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Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters: A Revolutionary New Way to Learn and Remember the 800 Most Basic Chinese Characters Paperback – August 15, 2007

ISBN-13: 860-1401564126 ISBN-10: 080483816X Edition: Original

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Tuttle Publishing; Original edition (August 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080483816X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804838160
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (139 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,435 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

I hope that Volume 2 is published soon because I will buy it in a Flash.
Gerald Manley
I would highly recommend this book to anyone else just beginning to learn Chinese characters.
This is the most effective system for learning Chinese characters that I have found.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

204 of 208 people found the following review helpful By Brooklynnative on 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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257 of 266 people found the following review helpful By Sprachprofi on January 17, 2008
Format: Paperback
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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123 of 137 people found the following review helpful By Charles W. Strong on 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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