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 🙂