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5 Reasons Why You Should Learn Chinese Characters When You Start to Learn Chinese – Should I Learn Chinese Characters?

Many Mandarin learners, not exclusive to beginners, also elementary and intermediate learners often struggle with learning Chinese characters – Should I learn Chinese Characters? If my goal is to fluently talk to Chinese people, is it still worth spending time learning and memorizing Chinese characters?

The answer will be a big “YES.” If you want to learn Chinese Mandarin in the long term and aim to master this language eventually, then learning Chinese characters will be an unavoidable part. If you skipped Chinese characters at the beginning stage, obstacles might frequently merge out, and the learning procedure will slow down and get tough as time being.

Unlike most Indo-European families dominated by alphabets and syllables, the Chinese language is founded by Chinese characters. You may take the Chinese characters as the backbone of the Chinese language.  

In the recently released introduction of THE NEW HSK EXAM – HSK 3.0 CHINESE TEST, you can see an obvious increase in the required quantity of Chinese characters, indicating the importance of learning Chinese characters. Only by learning Chinese characters could you have more language input by reading and watching more language materials. There are many homophones in the Chinese language, meaning many Chinese characters share the same standard pronunciation. The most efficient way to reduce confusion and be clear about the language context is to identify through characters.

In today’s post, we will list out 5 reasons why you should learn Chinese characters when you start to learn Chinese. We are also going to mention some tips and advice about the efficient learning of Chinese characters. By learning Chinese at Keats School, you will notice that learning Chinese characters is not that hard as you imagined.

Reason 1 – Pinyin is a useful tool for learning standard pronunciations but cannot replace Chinese characters.

Chinese characters were first created and developed over 4000 years ago. The traditional Chinese characters have been greatly simplified since about 100 years ago to increase the education rate among common people. Therefore, it has already saved lots of effort for learning Chinese characters.

To convenient communication among different ethnic minority groups in China and people from different areas, a comprehensive Romanization Pinyin system and the concept of Mandarin are introduced to form the standard writing and pronunciation of modern Chinese. To clarify the difference between Mandarin and Chinese, you can read another post on Keats Blog, Mandarin or Chinese? As a pictograph, a Chinese character contains more information and history than a symbol of the language.

From the above backgrounds, we can tell that the Pinyin system is not introduced to replace the Chinese character but to help learners, including native speakers, learn the Chinese language’s standard pronunciation. And it can never replace the Chinese characters, for it contains much more than just the written words and commonly shared national cultures and national spirit.     

Reason 2 – Chinese characters can help you better understand the cultural context of the language.

As indicated from the development and history of Chinese characters, we can tell that Chinese characters contain much more valuable information than just being used as a literature symbol.

Taking the Chinese character “男(nán)” as an instance, this character means male in Chinese. It is consist of another two Chinese character “田(tián)” and “力(lì).” This character indicates that in a society that dominated with the agricultural economy, the most common working site was the farming land田(tián) and the most common workforce力(lì) were the male group男(nán). Isn’t it a clever way of creating symbols and characters? The structure of the Chinese characters also makes it easier to memorize their meaning and functions.

Chinese characters are components of the language and carried and witnessed the development of Chinese culture and Chinese history.

Though some Chinese characters are complex and consist of more radicals and strokes, once you accumulated enough storage of commonly used Chinese characters, you will be able to learn and master more Chinese characters than you can imagine.       

Reason 3 – Chinese characters are necessary when it relates to public signs and maps.

 

If you or people you know have been to China, you would be aware that most public signs in China are demonstrated in Chinese characters and pinyin. In some ethnic minority areas, ethnic minority dialect is even more preferred to use rather than pinyin. Since pinyin often leads to confusion between homophone Chinese characters, you need to recognize the Chinese characters on the signs. It also happens when you try to locate yourself by using maps.

Learning Chinese characters has its practical function when you live in a Chinese-speaking country. China is not the only country that practices the Chinese language. In Asia, you will find that Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand somehow practice the Chinese language. Therefore, being able to recognize Chinese characters is not only useful when you are in China.

Reason 4 – Most Chinese mobile apps have no English version available.

Another truth you will have to be aware of is that, when living in China, you will use local Chinese mobile apps more or less, such as Meituan, Taobao, Didi, Alipay, and WeChat, these are all very popular and useful mobile apps that can help your transition in China smoother. Unfortunately, some of the apps have no English version available for use. Even if it has, the translated content might lose its original meaning and leads to confusion sometimes.

Recognizing the Chinese characters is the best way to adapt to mobile apps, and it is also another way of practicing Chinese.  

Reason 5 – Being able to recognize Chinese characters can help you go further.

Being sufficient with recognition of Chinese characters allow you to practice more and input more language materials.

We are all aware that the learning of language is always related to four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. By learning Chinese characters, your accumulation of Chinese literature will be increased too. It means you can read more Chinese articles, Chinese fiction, and news. By expanding your language input channel, you will practice more and apply the language in different areas.

An increase in Chinese characters is also related to your accumulation of Chinese vocabulary. How to learn Chinese vocabulary efficiently? You may think about starting with the accumulation of Chinese characters. Learning Chinese characters and vocabulary with specific topics, such as learning about Vegetables in China, Fruits in China, or how to see a doctor in China, and ordering food in a Chinese restaurant can be more efficient than memorizing words and characters solely.   

When you can actually apply your Chinese as a skill, it would lead you to a new trip of Chinese culture and historical discovery.

Generally, learning Chinese Characters when you start to learn Chinese can cultivate a good learning routine for you from the very beginning. In the long run, learning Chinese characters is a necessary part of mastering Chinese, so it is better to start sooner than later. 

To help Mandarin learners study and review Chinese characters, Keats School has also developed a special channel for teaching daily Chinese characters. You may find the channels and join us with a regular learning routine on the following platforms:

Facebook: @keatschinese 

Twitter: Learn Chinese 

Quora Space: Keats Chinese 

Tumblr: keatschinese 

Instagram: keats.school 

YouTube: Keats Chinese School 

WeChat Channel: Keats Chinese

FAQ

To learn Chinese characters, where would you recommend to start with?

There are over 10,000 Chinese characters you can see and applied when living in China, but among them, there are 500 most commonly used Chinese characters that you can start with as a beginner. These 500 most commonly used Chinese characters can lay a good foundation for your future learning. When learning these 500 Chinese characters, you may use various methods to memorize and understand their meanings. Such as learning by destructuring the character, remember its definition by identifying its radicals, differentiate another Chinese character that sharing a similar resemblance, etc.

Is learning Chinese characters useful?

After reading our post, I believe you already have the answer to this question. Yes, learning Chinese characters is very crucial for learning the Chinese language. It is the foundation of the Chinese language; it is also the carrier of Chinese culture. The development and inheritance of Chinese characters are why Chinese history and culture can be continuously developed and passed down generation by generation. By learning Chinese characters, you can truly understand Chinese culture. The ability to recognize and write Chinese characters is very beneficial in the long run.

Should I learn Chinese characters along with speaking language or should I do it later?

When you’re learning by self-study at a non-Chinese speaking country, learning the Chinese characters along with speaking language could be a bit difficult. I would suggest you start learning Chinese characters as soon as you start learning Chinese. You may increase the frequency of learning and practicing when you travel to China and can actually use it.  That’s also the reason why an immersion language program is always a better option for a beginner.

Is the writing order of Chinese characters important?

For a beginner, yes, it is important. Writing Chinese characters in a correct writing order can help you better memorize the character’s structure and remember its meaning. When you’re familiar with most Chinese characters and can write them down smoothly, you may develop your own writing order that smooth your writing most.

Should I learn Chinese characters everyday?

Practice makes perfect. It is no doubt that frequent repetition can facilitate your memorizing of Chinese characters, especially at the beginning stage, when you’re not familiar with the rules of construction of Chinese characters or when you have no idea about radicals and components. With the accumulation of Chinese characters, you will find it getting easier and easier to master new Chinese characters.

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