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How to conquer Chinese characters

Amelia 18th March 2016

About the author :

Amelia lives in Melbourne and is studying law at university; she’s also been a model; been learning Chinese for years and has written two super articles for us. How can she find the time!?

Below I have compiled some tips from my experience over the years learning Chinese, I hope they can help you on your road to mastering the Chinese language! 

So let's begin.

1. My first tip is to understand that Chinese is a pictorial language. Radicals are the building blocks of characters. They represent certain meanings such as 氵(water), 女 (girl) and so forth.

It is a good investment to become familiar with radicals as at a later stage it will help you deduce the meanings of characters and remember how to write them. For example, when you see the female radical you can guess the word will have an association with women such as 媽 (mother). Learning this early on has helped me immensely.

2. Another useful thing to understand about Chinese is that it is a very logical language. Once you understand components of a word you can often guess the meaning. For example, fridge (冰箱) is literally ice box and computer (电脑)is electronic brain. This is wonderful as you can often guess the meaning of words as I have done many times and it makes memorisation easier.

3. If you want to master Chinese characters you'll need to work hard, and at least in my case that required a lot of repetition and rote learning. Unless you have a photographic memory you will need to write out words until you can remember them. So get writing! 

4. Following on from the previous tip, I've always found that dictation tests are a good way to test what you have learned and give you a set task of words to memorise so you can monitor your progress. You can make word lists or find some online. 

5. Another tip I have found useful is to set goals of vocabulary you want to learn each day, that way everyday you can master some new characters.

6. A great tip someone taught me is to label the things around your house and that you use often with the Chinese characters so you become familiar with common daily objects.

7. Want to master Chinese characters? Start reading, a great way to master characters is to read often. This can be novels, magazines, news or anything that sparks your interest. It's also a good method to make learning fun and interesting.

8. Reading is great, but in order to master Chinese characters you will need to write too. How about getting a pen pal? This is a great way to improve your Chinese and understanding of Chinese culture. 

9. Lastly I recommend learning pinyin, it makes typing on your phone so much quicker and efficient. Plus if you know how to say the word you don't need to know exactly how to write the character in order to write the character. Awesome! 

These are my tips after learning Chinese for more than a decade, hope they help you on your road to learning Chinese!

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