How to Learn Characters Effectively

Are Chinese Characters really difficult to write?  We give you 4 tips to make learning Characters not only effective, but also more fun.


Tip 1 Memorize the most common used radicals

Radical is the logic in characters. It partly explains why a character is as it is. Even if you don’t recognize a character, if you know radical, you can already think what it might be. For example, let’s use 氵as an example. 氵is the radical for water. Almost all characters that have something to do with water share this radical.  Here are 8 most common radicals. Learn them and memorize them:


radical meaning examples
亻     people     你 (you),仆 (servant) , 休 (to rest)
氵     water        江(river),海(see),汗(sweat)
艹     grass       草(grass),苹(apple),  芹(celery)
宀     roof           安(peace),宝(treasure),家(home)
扌     hand        打(to hit),挖 (to dig),护(to protect)
口     mouth      喝(to drink),吃(to eat),叫(to ask)
土     soil           地(ground),坚(firm),坐(to sit)
灬     fire            煮(to boil),点(to set a fire),热(hot)


Tip 2 Make a story out of a character:

One very effective way of remembering characters is to make a story. Consider characters as these: 家 安 宝. All three have the radical of roof (宀).  What are the stories of them?


家 (house) = 宀 + 豕

豕 is word for pig. A house/home is a pig under the roof. From this, it is clear that in ancient China, raising pigs was very common and important for a household. Pigs were indispensable for a household.


安 (peace) = 宀 + 女

We know 女 is for a woman. What is peace and how to achieve peace? When a man settles two most important things in his life: having his own house (宀) and finding his wife (女), can he be at peace.


宝 (treasure)= 宀 + 玉

玉 is jade, representing precious things. 宝 means the hidden treasures in a family.


Tip 3 Group related Characters together

Many Chinese Characters are related to one another. In this case, group them and learn them together. Some of them are as simple as these:

木(mù):  a tree              林(lín): bush (two trees together)                   森(sēn) : forest (three trees together)


* Some more examples:

人(rén)  : a person

从(cóng): to follow (two people walking, one follows another)

众(zhòng): a group of people


火(huǒ): fire

炎(yán): hot like burn (two fires)

燚(yì): big flame (imagine the flames when there are so many fires)


口: a mouth

吕: partner, close friend (a mouth is a person; two mouths: two people together)

品: to taste (lots of mouths to try out something)


Tip 4 read from characters instead of Pinyin

This is very important: abandon Pinyin as soon as you can read Characters! Reading is important to language learning. Reading characters will make you progress much quicker! This is because that Characters is much more efficient than PinYin.  The same Pinyin could have very different meanings, but not the characters. When you read characters, you understand quicker, as you don’t need to think for which meaning the Pinyin is used here.


Finally, practice! Practice makes perfect. This golden rule always applies. Reserve 15 minutes everyday to practice Characters and very soon you will see the result!


Good luck!


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