Chinese Words – How Best to Learn Them – www.translatorscafe.com/cafe/article84.htm

TRADITIONAL CHINESE Chinese words are perhaps the most complex of all written languages. They can be broken up into 2 categories: Simplified and Traditional.

Traditional Chinese words are the original written form. These are still used in Hong Kong and Taiwan. However the Simplified version is used by the mainland Chinese. Therefore Simplified Chinese words are now more common and a little easier to learn, especially when it comes to the writing aspect.

I personally haven’t begun to learn how to write Chinese words as I am fully aware this is a lifetime project. Once you start learning how to write them you cannot stop, otherwise you will probably forget and all that time spent learning how to write Chinese may be wasted.

However, reading is a different story. I can read and understand about 80% of anything I read. However I only know about 5-10% of the 10,000+ written Chinese words that exist. This is where I think the trick, or key is. When learning how to read Chinese you must learn the characters in order of their frequency. This is the best thing I ever did when learning how to read Chinese.

You can start by buying a “Chinese Frequency Dictionary” like I did. The one I bought was the top 500 words. It was a green book I got off Amazon, and it’s amazing. It presents each Chinese word or character in order of frequency. The first word or character is actually “de” (pinyin). It isn’t a word as such, more of a grammar character to denote ownership. Similar to our apostrophe s ” ‘s ” as in “Mom’s”. Chinese would say “Mom de” to denote “Mom’s”.

Anyways, by learning only the first 100 characters you will be able to read an amazing 30-40%. This was incredibly satisfying as learning to read Chinese words seems like an inconquerable mountain. However, by learning only a few and then looking at a Chinese book and recognizing a large % of what you see, you will find your motivation levels rising and the desire to keep going becomes strong.

I have to admit now that I have learned about 1000 my motivation has dropped a lot because at this point the progress level really starts to slow down. After 1000 the frequency of the characters really starts to drop off and you find yourself learning characters you don’t see so often which makes your progress seem slow. From 1000 onward you will find you really need to push yourself to keep going. But don’t let that put you off.

I recommend taking a basic Chinese word text from a book or something. Learn your first 10 or so characters and then highlight those Chinese words in that text. As you learn more words go back to that text and highlight the new words you recognize. Slowly but surely you will begin to recognize more and more of that same text that initially you had no idea what it meant.

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