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How to remember Chinese Characters

Hi there! I just started learning Chinese a few weeks ago and was having a lot of trouble remembering what characters went with what word. I came up with this helpful trick to make it easier: Try to find an image that matches the look of the character. For example for the Chinese word for doctor the characters look like this: 医生. I remember that these characters are doctor because the second one, to me, looks like a person's ribs. In my mind, I remember that the ribs go with doctor. Just think of a picture the character could represent and that will help you remember the word. Sometimes you'll need to get creative, but the more you do it the easier it is to come up with pictures.

Another way to use this strategy is to think of opposites. For example, the character for zero is this: 零. Since this character is one of the most complicated ones I remember that the one with lot's of lines is zero. The counterintuitiveness helps me to keep this one strait. Of course, these strategies won't work for all the characters, and you will just need to remember some the old fashioned way, but this strategy has saved me from losing a life more than once and I hope it can help you to learn Chinese!

January 27, 2019



Be careful with the first approach . You'll find 生 in other words not assosiated with medicine (e.g. 学生, 先生)


chinese characters are divided into 2 kinds of components these are sound characters and radicals. the sound character is the original character and the radical is a meaning component that you add in order to slightly change the meaning of a chinese character these are called the picto-phonetic characters and are how about 85 % of chinese characters are formed


FLASHCARDS! I've been studying Chinese for almost 7 years now and flashcards are the things that helped me the most when I started


Hi! I learn chinese for 3 years, I hope my tips will help you.

I learn characters in this way: 1) Take a character you need to remember

2) Take the notebook and make the squares like this (I prefer 1x1 cm): https://www.fineasianliving.com/images/product/full/white%20calligraphy%20paper%20with%20grid.jpg

3.1) Then write in the first square the first line of character, in the second one write first and second lines, in the third one write first, second and third lines and so on. In the end you will get the whole character.

3.2) Take the correct stroke order on this site: https://www.yellowbridge.com/chinese/dictionary.php

NOTE: Stroke order isn't so important, but it's improve your writing skills - you'll start to write fast.

4) Then make a second line and write the whole character in every square.

Why I recommend to WRITE characters and not to TYPE? Because when you write something brain memorize the stuff better (fact).

Also try to write the characters everywhere (if you wait someone and so on), it helps to keep your mind in tonus :)

After some months you will notice that you can write any characters in correct stroke order and you will memorize characters faster without writing them.

And then you can classify character by 214 radicals (部首): https://www.yellowbridge.com/chinese/radicals.php

Good luck! :)


If you get the Hello Chinese app, it has the characters lined up with Duolingo to practice writing with the correct stroke order right on your phone. Look in the menu under "add ons"


I also try to make some kind of mental association with the characters but some are so similar!!


Character that look the same is just one problem. There's characters with multiple pronouncitions and one pronoucition with multiple characters. Just get use to it.


This can work in the beginning, but you're going to run into issues with this approach very quickly as you start learning characters that look similar to an uneducated eye (i.e. 嗨/海/每). You can do the same approach but you'd have to do it at the radical level rather than the character level or the word level.

Also, 生 is used in like a hundred different words. You'd be better off trying to make your association of off the 医 character.


This is a great shortcut to help jump start your ability to remember, and I'm all in favor of Chinese language learners using whatever shortcut they need (so get inventive!) -- but I would also caution that this shouldn't be the only method you rely on. Whatever mnemonic you use, ultimately you can't get away from the tried and tested method of basic repetition by copying out the character by hand multiple times until it is muscle memory.

I'm a native Chinese speaker and writer, and even I had to use this method growing up. In fact, for the first 5 years of my schooling, rote repetition of characters would take up the majority of homework for the subject. And even then, now that I've lived in the US for several years and the only time I'm writing is when I'm typing (so I rarely write out Chinese characters by hand), I'm discovering that I'm forgetting how to write characters I used to know at an alarming rate. (It's really quite a shock and makes me feel slightly ashamed sometimes!) If I judged based purely on passive reception, I would not know how much I regressed. THAT is how important repetition and physical muscle memory is even for a native language user.




我小时候的确是从 ”一二三“ 开始的。


Creativity helps to personalize the learning for oneself, but shared concepts help with the actual links between one language and another. For the basics, I group them by themes - like body parts, for example (hand, foot, heart, eye, ear, mouth).

Once the basic concepts are in there, then I find it easier to use them in other contexts, whether they're radicals in a single character or in multiple-character terms (like the heart character used to represent emotional states or the mouth character to represent an opening in an inanimate object).


Also, There are traditional chararcter 醫生!!


Not a lot of people use Traditional Chinese any more, but it's always good to know it. I can't read Traditional Chinese. :(


Based on what I see in the comments, lots of the learners on this course are using Traditional Chinese. Note also that Duolingo fully supports answers using Traditional Chinese.


good job with the 拼音(pin-yin)


Be careful with that strategy, because 生 can mean tons of different words. While your strategy may work at first, with a smaller vocabulary, it will eventually become very confusing.


If any one is learning Chinese and wants help, just ask me, I was born in China. And just remember that Chinese characters look like that object that they repesents, like 日(sun),火 (fire),and 木(tree)。


Where can we get information on radicals and strokes?


There might be some books about it in the bookstores. I live near Clifton, and the bookstore there(I'm talking about Barnes&Noble) have books on learning Chinese. I found this website, https://www.hackingchinese.com/ try this if you what. Or, you can go on Yotube and find any channels that have to do with learning Chinese.


When learning Chinese, start with characters that only have 2 or 3 stokes, like 上(up), 大(big), 人(people). That's what us children always begin with when we first learn to read.


Chinese was my first language. Once you know 200 or so characters, there are a lot of characters that have a base (the same pinyin) and some more added strokes. Ex. the word for mom has the pinyin of ma (horse) and the added strokes of what represents females.


There's thounsands of different characters, just like there's thounsands of words in English. All you really need to do to be considered as a professional Chinese speaker is to know about 500 characters. But 200 or so is good enought for daily staff, you can always carry a dictionary with you, I carry 2(one English and one Chinese, since I need to catch up with my friends in China).


That is a tricky approach which won't work when you get more and more words. Both components have the ability to be in different words. I feel the best approach is to make flash cards of the words give you the best chance of learning to recognize the word on sight. Plus, you get the tactile learning of writing the character yourself (even if i isn't perfect), then the vocal learning of saying it out loud as you drill. And practice, practice, practice.

I have made flashcards of all the new words each time I get them. On one side I do my best to draw the character, alone. On the other side I draw the character again, and the English word and the pinyin equivalent. Numbers are hardest for me, so I mix them up and drill drill drill. Now I recognize many of the words on sight. I have also started making flash cards of the phrases and sentences, so I can start speaking in whole sentences. When I feel more comfortable with the grammar, I intend to start making up my own sentences.


Once you learn the simple characters, you can make up stories to help you remember. My 3rd grade teacher in China used this method and got the characters printed into our minds.


About 3 years ago I just started writing every day. I got the paper with the squares and I wrote lots of practice sentences and copied from books. Now I can read and write Chinese fluently. Perhaps there are still some time some characters I have to look up but this is becoming less and less common. Just like you learned English, you should read and write.


Writing every day will help a lot with reading. Apps like Skritter are pretty good, particularly at the start.

I get a sentence of the day email which I practice writing, and that helps me both to write better and also to recognise new words.


A cute little helper is the Chineasy calendar (~$8 on Amazon). Every day it has a new cartoon to explain the character and help imprint the meaning. Won't help with writing, but helps with recognition. Has about 300 characters.


repeated reading aloud

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