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What Is the Easiest Method to Memorize Chinese Characters?

Discussion in 'China Forum' started by NShinkin, Feb 13, 2017.

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  1. NShinkin

    NShinkin 後輩

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    Can you agree that the best way to memorize Chinese characters is learning Chinese character decomposition?

    Have a look, how Chinese character decomposition makes everything simple and understandable:

    Decomposition of the Chinese character 会 huì ‘can’


    rén man

    云 yún cloud

    二 èr two

    厶 sī private


    云 二厶
     
  2. nice gaijin

    nice gaijin Resident Realist
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    I think it's a good idea to understand the base elements that make up the characters, and to some extent those meanings could inform you the meaning of the character itself (like knowing your greek, latin, and germanic roots for english words).

    But that's something that you will just internalize over time; I don't think it's in your best interest to spend too much time studying that and expect it to help you accurately identify new characters you encounter. Assuming your goal is to understand and communicate, the very best way to remember characters is to learn them IN CONTEXT, so you get used to seeing them how they are used in the real world. Study the characters/compounds a little bit, and then practice reading and writing simple sentences using what you just learned. Practice a little bit every day right before you go to bed and do a quick review during breakfast. If you study just a little bit at a time, you can slowly absorb the language without having to set aside huge chunks of time to study.
     
  3. NShinkin

    NShinkin 後輩

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    Thank you for the detailed answer. Students better memorize Chinese characters writing when they understand their structural composition.

    Decomposition example of the Chinese character 百 bǎi ‘hundred’:

    一 yī one

    白 bái white

    丿 piě slash

    日 rì sun

    冂 jiōng down box

    二 èr two

    百 bǎi ‘hundred’

    一白丿日冂二
    Now this character looks more understandable, doesn't it?
     
  4. nice gaijin

    nice gaijin Resident Realist
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  5. nice gaijin

    nice gaijin Resident Realist
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  6. NShinkin

    NShinkin 後輩

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    Right you are. Nobody breaks the characters down. It is done by Chinese language teachers in the classroom for educational purpose. When teacher explains a new Chinese character structural analysis is very useful.

    See, how easy to memorize Chinese character 田 tián ‘field’ after structural analysis:

    口 kǒu ‘mouth’,

    冂 jiōng ‘down box’,

    一 yī ‘one’,

    十 shí ‘ten’,

    一 yī ‘one’,

    丨 gǔn ‘line’

    口冂一十一丨
     
  7. Majestic

    Majestic 先輩

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    I have to second NiceGaijin's post above. The method, or the proposed analysis you have submitted for three very simple kanji, looks fantastically complicated and counter-intuitive to some Japanese writing conventions.
     
  8. musicisgood

    musicisgood Sempai
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  9. NShinkin

    NShinkin 後輩

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    The Chinese character decomposition is not as difficult as it might seem. The major obstacle that the Chinese language learners come across is the lack of analytical habits, Chinese characters split practice.

    The Chinese characters decomposition is very simple, the learner has to understand the Chinese characters breakdown process and its sequence.

    Once the Chinese character is analyzed and understood it will be easily memorized and the learner will not have to spend hours writing it for memorization.

    The simplicity of the Chinese character structural analysis you can see here:

    Decomposition of the Chinese character 千 qiān ‘thousand’:

    千 qiān thousand

    丿 piě slash

    十 shí ten

    一 yī one

    丨 gǔn line

    千 丿 十 一 丨
     
  10. Majestic

    Majestic 先輩

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    Sorry - this is the 4th example you have given, and I remain unconvinced of (or confused about) basically everything you are asserting. There are rules and conventions for writing kanji characters and I assume (perhaps naively) that these are the same in Chinese and Japanese; such as top-to-bottom, left-to-right, outside-before-inside, etc.... These are very elementary rules - so maybe you are saying that once these rules are memorized, everything else becomes relatively easy? If this is the case, we are saying the same thing, but you seem to be going about it in a complicated way. In fact, learning kanji without learning the rules is, as we say, a non-starter.
    But once the ground rules are learned, I'm not sure any further structural analysis is necessary. Also, something as simple as a three-stroke kanji like 千 doesn't require hours of writing or memorization. Furthermore, anyone who might need hours of writing just to memorize 千 will not find the going any easier by the method you propose. At least, I don't think they will. If 千 is so bewildering that someone needs hours to understand it, I don't see any shortcuts that might help that learner.
    However, if your method works for you, you have all the ammunition you need. You do not need any further back up or endorsement.
     
  11. NShinkin

    NShinkin 後輩

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    Right you are: elementary writing rules are the basics of the Chinese character calligraphy. And they essentially support the Chinese character decomposition method.

    When we analyze something we better understand and quickly memorize it. The same is with the learning Chinese characters. When we see and understand what radicals and components the character consists of, our mind does not resist to absorbing this information. We easily learn what we understand. If we do not understand the structure of a character, then we need to spend hours and days writing and writing this character.

    Let us have a look at the decomposition the Chinese character 我 wǒ ‘I’ :

    丿 piě slash,

    找 zhǎo look for,

    扌 shǒu hand,

    一 yī one,

    亅 jué hook,

    戈 gē spear,

    弋 yì shoot,

    一 yī one,

    丿 piě slash,

    丶 zhǔ dot,

    我 wǒ ‘I’ : 丿找扌一亅戈弋一丿丶

    Now the character 我 wǒ ‘I’ looks more familiar to us, doesn’t it?
     
  12. nice gaijin

    nice gaijin Resident Realist
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    what? This is insanity, you are listing more radicals than there are strokes.
     
  13. NShinkin

    NShinkin 後輩

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    Decomposition of the Chinese Characters. What is It?

    Different Chinese language teachers name decomposition of the Chinese characters in different ways. The synonymic names are: Structural analysis of the Chinese characters, Breakdown of the Chinese characters, etc.

    The essence of these terms is the same: analysis. The Chinese language is a very analytical language and the Chinese characters are learned and memorized only by means of analysis. Try to analyze the Chinese character 什 shén ‘what’ and you will see how simple it is for memorizing!

    Decomposition of the Chinese character 什 shén ‘what’

    亻 rén man

    十 shí ten

    一 yī one

    丨 gǔn line

    亻十一丨

    Quite nice and comfortably perceived structural analysis of the Chinese character 什 shén ‘what’, isn't it?
     
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  14. Majestic

    Majestic 先輩

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    Is this some kind of Turing test?
     
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  15. NShinkin

    NShinkin 後輩

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    I am a teacher and I used to explain my students everything they want to know regarding Chinese character decomposition. Chinese character decomposition really helps Chinese language learners to achieve the highest academic scores. Proven with my many years experience in the classroom!
     
  16. NShinkin

    NShinkin 後輩

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    Decomposition of the Chinese Character 里 lǐ ‘inside’

    曰 yuē say

    冂 jiōng down box

    二 èr two

    土 tǔ earth

    十 shí ten

    一 yī one

    丨 gǔn line

    一 yī one

    曰冂二土十一丨一
     
  17. madphysicist

    madphysicist 先輩

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    Wow you make it so easy.

    Please would you be so kind as to decompose this Chinese character for me?

    File:Nàng.svg - Wikipedia
     
  18. NShinkin

    NShinkin 後輩

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    The Chinese character decomposition is very understandable in its nature and serves for the purpose ‘make simple from complicated’.

    If we take the Chinese character 门 mén ‘gate’, consisting of 3 strokes, everyone can easily break it down to simple radicals:

    丶 zhǔ dot,

    丨 gǔn line,

    ㇆ yǐ second,

    What if we have to decompose a more complicated character, for example 齉 nàng ‘snuffle, twang, speak through one's nose’, consisting of 36 strokes?

    Nothing difficult. We keep again the main principle of the Chinese character decomposition process ‘make simple from complicated’!

    A quick review of the character 齉 nàng ‘snuffle, twang, speak through one's nose’ shows that it consists of a radical and a character:

    1. Radical - 鼻 bí ‘nose’ - 14 strokes

    2. Character - 囊 náng ‘bag, pocket’ - 22 strokes

    We have to take into consideration that the Chinese radical鼻 bí ‘nose’ includes one rare component - 畁 bì ‘give, allow’.

    The Chinese character 囊 náng ‘bag, pocket’ also includes one rare component - 吅 xuān ‘sue, argue’.

    Having done such structural analysis of the Chinese character 齉 nàng ‘snuffle, twang, speak through one's nose’, the rest we have to do is to decompose each component into simple Chinese radicals and components. I repeat not into strokes but into the Chinese radicals and components.

    Thus, the overall decomposition of the Chinese character 齉 nàng ‘snuffle, twang, speak through one's nose’ looks like the following:

    齉 nàng ‘snuffle, twang, speak through one's nose’,

    鼻 bí nose,

    自 zì self,

    丿 piě slash,

    目 mù eye,

    冂 jiōng down box,

    三 sān three,

    一 yī one,

    二 èr two,

    畁bì give, allow,

    由tián field,

    囗 wéi enclosure,

    冂 jiōng down box,

    十 shí ten,

    一 yī one,

    丨 gǔn line,

    一 yī one,

    兀 yóu lame,

    一 yī one,

    儿 ér boy,

    丿 piě slash,

    乚 yǐ second,

    囊 náng bag, pocket,

    一 yī one,

    中 zhōng centre,

    口 kǒu mouth,

    冂 jiōng down box,

    一 yī one,

    丨 gǔn line,

    冖 mì cover,

    吅 xuān sue, argue,

    口 kǒu mouth,

    冂 jiōng down box,

    一 yī one,

    口 kǒu mouth,

    冂 jiōng down box,

    一 yī one,

    井 jǐng well,

    一 yī one,

    廾 gǒng two hands,

    一 yī one,

    丿 piě slash,

    丨 gǔn line,

    衣 yī clothing (reduced radical without丶 zhǔ ‘dot’),

    亠 tóu lid,

    丶 zhǔ dot,

    一 yī one,

    匚 fāng right open box,

    一 yī one,

    丿 piě slash,

    A lot of components, isn’t it? Now we understand all the components. And writing of the Chinese character 齉 nàng ‘snuffle, twang, speak through one's nose’ is not a problem for us any more: we just need to remember the sequence of the components!

    The Chinese character decomposition saves a huge amount of time learning how to write a Chinese character!
     
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  19. nice gaijin

    nice gaijin Resident Realist
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    Hey guys, check out this new invention of mine. It's so much more efficient than walking around, just look at how many more shoes it has!
    [​IMG]
     
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    • Funny Funny x 1
  20. lanthas

    lanthas  

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    Here's how I would go about it:

    目 = eye (character looks like what it represents)
    自 = 目 + speck (why worry about a speck in your friend's eye when you have a log in your own?)
    田 = field (looks like one)
    鼻 = 自 + 田 (I look out over my field on a late summer afternoon and take in the smell of hay with my nose, feeling fulfilled at what I've achieved in life. (I know it means "rice field" but have no idea what those smell like))
    井 = well (support beams around it viewed from the top)
    衣 = a person wearing a beret and striking a pose while wearing fancy clothes
    [​IMG]
    囊 = 井 + 衣 (fishing someone out of a well by making them sit on a piece of cloth tied to a long rope, much like a hammock; except that since it's being pulled upwards, it looks more like a bag)
    齉 = 鼻 + 囊 (if you wear a bag over your nose, i.e. one of those face masks, you'll indeed sound muffled)

    It's a matter of finding a minimal discriminator: the least amount of effort that lets you recognize the character while still being able to distinguish it from other, similar-looking ones. A lot of the character is left uncovered this way, but that's fine if you don't intend to handwrite.
     
  21. NShinkin

    NShinkin 後輩

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    What about these components?
    畁 bì give, allow
    一 yī one
    中 zhōng centre
    吅 xuān sue, argue
     
    • Disagree Disagree x 1
  22. lanthas

    lanthas  

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    井 and 衣 are enough for recalling the meaning of 囊, so from that point of view, the upper half of the character can be considered meaningless decoration. After all, the more of the character's unrelated component meanings you take into account, the harder it gets to come up with a mnemonic for the character as a whole. (Cloth + well = bag is already stretching things; squeezing "argue" into the equation is certainly not going to help.)

    Of course, you can only ignore the upper half of this character as long as there is no other character that uses 井 and 衣. That's why character learning resources like KanjiDamage are so useful: whenever they present a character, they also give you any similar-looking characters, so you can immediately check whether your selected component subset is sufficient.

    This lazy approach can also be extended to compound words consisting of characters that are (almost) only used in that word. For example:
    挨拶 (greet): it's sufficient to take notice of the two hands and the uncommon (in Japanese at least) 巛 component. The word is easier to remember if you interpret 巛 as "quick movement" (three arrows pointing to the left) rather than "river": one of the parties is waving their hand very enthusiastically.
    痙攣 (convulsion): 疒 + 巛 + 手 -> association with quickly moving hand sickness (Parkinson's disease).

    Basically, if you have thousands of these characters to learn and all you want to do is read (or write on a computer), you quickly end up reaching for any shortcut you can :emoji_smile:
     
  23. NShinkin

    NShinkin 後輩

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    A Friendly Principle to Memorize Chinese Characters

    Chinese characters are very simple in their essence. All one needs to understand is that the Chinese characters consist of simple radicals and meaningful components, which in their turn also consist of simple radicals.

    These simple radicals – 214 - should be learned by heart and the decomposition of each Chinese character will be understandable and plain.

    Just find a couple of minutes to analyze the decomposition of the Chinese character 晚 wǎn evening. You will like it and easily understand and enjoy it. Good luck, friends!

    Decomposition of the Chinese character 晚 wǎn ‘evening’

    免 miǎn exempt

    ⺈ dāo knife

    口 kǒu mouth

    冂 jiōng down box

    一 yī one

    儿 ér boy

    丿 piě slash

    乚 yǐ second

    日冂二 免⺈ 口冂 一儿丿乚
     
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  24. madphysicist

    madphysicist 先輩

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    @lanthas
    It was meant to be a joke for OP to ad absurdum themselves, but your method is interesting actually. And I learnt the word 痙攣.

    I've never used mnemonics - I used to just learn to recognise kanji by copying out, breaking down to radicals and flashcards. But these days I've found that learning/writing Chinese (in traditional characters) has really helped and now I can usually just look at a character once and remember how to write it. It was a kind of breakthrough for me.
     
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  25. NShinkin

    NShinkin 後輩

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    Very glad if my information is of some help for you. It is not a problem to decompose any Chinese character into radicals and composnents. You can find a good Chinese character decomposition guidance on the internet and practice the Chinese character decomposition.

    Have a look how Chninese character decomposition is simple indeed:

    Decomposition of the Chinese character 名 míng ‘name’

    夕 xī evening

    ク dāo knife

    丶 zhǔ dot

    口 kǒu mouth

    冂 jiōng down box

    一 yī one

    夕ク丶口冂 一
     
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