, it takes a lot of time.

    I haven’t used any Chinese-learning apps, as those things didn’t exist when I was a student 😛

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