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Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters: A Revolutionary New Way to Learn and Remember the 800 Most Basic Chinese Characters [Paperback]

Alison Matthews , Laurence Matthews
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 15, 2007 080483816X 978-0804838160 Original
This user–friendly book is aimed at helping students of Mandarin Chinese learn and remember Chinese characters.

At last—there is a truly effective and enjoyable way to learn Chinese characters! This book helps students to learn and remember both the meanings and the pronunciations of over 800 characters. This otherwise daunting task is made easier by the use of techniques based on the psychology of learning and memory. key principles include the use of visual imagery, the visualization of short "stories," and the systematic building up of more complicated characters from basic building blocks.

Although Learning Chinese Characters is primarily a book for serious learners of Mandarin Chinese, it can be used by anyone with an interest in Chinese characters, without any prior knowledge of Chinese. It can be used alongside (or after, or even before) a course in the Chinese language. All characters are simplified (as in mainland China) but traditional characters are also given, when available.

Key features:
  • Specially designed pictures and stories are used in a structured way to make the learning process more enjoyable and effective, reducing the need for rote learning to the absolute minimum.
  • The emphasis throughout is on learning and remembering the meanings and pronunciations of the characters. Tips are also included on learning techniques and how to avoid common problems.
  • Characters are introduced in a logical sequence, which also gives priority to learning the most common characters first.
  • Modern simplified characters are used, with pronunciations given in pinyin. Key information is given for each character, including radical, stroke–count, traditional form, compounds, and guidance on writing the character.
This is a practical guide with a clear, concise and appealing layout, and it is well–indexed with easy look–up methods. The 800 Chinese characters and 1,033 compounds specified for the original HSK Level A proficiency test are covered.

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Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters: A Revolutionary New Way to Learn and Remember the 800 Most Basic Chinese Characters + Mandarin Vocabulary (Quick Study Academic) + Mandarin Grammar (Quickstudy: Academic)
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Editorial Reviews


"When I got Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters, I immediately knew that I had found the answers to all those years of searching. This book is everything I would have wished for learning basic Chinese." —

"A great Memorization Tool for Characters." —

"Outstanding approach for mnemonics to learn the Chinese characters. Easy and well structured, it builds on itself. Generally I can read about half the Chinese characters I see now, and I have a framework for learning the remainder. A great place to start Mandarin studies." —Goodreads

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.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Tuttle Publishing; Original edition (August 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080483816X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804838160
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,869 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
174 of 176 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't use this book in isolation January 11, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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.
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252 of 260 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Course in Chinese Characters! January 17, 2008
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.
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107 of 118 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars not for everyone (anyone?) May 14, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Turrle Learning Chinese
I feel this book is a great help in my new language, plus my friends love this book as well.
Published 1 month ago by Cherie E. Forniss
1.0 out of 5 stars Maybe languages aren't for you.
English is my third language and my English did not progress to this point by learning characters or words in isolation, or by associating pictures or stories to certain... Read more
Published 1 month ago by A. Maes
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect to self study of hanzi characters
It's a wonderful book, with tons of useful information an a very good method to remember characters.

A must have if you are trying to learn mandarin.
Published 1 month ago by JosÚ Rafael Reyes Guerra
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best ways to start learning Chinese characters
This review is LONG overdue. I've been using this book for two years now and it has been an invaluable resource for me in my Chinese learning journey. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Quantum Mechanic
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Useful
I utilized this book solely with a tutor to learn both Chinese characters and pronunciation. It's an easy book to follow even on your own. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Zoraida Cespedes
4.0 out of 5 stars Great approach
My family couldn't afford to send all the children to Chinese school so I had to learn it as an adult. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Suzy
5.0 out of 5 stars I Really Love This!
This new method for learning Chinese is a real gift to the student. Instead of endless hours of mindless rote memorization, this method relies on linear logic to appeal to our... Read more
Published 3 months ago by PinkPearls
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun way of learning
Fun way of learning the characters. For me maybe difficult since my first language is not english, sometimes I didn't really get the little stories the same way probably. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Maria
5.0 out of 5 stars Well structured!
The book seems well structured, and appears to have helpful explanations. Also, I liked that the author included the traditional characters as well, as those are the characters I... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Matthew
2.0 out of 5 stars This book contains associations between Chinese characters with...
Of all 8000 commonly used Chinese characters, fewer than 10% are considered fundamental building blocks, which typically evolved from ancient pictograms. Read more
Published 3 months ago by M. Wang
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