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5 Power tips on Mastering Chinese characters (part 1)

Written by Sweta Tagliabue, Marketing Executive at China Unbound

Have you always thought that learning Chinese is way too complicated for you to even try?

Have you always thought that the written language is just impossible to master because of the complexity of Chinese characters?

We are going to demystify some myths on Chinese characters and you’ll see that learning Chinese characters is not only possible but also enjoyable. In fact, if on the one hand it’s true that about 3,000 to 4,000 characters is needed in order to understand a standard Chinese Newspaper[1], did you know that just 250 characters is needed to understand daily conversations?

Over the next few weeks, we will share FIVE POWER TIPS to show you how to learn Chinese characters with less effort! Here is first one…

Power tip #1: Learn the most frequently used characters first!

In daily life, just knowing the top 250 characters will enable you to understand 57% to 65% of the Chinese words used[1].

What’s more, guess how much would you understand if you know the top 500 characters? A whooping 72 to 79%!

If you understand the top 1000 characters, you will understand 86% – 91% of the Chinese language.

So understanding (at least the majority) of the Chinese characters is achievable with a MUCH smaller set of characters we may think, all you need to do is focus on these words first, and understand the basics of Chinese characters and how they work.

[1] This section draws the information from the article Learning the most commonly used Chinese Characters and, in particular, from the analysis performed by Jun Da.

Power tip #2: Recognise the 4 basic character structures

  • Singular characters: made up of one single ‘component’ → 二, 六, 言, 目, 因
  • Left and right characters: made up of a left and right part → 什, 她, 冰
  • Top and bottom characters: made up of a top and a bottom part → 花, 家,学
  • Outside and inside characters: made up of an inside and an outside part → 回, 国, 园

Hope you find this useful. Stay tuned over the next few weeks to find out what the other POWER TIPS are!

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