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 Course Content


Written in easy-to-understand English, the 8 chapters of the textbook are arranged in a logical learning sequence that will introduce you to the major concepts essential for understanding both traditional and simplified characters. Before simplified characters are introduced in Chapter 7, only characters that have one form are used as examples. Below are excerpts from each chapter’s introduction.

Chapter 1: Formation Methods of Characters
“Welcome to your first lesson in Chinese characters! You may be excited about learning how to write characters – and a little worried at the same time. You have probably heard that there are thousands of different characters in Chinese. However, every character, old or new, simple or complex, was created by means of one of just a few different formation methods. Knowing what these methods are will give you a better understanding of characters and help you learn the Chinese writing system more quickly.”

Chapter 2: Strokes
“The first step in learning how to write characters is learning how to write strokes. All Chinese characters, from the simplest to the most complex, are formed by writing strokes. There are only a few dozen stroke forms. In this chapter you will learn the name of each stroke and the rules you should follow to write it correctly. Study carefully how each stroke is written and make an effort to follow these rules as you practice writing each stroke. Writing strokes correctly is extremely important. Be warned: writing strokes in an incorrect manner will result in serious and annoying mistakes. A bad habit formed now can be extremely hard to correct later.”

Chapter 3: Stroke Order
“Now that you have learned to write individual strokes, you are ready for the next step: putting strokes together to form characters. To write a character correctly, you must write its strokes in the correct order. This chapter will teach you the rules of stroke order and show you how to practice them. Study these rules carefully to get the most out of your character writing practice.”

Chapter 4: 20 Common Radicals
“Many characters are used as components in other characters, and most Chinese characters have two components: one that indicates meaning and another that indicates sound. Approximately 200 different characters are used as meaning components. These 200 characters are called “bùshǒu 部首" in Chinese and “radicals” in English.

This chapter will give you some essential information about radicals and how they are related to your acquisition of Chinese characters. You will also practice writing some radicals and radical variant forms. One reason learning about radicals is very important is because radicals are used to organize characters in many Chinese dictionaries: you must be able to identify the radical of a character to look it up in a dictionary. The information and the practice exercises in this chapter will prepare you for the character learning activities you will tackle in Chapters 5 and 6.”

Chapter 5: Strategies for Learning New Characters
“Get your paper and pencil ready! We are going to teach you how to read and write 53 characters with 1-8 strokes. You may be tempted to begin right away and start copying the characters. But wait! If you follow a few helpful strategies, you will learn much more effectively than you can by simply copying characters over and over.”

Chapter 6: Strategies for Reviewing Characters
“In this chapter, you will use the logical learning steps introduced in Chapter 5 to learn 20 new characters with 9-15 strokes. By the end of Chapter 6, you will have learned at least 73 characters – as well as many more characters that are components of those 73! This chapter will also present strategies for reviewing characters. We will present several reviewing and self-testing tools you can use to help you retain the characters you have learned.”

Chapter 7: Traditional and Simplified Characters
“When you shop for Chinese language textbooks or browse Chinese websites, you may find that you have a choice between text written in “traditional characters” and text written in “simplified characters.” You may be puzzled about what these terms mean. In this chapter we will define traditional and simplified characters from a historical perspective and describe the methods used to simplify traditional character forms. Learning how and why characters were simplified from their traditional forms will help you to learn to read both forms.”

Chapter 8: Learn the Most Frequently Used Characters
“Now that you have a good understanding of character formation, strokes and stroke order, radicals and components, learning and reviewing strategies, and traditional and simplified character forms, it is time to start learning larger quantities of characters. In this chapter we will explore the findings of character frequency studies and discuss why it is valuable to learn characters with a high frequency ranking. Afterwards we will help you set up a plan to learn the 1,000 most frequently used characters. The features of the learning tool for learning these 1,000 characters for traditional and simplified forms will be introduced to help you complete this task.”

Appendix A: 1,000 Most Frequently Used Characters in Traditional Form

Appendix B: 1,000 Most Frequently Used Characters in Simplified Form

Appendix C: Index of Characters Appearing in the Examples in This Textbook