Chinese mnemonics and annotator


"Changing tactics makes an impossible battle barely challenging."

I remember this quote from an role-playing game. Learning Chinese characters is indeed so difficult that it may seem as an impossible battle.

When I first started, I went for the obvious way and started learning by rote. Although I was using a flashcard program, I did not make much progress. The problem is you keep forgetting what you have already learned.

I only started making a measurable progress after I found this book. I wish I had discovered it sooner, so I would have not wasted many hours by using ineffective methods.

So what is "the secret weapon"?

It is easy to forget what you read, but you will normally not forget what you have seen. When you learn vocabulary by rote, you use your semantic memory. When you watch movies, you exercise your visual memory. If you think about it, you rarely forget the plot of a movie you have watched.

So what if instead of learning thousand of characters with your semantic memory you could watch them as a video clip? How? It is simple. Just imagine a story in your head, and you will remember it immediately. The story is built in such a way that it will remind you how to read and write the character immediately.

As you might know, most Chinese characters are composed of two or more parts. There are not so many building blocks, but their combinations make the learning so difficult. So if you remember how are the characters composed and what does each of them mean, you can read Chinese.

The most amazing thing is that the mnemonics include pronunciation as well. There is a “soundword”, a word that reminds you of how is the character pronounced, and an “archetype”, a person that marks the tone.

In this system you can find the index numbers for all the characters, but for the stories you need to refer to the book. Get it from Amazon (you can read the whole explanation of the system in the preview). Alternatively, it seems you can get the whole book from Archive.

You can find mnemonics following the same logic for characters not included in the book in other systems on this website.

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