I came across this TED Talk a while ago and thought it deserved a place on the blog since it is so relevant to what I’m studying! In it, ShaoLan Hsueh discusses her intuitive method of learning Chinese characters, which she calls “Chineasy”. Have a watch:
It’s important to remember that since she is from Taiwan, Hsueh is actually using traditional characters instead of the simplified characters that are used in mainland China. This is apparent when you look at the character “door”.
Hsueh uses the traditional variant, that looks like this: 門
As opposed to the simplified version that looks like this: 门
She also mentions that if you know 1,000 characters, you have achieved basic literacy in Chinese. And, according to Hsueh, if you can recognize the most basic 200 characters, than you have achieved “basic comprehension”, enabling you to read menus, most signs, etc… Personally, I think Hsueh has a relatively low bar for what “basic comprehension” means. I hope this doesn’t put anyone off learning Chinese, but I have studied formally for five years and probably recognize somewhere between 1,500 – 2,000 characters, and I still struggle with reading menus and newspapers, just because of the sheer volume of characters in use today.
In any case, even though I disagree with her benchmarks for success, I really like that Hsueh has attempted to make Chinese written language somewhat more accessible to foreigners. I find that many people who are unfamiliar with Asian languages find them intimidating, and I applaud anyone who tries to make Chinese language fun.