learning language

When learning Mandarin/ Chinese, characters is a must or not?

First of all, When learning Mandarin/ Chinese, ask yourself the following 2 questions before you decided to learn Chinese characters or not:

Question 1: What your purpose is?

This is a very important question. If you only need to go to a Mandarin/ Chinese speaking country for few days or weeks. Learning Mandarin/Chinese is because you wish your trip there will be more convenient and easier, after that you won’t use it any more. Then, use Pin-yin system to help yourself get used to Mandarin/ Chinese will be a great idea.

But, if you want to master it, at least can use it properly in the future, then why not learn characters from the very beginning? Writing and reading are also part of any language.

Another thing you need to consider is Chinese is not a spelling language, Chinese has a lot characters with same pronunciation but represent different meanings.

For example, “Shì”, there are at least 5 different characters, all with different meaning, such as “is”、”try”、”watch”、”things” and “room”(是、試、視、事、室).

Question 2: Why you don’t want to learn Chinese characters?

This is an interesting question. If you say no to something, should be a reason with it. Are they too hard to remember? Do you fear to learn it? Do you think learning them spend you too much time? Do you think learning Characters are wasting your time?

No matter what your reason is, you are saying no to it. Try to think why? Will you learn Italian but refuse to learn how to write and read them?

Sometime I may hear learners compliant about how difficult to write Chinese characters or why they need to learn it. To me, I am more interested in why you don’t want to do it instead of why you need to do it.

Secondary, as a professional teacher, I would like to share my experiences about this as below:

Learning how to write and read Chinese characters is a must, but not necessary to be as fast as your listening and speaking skills.

We can learn how to write and read form some simple characters. Those characters are more like pictures or with very few strokes. Most of those characters may become the radical or parts of some complicated characters.

As a learner, if this is your first time to hear Mandarin/ Chinese, you can focus on listening and speaking more than writing and reading. Sooner or later, as long as you are keeping learning, you’ll see your improvement.

Don’t push yourself too much. There is an old saying in Chinese:More haste, less speed(欲速則不達).

Use a smart way to learn Chinese characters.

Practicing is necessary, even to a native Mandarin/ Chinese speaker. Apart from that, we need to find a smart way to learn Chinese characters.

First, as I mentioned in point one, most of Chinese characters can be separated into 2 or more parts. Some of them be called as Radical, some of them be called as part. No matter what they be called, they may be seen repeated.

Here are some examples:

「好」、「她」、「媽」:these 3 characters are all with 「女」

「吃」、「喝」、「唱」:these 3 characters are all with 「口」

Here come a harder one:

「星」、「產」、「醒」:these 3 characters are all with 「生」

Really knowing them doesn’t means “identify” them, also need get the connection between characters and characters.

Find the fun part of it.

Writing is boring if you only write it. We can make it more fun by watching video to know how Chinese characters been created, use quizlet, finding similar parts from a group of Chinese characters and so on.

If you like singing, try some Chinese songs, or some short youtube videos(not the teaching one), games in Chinese. Anything except watching your textbook only.

Try to use it.

If you don’t want to use it, then you won’t have the motivation to learn it. Also, if you don’t use a skill or knowledge, you will forget easily. So no matter how much characters you learned already, try to use them.

Here you can read about 5 tips for improving your Mandarin (Chinese) skills

View useful videos, you can check here.

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