Tips on learning Chinese characters (Hanzi)

1. Set a schedule. Think of how much time per day you can dedicate to studying Chinese characters. Find the time for the review. For example, you want to study 5 Chinese characters per day. That means, you shall get enough free time for learning new characters, plus reviewing the ones you have already learned.

2. Start with learning simple Hanzi. Personally, I recommend finding the lists of characters for HSK 1,2,3,4,5,6 online and starting with the first one. Characters were organized into the groups; you do not need to worry about which characters to learn first.
If you have a textbook that you follow, you can start with learning characters from your book, one by one. Do not learn characters that are not useful to you, depending on your language level. For instance, if you just started learning, you do not need to know how to write down University names, even though they are given in dialogues you read. Learn important, most common words first. Do it in an organized way. Do not learn random characters without the context.

3. Buy or print special notebooks for learning how to write Hanzi (生字本).Some of them come with the additional lines for writing Pinyin, some do not.
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You can also find notebooks with the list of Hanzi and writing examples.
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4. Stroke order is important to know. It will help you to find a word in a Chinese dictionary. With some time you will also be able to identify the radicals in a character. Knowing radicals and stroke order are the keys to understand Chinese writing. Learn characters with the right stroke order. It will keep your thoughts organized.
Later if you forget the correct stroke order, but still can write the character fine, it will not matter. In the beginning though, learn the words properly. Make sure the left and right components of the Hanzi are symmetrical. The square pattern on the 生字本 (sheng zi ben) will help you to write properly.

If it helps, make associations (find the connections) when learning Hanzi. For example, 不 (bu) is the 4th tone and it takes you 4 strokes to write it down.十 (shi) is the 2nd tone and it has 2 strokes. 人 (ren) looks like a walking person. 力 (li) power, capability, influence…  and 刀(dao) knife, sword, blade… look similar. Probably, whoever has a sword has power too. Use your imagination, if it helps you to memorize the character.

5. Always learn Hanzi together with the Pinyin, do not forget about the tones. Tones are essential in Chinese. If you can write a character down, make sure you know its tone.

6. Practice, practice, practice. Forgetting something without a proper review is easy. Try to keep up with the number of new Hanzi you learn.

7. Look up the character in several dictionaries. Sometimes the font of the textbook is so small, that it makes it difficult to see the tiny details. Pay attention to the direction of small short strokes in words like 我, 澳大利亚, 汉语 and so on.

To put in simply: write Hanzi a lot, pay attention to the details, learn Pinyin (pronunciation and the tones), make associations, review, and write more.

P.S. I have started learning Chinese myself (self-study). I would like to share my experience with you, tell about what to do and what not to do. More posts are coming soon.


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