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Chinese Characters for the 99%

Learning to read and write Chinese characters known as hanzi in Chinese, and kanji in Japanese, has to be one of the hardest things a non-native adult can do. The are around 80,000 of them in total and functional literacy requires remembering approximately 3,000.

Rote Learning Kanji

As I discovered to the detriment of my brain last year, the way everyone is taught to learn them is by rote – you’re shown how to draw the character once and then you copy it hundreds of times on grid-lined paper until you remember it. While this is ultimately effective for those who stick it out, it’s not much fun, nor informative.

Enter entrepreneur ShaoLan Hsueh, a native of Taiwan, who now lives in the UK and has been developing simple mnemonic illustrations which build on the pictographic roots of the characters to convey their meaning and aid memorisation. Starting with the simplest characters (such as tree 木, fire 火, sun 日, person 人) students can quickly begin to build many new words, characters, and phrases.

Chineasy Character Designs

As someone struggling to remain motivated in their language studies I absolutely love this, not to mention the beautifully minimal design of each character which has been created based on its definition, 
origin and history.

Chineasy Characters

After a successful Kickstarter campaign last year, a basic set of building block characters, compounds and phrases are already available on the Chineasy website and a book / app are due to be released in March this year (2014). I really can’t wait to get my hands on this and it’ll be interesting to see how some of the more complex characters are presented.

4 Responses to “Chinese Characters for the 99%”

  1. Demoi

    It’s great design but no sure if it works for adults since theoretically you need to remember more information while looking at the pictures. Also, not all Chinese characters are pictographic. Perhaps these designs can help with the very basic ones. Anyway, looking forward to this project and hope it helps you!

    Reply
  2. Dongzhe

    YEAH ,that’s true ,
    but it is also hard for us to remember these English words and phrases ~
    Trying to recite the GRE words is the most boring thing in the world ~

    Reply
  3. Derek

    I’ve worked at learning Hanzi all my life starting as a kid attending Chinese school on the weekends (with little success). As an adult I’ve tried a variety of techniques, flash cards, computer programs. I’ve found that mnemonics is a great method for the first 100 basic level characters, but once you progress to level 3 and beyond it becomes very impractical due to the complexity of the characters and more often than not the combination of two characters doesn’t equate to the combined meaning of the words. Unfortunately, with Chinese the only way to progress is by rote, constantly copying and writing the characters over and over again.

    Reply

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