Scientists in China believe they have found the way to make learning Chinese a lot more efficient than any other method currently on offer. They say you’ll learn more useful Chinese characters in less time or with less effort. So what is their method all about? Networking Chinese characters together —using the simple characters to learn the more complex ones— and mixing them with frequencies of use. Is this the key to optimal Chinese learning? Could this be an efficient learning strategy for learning Chinese?
Can Chinese be hacked ?
The researchers, from Beijing’s Normal University propose a network approach to learning Chinese: basically, they suggest making use of the fact combinations of simple Chinese characters are used to form more complex characters.
The goal is to tap into the logic behind the Chinese characters… Because, despite there being no alphabet, Chinese is far from being a random language! What they’re proposing in short is an order in which to learn the characters, focusing on radicals and character components and then building up your vocab from there. Start simple and then move on to more complex characters. This feels reminiscent of Heisig and Richardson’s approach.
It’s not just about networking Chinese characters
Of course, when learning Chinese, the idea is to avoid learning characters that are very infrequently used and focus on the characters that are the most frequently used. The scientists therefore also weighed in the frequency of use so that their learning method considers both the relations between the Chinese characters and usage frequencies.
An efficient learning strategy for Chinese characters?
According to their calculations, this learning strategy based on a network approach is the most logical and most cost-efficient way to learn the 3000-4000 Chinese characters needed to be able to read modern Chinese smoothly.
So, what do you think? Can pure math to unlock the path to optimal Chinese learning?
Our feeling is this method would only help with one aspect of learning Mandarin —character memorization —. It probably won’t help with the other essential aspects of learning Chinese: using words in context, building sentences, managing to express oneself, understanding others, and being understood by others…
Still though, improving the efficiency of Chinese learning and moving away from rote learning is a great idea!