When I first started learning Mandarin again, I made a conscious decision to hold off on practicing reading and writing. I wanted speaking and listening to be my two main focuses.
While that may have served me at the start, it’s crippling me now with using native content to learn and texting other language learners in Taiwan, so I’ve decided to go back to basics when it comes to practicing reading + writing.
That means I’m relearning my radicals.
To be honest though, I don’t know if I ever really learned any besides the basics like sun (日) and water (水).
Recently I came across a great list of radicals, with some more interesting mnemonic meanings, from Koichi over at Tofugu, and I’ve been using his chart from 30 Days to a Better Japanese Learner to get me started. (Unfortunately, it’s no longer available.)
(He names this radical 彐 “wolverine”. It doesn’t get much better than that.)
Here’s how I’ve been tackling it so far. Take my process and mold it for what works best for you.
1.) I’ve been using Arch Chinese Traditional Radicals list as a cross reference for Koichi’s list.
2.) Then, I copy each radical into my digital flash card system Anki.
3.) After, I write an easy-to-remember name for each radical. Sometimes I copy the names suggested by the two charts I’m using, but other times I’ll rename them according to what I think they look like. I do this so I can create stories for characters that I learn later on.
4.) Finally, I review my Chinese flash card deck in Anki every day.
This is such a great process to go through because even after a week of studying these, I’m able to recognize and remember more Chinese characters.
It kind of feels like a radical treasure hunt.
Here are some of my favorites so far.
乙 – This one is titled as “second”, but Koichi from Tofugu, calls it “nose” because…well…it looks like a nose.
瓜 – This one is titled as “melon”. It’s a cool shape.
臼 – This one is titled as “mortar”, but it looks more like it should be called “emoji”.
What’s the point of all of this?
Now when I see traditional characters, I can remember them more easily by
1.) Recognizing what radicals they are composed of
2.) Creating a story around those radicals as a memory device
What about you? Have you learned all the radicals? How have you been learning writing/reading in Chinese? Let me know in the comments below.