Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters, Vol. 1: A Revolutionary New Way to Learn and Remember the 800 Most Basic Chinese Characters
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Aimed at helping students of Chinese learn and remember Chinese characters, including the pronunciation of characters, fast and effectively, Learning Chinese Characters Volume 1 is a systematic study aid to this difficult language.
Designed specifically to ease students into the daunting process of learning Chinese characters, Learning Chinese Characters Volume 1 incorporates the key principle of visual imagery. A book for serious learners of Chinese, it can be used alongside (or after, or even before) a course in the Chinese language. Concise, clear and appealing, this practical guide is well designed and includes an easy-to-use index.
Each entry includes:
- Chinese character in Simplified and Traditional form
- Radical, Stroke order, and Stroke count
- Pronunciation in Chinese pinyin
- One or more example words
- An example Chinese sentence to illustrate the character's usage
- Amazon Sales Rank: #5294 in Books
- Published on:
- Released on:
- Original language: English
- Number of items: 1
- Dimensions: 1.02" h x 6.04" w x 8.96" l, 1.51 pounds
- Binding: Paperback
- 384 pages
About the Author
Alison Matthews is a statistician who has worked in the oil, aviation, tourism, medical and software industries.
Laurence Matthews is the author of the Kanji Fast Finder and Chinese Character Fast Finder books.
Most helpful customer reviews
221 of 227 people found the following review helpful.
The Ultimate Course in Chinese Characters!
I so wish I had had this book when starting to learn Chinese! While studying on my own, I was fascinated with Chinese characters, but I never managed to retain them. During an immersion course in Beijing, I learned to memorize Chinese characters by rote, just writing them over and over again - it worked for the 6 weeks I was there since I had classes every day and used the characters a lot. However, back home and only studying Chinese once a week or so, I quickly forgot all but the most common ones again.
Then I stumbled upon James Heisig and his method for learning Kanji (Chinese-derived characters used in Japanese). It was enlightening! I actually remembered the characters, and I can still remember them several years later! Unfortunately many characters in his book aren't really useful when learning Chinese, or they may even teach you incorrectly due to the meanings having changed over time. But I had learned what method would work for people with an analytical Western mindset like me, people who don't have a good memory for pictures and who hate the dull, time-consuming and ineffective Eastern method of writing characters over and over again.
From then on, I used a similar method to learn new Chinese characters I'd encounter or old ones that refused to stick. It was tedious though. My incomplete knowledge of Chinese characters wouldn't let me see the most useful order in which to learn characters and their parts; wouldn't let me distinguish between really useful ones and obsolete ones, and so on. I also had trouble memorizing the pronunciation and especially the tone with each character.
The sample of Heisig for Chinese was a disappointment, as it didn't tackle these problems. The characters introduced are mostly the same as in the Japanese version, never mind their usefulness (or lack thereof) in Chinese, the book doesn't even mention the pronunciation of a character and after the first few lessons you're left alone to invent stories and links.
When I got this book, "Learning Chinese Characters", I immediately knew that I had found the answer to all those years of searching. This book is everything I would have wished for as a beginning student of Chinese and more:
- explanation of how Chinese characters work and how to write them, plus stroke order diagrams with each character
- introducing basic elements through pictures
- introducing more complex elements through short and memorable stories that combine the basic elements, sometimes also accompanied by an illustrating picture
- stories also remind you of the pronunciation, including a special mnemonic for the tone
- teaches the 800 most basic Chinese characters, with a focus on the ones necessary for the HSK Level A exam, and there's a story or picture for *every single character*. It doesn't leave you alone after the first few steps.
- the most useful characters (e. g. the ones for "to be", "I", "you", "good", and so on) are actually taught in the first few lessons, even though these are hard to teach and some books avoid them on purpose. This will be extremely useful for students using this book alongside a beginner's Chinese course.
- also teaches words if they can be formed using only characters that were already taught
- based on simplified characters, as these are the most common ones today, but equivalent traditional characters are given in brackets if different
Great job, authors! I haven't yet found anything worth complaining about, so my rating is 5 stars!
(Note: while the usage of particles is briefly explained whenever they come up, this book is not suitable to teach you grammar or conversation and it doesn't try to be. Use a regular course for that instead, or Chinesepod. These won't help you learn characters though, so you do need this extra book. Learning characters and learning the language have to be separate tasks in Chinese, though you can do them at the same time.
136 of 138 people found the following review helpful.
Don't use this book in isolation
I have finally worked my through this entire book and the pages are thumb worn so I believe I can offer an informed review. At first I really liked it and felt it was helping me learn the Hanzi characters quickly. However, after now studying Chinese for over a year I would not recommend the approach I took. I tended to use this book in isolation, learning characters, writing them out, and using homemade flashcards, but not reading them in actual text. I think that that is a big mistake. I have found I need to see the characters in an actual text to really digest them. Perhaps if the student uses this book while learning new characters from a Chinese textbook that would be better, but I would advise strongly against just plowing through the book as I did, learning one character after another and thus do less reading. I find that you don't retain the Hanzi this way.
My second criticism is that the book's stories for the characters sometimes seem to determine how they define the word. The more common definitions are at times chosen for less commmon ones and many definitions are completely missing. It would be vastly better if all the words were used in sentence like Tuttle's flashcards are. Moreover, I think a big drawback of the book is that they don't sell accompanying flashcards that use the story. (I think Tuttle's flashcard series is very good but they certainly don't give you the stories used in this book.) Otherwise the student wastes a lot of time creating their own flashcards and mistakes in the writing of the Hanzi are inevitable for the beginner. Thus you are memorizing your own mistakes.
I guess the book may be good if combined with other materials in which the student is learning to read Chinese. However, I think if I were to do it over, I would skip this book and get a really good software program like Wenlin which has a great dictionary. This gives you all the meanings of the words, it gives you the words in context, and a history of how the Hanzi developed. Probably using Wenlin, Tuttle's flashcards, and this book would be a great way to start.
Finally there are a few typos in the book. I only started writing them down after I noticed a few so there are more.
Character 782A mistakenly identifies "Tian" as "slave."
Character 511: not sure what happend here. The top Hanzi is not "Ji" it's "Jiu" and the story is also wrong - not sure where they get "baseball" from?
Character 121 is pronounced "zhi" not "yi"
Character 561 - typo for the word "moon."
Character 779: story has a typo
82 of 89 people found the following review helpful.
not for everyone (anyone?)
By Charles W. Strong
Although this book seems to please many reviewers, I think that it is too limited to be of great help to other serious learners. To begin with, the definitions are too limited and not really very accurate. To take two examples, their character 137 is xian1 which is defined as "ahead," but the central meanings are surely "first," "previous," and "before." "Ahead" is one of the meanings, but to single it out and present it all by itself is very misleading. Character 145 is dao4, which is defined as "way," and the little mnemonic story suggests that it is to be taken in the sense of "which way should you walk?" Again, the central meanings are surely "road" and "path."
A second fault is the method itself. People may be able to learn characters fairly rapidly this way, and that might help them on exams, but they may also find that they have to go through the whole song and dance each time they want to bring a character to mind. I once taught myself Morse code using short sentences, as in "Sam Said So" to remember that "S" (...) is three short sounds (one-syllable words in the mnemonic). It was very hard to build up any speed because I had to bring the mnemonic to mind in order to access the code. I'm afraid that this would work in much the same way. Brute force has something to recommend it, and that something is an immediate connection. Moreover, to put this method to use, one must spend a lot of time reading and learning little mnemonic stories (and ridiculous ones at that) that have no real relevance to Chinese.
I should also say that the "equations" they use to explain "composite" characters completely falsify the nature of the characters themselves. For example, the equation for li4 "stand" (which is their number 177) goes like this "lid + feet = stand." "Lid" is the colloquial name for radical 8; "feet" is their own invention; and "stand" is the colloquial name for radical 117, which is actually a pictograph of a standing man and needs no further clarification. (I have been referring to the traditional radical numbers here. In Chapter 24 they mention that they are using the system of 189 radicals--presumably the Xinhua system--and both "lid" and "stand" are a part of that system too. "Feet" is nowhere to be found.) To give just one more example, they say that number 195 xin1 (which they define as "spicy") "also means 'bitter' or 'acrid' and hence also "hardship." In fact, the character is a pictograph of an instrument used to mark the faces of prisoners and slaves, and the meaning "hardhsip" is basic. "Hot" (not really "spicy") is an extended meaning--not the reverse. Many of their explanations falsify the known etymology, which is very often more useful than their mnemonic stories.
One more point. No book that teaches someone to write the characters should present them in a Song typeface or other face with serifs and ornamental distortions. A Kai face that resembles Chinese writing should be used. This is more than a mere quibble.