Learning to Read Chinese Characters – Another Resource

This weekend, browsing in Barnes and Noble, I ran across Traditional Chinese Characters: Learn & Remember 2,193 Character Meanings by Alan Hoenig. There’s a simplified version as well. In both cases, the introduction acknowledges a debt to Heisig’s Learning the Kanji, and the debt is pretty profound. That means if you like Heisig’s approach, these make for excellent books. The thing I like about Hoenig is that he feels a little more streamlined than Heisig. You spend less time memorizing stories and the focus is more on how the elements of the character fit together. If you want to start knocking off characters for reading recognition quickly, this is great as long as you start putting it to use before you start forgetting the associations (as they aren’t as strong as Heisig’s, but also might not take as long to assimilate).

One really nice thing about these books, a production of EZChinesey.com, is that you can find out if they’re right for you before you buy. Go to the website and you can download a PDF of the pages covering the first 100 characters or so. If you find it working for you, buy the book from Amazon. If you don’t, all you’ve invested is a little of your time. I ordered my copy today.

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About G Barto

I've been learning languages more than 20 years and teaching them for at least 15. Here I share the joys and frustrations of teaching yourself new languages.
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4 Responses to Learning to Read Chinese Characters – Another Resource

  1. Yeah I’ve heard about this method, seems to be pretty new, there’s no reviews yet on Amazon. I wonder how well that method would work with learning to read Arabic?

    • G Barto says:

      Good question. While the Arabic writing system is also bound to give Westerners trouble, it works very differently from Chinese. It’s essentially a syllabary for words in a tri-consonantal root system (k-t-b = write so kitaab is book, kutub is books, maktable is desk, etc). As a result, the things you need to keep straight are different. And while the Arabic characters ultimately go back to pictographs, because they are in cursive, it’s a lot harder to see where they came from.

  2. We have recently created a new website (“The Language Gulper”) about ancient and modern world languages including for each of them an overview, sections on phonology, morphology, syntax, and a basic vocabulary for interlanguage comparisons. Besides, it has information about writing systems, a summary of key literary works, and especially designed maps.
    If you think it is interesting, perhaps you could add it to your list of resources.
    Thank you

  3. Mike says:

    I will be downloading the first 100 pages of this book to see how I like it! Thanks. Has some mixed reviews on Amazon, but it seems like for something like learning languages, not everyone is the same. Although, the company I’m studying with BRIC Language Systems, suggests becoming more comfortable with speaking and listening before focusing on literacy.

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