How should I learn characters?

Updated: Mar 27, 2018 Print
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Now you make your decision. Writing characters is a bit like drawing a picture. Even Chinese kids need to learn for several years before they master it. You may be wondering, “How can I do it?” Don’t worry—we have tips here!

1. Learn rules and strokes for handwriting first. Although there are thousands of characters, there are only 4 main types of Chinese characters and only 8-40 (depending on how you count) strokes used to write these characters, and the order is rule based. For example: always write from left to right, from top to bottom, and from outside to inside.

2. Learn radicals and components second. Along with strokes, radicals and components are also very helpful. For example: the radical “氵” (three drops of water) is always on the left side of a character and it usually implies the character is somehow related to water. If you learn a new character with it, you can memorize it as “the left part is three drops of water”.

3. Recognizing characters is much easier and more important than handwriting. Two reasons here:

1) Before you can write, you need to know how to read. That’s the same principle in language learning.

2) You can type characters if you can recognize them. Like this:


You only need to choose which one you want. Even Chinese people type characters more than they handwrite nowadays. This can save you a lot of time and energy.

Of course handwriting is still useful for memorizing what characters look like, so having a piece of paper and a pencil around is still a good idea. The tricky part is that you may have no idea if your characters are right or not without a Chinese teacher. This is where tools such as Skritter or HelloChinese and books such as Learning Chinese Characters come in handy.

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