The 3 Best Chinese Learning Tips to Learn Chinese Characters Quickly

The 3 Best Chinese Learning Tips to Learn Chinese Characters Quickly

For those learning a foreign language, learning a new writing system different from your alphabet-based language is different.

Although some effective methods assist Mandarin learners in mastering Hanzi (Chinese characters), in today’s modern life, everyone’s busy daily tasks make these traditional methods not good enough to learn Chinese quickly.

Instead, efficiency should come before anything else. If you want to learn Chinese characters quickly and effortlessly to save time and energy for other important things, check out these 3 best Chinese learning tips to try on your Chinese journey.

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How many Chinese characters should we learn?

Different from the alphabet system, with only 26 characters, there are more than 90,000 characters in the Chinese writing system, which seems intimidating for a Mandarin learner. 

But no worries. You don’t need to know all those characters. In fact, if you want to achieve basic fluency, you only need to learn about 1000 characters or 1,200 vocabulary words from that character. That is equivalent to HSK 4 to have fluency with native Chinese speakers.

Additionally, like every other language, nobody is expected to know every single word. An official Chinese dictionary consists of merely 20,000 Chinese characters.

What are the traditional Chinese learning methods?

Growing up in a Chinese-speaking country exposes you to Mandarin or Cantonese from family, school, and media. As such, for children learning these languages, they need to connect what they say to the Chinese characters they are learning.

Write on Tianzige: paper square grid

They use Tianzige (田字格), paper with square guides, to repeat writing Chinese characters constantly.

Chinese writing practice sheet Tianzige

Chinese writing practice sheet | Chinese Forum.

This copying method is one of the most well-known ways to memorize new words. To memorize a new Chinese word, you would write the characters many times until it’s recognizable and comes naturally.

The Tianzige method is time-consuming as you can spend hours practicing writing the same character repeatedly. Even if you memorize the character, recalling it in real-life situations or understanding its usage in context may still be challenging.

Read the pinyin over the characters

Growing up, Chinese-speaking children speak Chinese but haven’t connected the Hanzi character to the pronunciation. Being immersed in Chinese culture greatly helps them connect Chinese vocabulary with its Hanzi.

Reading Chinese books, specifically Chinese children's books, with pinyin to help, can help you see the correct tone with the specific character.

Chinese children’s book with pinyin

A Chinese children’s book with pinyin, Mandarin Chinese School

Thus, pinyin is a stepping stone for learners to recognize and associate the sounds of Chinese characters with their written forms, as it helps them read and pronounce words accurately.

Eventually, reading and writing in pinyin are dropped for being able to recognize the Hanzi instantly.

3 Best Chinese learning tips to learn Hanzi

1. Learn radicals and their variants.

Chinese characters are made up of radicals. Understanding radicals and their meaning will give you the building block to decipher and learn new characters more easily.

Pandanese's character 果 fruit

Pandanese's character: 果

There are about 214 total radicals in the Chinese language, 189 for simplified Chinese. Radical also has different variations where this form will have a different shape, position, and strokes compared to their standard form, but the meanings will be the same.

Knowing their meaning and variants will allow you to reverse engineer the character for a more understandable meaning.

For example, the radical for water is 水 can be seen as 氵. So any character that has 水 or 氵will involve something with water or the flow of water. You can see its related meaning with 河— for the river, 洗— for washing/cleaning, and 海—hǎi for the ocean.

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2. Use mnemonics.

Mnemonics is an effective tool to aid in quickly learning Chinese characters. 

Mnemonics involve creating associations or visual cues that help you remember the characters by linking them to familiar concepts or images. 

Here is a step-by-step of how you can create your own mnemonics.

  1. Break down complex characters: if you can, break up any complex characters into their simpler or radical forms. For example, 休. If you know that 亻 is a variant for 人, meaning person, you know 木, meaning tree.

  2. Create a story that combines the components and their meanings: 亻 (person) and 木 (tree) makes up 休 (to rest). So, you can create a story of how a person leans on the tree to rest.

  3. Create a mnemonic story to learn the Chinese reading: You can use "should (xiū) you be leaning against that tree? It's covered in poisonous ivy."

Of course, you can make up your own mnemonics device for this and other characters, or you can use one that other people have made.

The point of mnemonic is to create memorable associations that make it easier to remember the meanings and components of Chinese characters so that they can be personalized and flexible.

3. Implement the spaced repetition system (SRS).

SRS is a learning method using spaced intervals to review and reinforce information. It particularly benefits learning Chinese and other languages with large character sets.

The SRS uses an algorithm to schedule reviews at increasing intervals based on individual performance, ensuring efficient and long-term learning.

spaced repetition system (SRS) infographic

SRS infographic | Wikimedia

Any Chinese learning website, app, or software that uses SRS will create a personalized learning pathway and have an optimized review schedule for you to review Chinese Hanzi you’ve already learned effortlessly.

Using the SRS by yourself is difficult without an app, so be sure that a Chinese learning app has this feature for you. Without it, it will be difficult to know which Chinese character or word you need to review more and which you have mastered.

Is there a Chinese learning resource that combines radical breakdown, mnemonics, and SRS?

Amazingly, yes! There is one Chinese learning resource that has everything you need to master Chinese hanzi characters: Pandanese

This web app is designed to make your journey of learning Chinese characters both effective and enjoyable.


Do Pandanese have it?

SRS (Spaced Repetition System):

Mnemonics for Effective Recall

Radical Breakdown and Component Analysis

Pronunciation Practice

Interactive and customizable flashcards

Whether you're a beginner starting your Chinese learning journey or an intermediate learner looking to enhance your hanzi skills, Pandanese is a comprehensive and user-friendly web app that caters to learners of all levels. 

With its SRS system, mnemonics, radical breakdowns, and native pronunciation, Pandanese empowers you to master Chinese hanzi characters effectively and efficiently.

Pandanese Chinese flashcard review

Pandanese Chinese flashcard review mode

Typically, a Pandanese Trial has three lessons for free. During this trial, you can see how combining these tips and techniques can help you learn Chinese Hanzi fast.

If you think the pacing is slow, contact, and they can customize the learning experience to suit your needs better.

Other Chinese learning apps try to cram everything into their learning system, such as writing with Chinese grammar, improving your listening skills, and speaking exercises. However, Pandanese focuses solely on helping you master Chinese hanzi characters, making it a specialized and highly effective tool for building a solid foundation in this essential aspect of the Chinese language.

Frequently asked questions

How can I learn Chinese characters by myself?

Yes! While it can be difficult to get started, there are plenty of free online Chinese resources for studying Chinese. To pass a certain HSK level, looking at their website to see the requirements is best.

Additionally, Pandanese provides you with everything you need for self-learning hanzi. From breaking down complex vocabulary to their characters and radicals, providing you with mnemonics has SRS to memorize Chinese characters and customizability effectively.

What is the easiest way to memorize Chinese characters?

Using a combination of learning radicals, breaking down Chinese words into simpler parts, mnemonics to create fun stories, and the SRS will help you learn to memorize Mandarin Chinese characters more easily.

You can also pick words from a Chinese dictionary and repeatedly write the character on the paper square; however, that is time-consuming if you are beginning. The best advice is to learn to recognize Chinese characters first, then practice writing them. 

What is the fastest way of learning Chinese?

Exposure to Chinese media is one of the fastest ways of learning Mandarin Chinese. That includes:

Is it possible to learn Chinese in 3 months?

​​Yes! Pandanese is a Chinese language learning software combining spaced repetition system (SRS) and mnemonics to help memorize Hanzi. It will pronounce the words for you, show you the pinyin and Chinese tones, break down complex characters, and provide fun mnemonics to help you learn the word's Chinese reading and Chinese meaning.

Depending on how fast you go through the level and review, you can learn over 1500 hanzi characters with Pandanese.

In closing

Combining all these Chinese learning tips will accelerate your journey to mastering Chinese hanzi characters.

Unlike traditional methods that may be time-consuming and overwhelming, Pandanese offers a specialized approach to learning, allowing you to concentrate solely on building a solid foundation in Chinese Hanzi. Whether you're a beginner or an intermediate learner, it provides interactive and customizable Chinese flashcards, pronunciation practice, and comprehensive character analysis to enhance your understanding and retention.

About Pandanese
Learn over 6,000 Hanzi with Pandanese’s Chinese characters flashcards with our easy mnemonic stories and SRS system to build your Chinese vocabulary.

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Learn more than 6,000 hanzi and vocabulary in a single year.