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New world: The Chinese Character Universe – Science-based Chinese character learning

You Today, we’re incredibly excited to announce a new science-based world on Ninchanese: the Universe of Chinese Characters the most advanced way to learn Chinese Characters yet. This all-new word on Ninchanese has been designed with one goal in mind: to drive your Chinese character acquisition like no other. In a world that goes back to the Big Bang of Chinese, you’ll easily learn characters in a newly optimized way. Feeling excited? Let’s see what this new world is all about. To infinity, and beyond! 

The quest to make learning Chinese characters easy

Chinese characters are consistently cited as one of the hardest things in Chinese by learners, and it’s not hard to understand why.

Haven’t you ever felt stuck trying to read a text in Chinese? Characters can sometimes be seen as impenetrable fortresses, yielding no clue whatsoever as to what they mean or can be pronounced. We’ve all experienced that feeling at one point or another of our learning journey. However, we also know it doesn’t have to be that way.

And so at Ninchanese, we are always on the lookout for new ways to make learning Chinese characters easier and faster, breakthroughs that make learning Chinese characters an easier task.

A learning order to organize them all?

When we chanced upon Loach and Wang’s study on how best to learn Chinese characters and words, we were astonished by their discoveries and the new algorithm they used.

Loach & Wang have decided to join forces and built a mathematically sound, logical approach to the order in which Chinese characters should be learned, based on data. Harnessing machine learning, network theory, and cognitive science, the two researchers built an algorithm to lower the cost of learning new Chinese characters ( = making it easier for you to learn them, what’s not to love?). How? By presenting them in an intelligent way. Intelligent because it takes into account a number of elements that are at the heart of Chinese characters and the Chinese language. Elements such as word and character frequency, the hierarchical structure of characters, the components they are made of, and several other variables, all mixed together to devise an optimal learning order. For you, little dragon.

The order in which you’ll be learning Chinese characters is optimal in that it goes back to the big bang of Chinese. To the roots of the language, to seek out an order and structure in the way Chinese characters are built. To help you understand the logic behind Chinese characters because once you learn to do that, it becomes easier and faster for you to learn new characters based on the ones you know.

Optimal also in that it strives to cost you the least learning effort possible. By making connections between characters and teaching you the ones, you need to know first. So it’s easier for you and a faster process. That’s why it can rocket fuel your character acquisition. 🙂

We just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to introduce this new approach to you. And so… We’re very excited to bring you an all-new world that goes back to the Big Bang of Chinese characters!

Your key: a whole new world on Ninchanese

Yes, we’ve created a brand new world solely dedicated to learning Chinese characters in this new order: the Universe of Chinese characters. 5000 whopping characters and words to learn in a science-backed, magic-fueled world.

100% focused on Chinese characters and fully based on this scientific research, this world promises to present you Chinese characters to learn in the most efficient order possible, backed up with the SRS power of Ninchanese for lasting memorization. It’ll highlight the link(s) between characters, their governing logic and, through that, will take you through thousands of Chinese characters and words. This world is nothing like you have seen before and
we hope you’ll have a blast learning Chinese characters this way.


The Big Bang question asked here is: How can we learn Chinese characters faster?

At the core of this new level, and the research that is its foundation, is a single desire: to maximize your learning efficiency in Chinese. Because here’s a secret: learning Chinese characters is often viewed as daunting, but when Chinese characters make sense, they become dramatically easier to learn.

In other words, the more components and Chinese characters you learn, the easier and faster it becomes for you to learn new characters based on the ones you know. It’s a breakthrough in how the Chinese characters are learned. You can read the result of this research here.

Maximizing your learning efficiency to increase your character retention while costing you the least effort possible, thanks to a cool new algorithm. Sounds appealing, right? But how does it work, and what does that mean? Let us take you through the new world’s way of working. 🙂

Let’s take a macro view: Chinese Language Big Data

There are, as you know, a ton of Characters in the Chinese language. They all contain a large amount of information if you know what to look for.  Information such as the character meaning components and phonetic components that make characters up, and plenty more.
We need to extract all of this information, figure out their connections, and use these relationships to build a logical order.  By understanding the logic behind the way Chinese characters are built, you can devise an order in which to learn them that makes the most sense, both scientifically and academically.

A Chinese character Universe to learn

You’ll learn to view Chinese characters as a group of families with their parents, children, cousins, and so on. They all come from one big tree with a few roots, and that’s what this world wants you to see. We’ll take you back to the Big Bang of how Chinese Characters were formed because becoming familiar with the roots and the primitive aspects of Chinese characters help greatly with learning a new character more easily.  

In this new world, each stage is dedicated to a limited set of words, and choose to focus on the characters you’d need to learn to be at ease with those words, as well as the character components you want to be familiar with.

In each stage, learn words and the characters that are key to know and the components that’ll shed light on how the characters are built!


To say it more specifically, In this world, we optimize the learning process of Chinese characters by ordering Chinese Characters using a novel topological sorting algorithm. Thanks to the new algorithm, you’ll see the benefits of learning Chinese Characters in order of usage frequency and in order of their hierarchal structural relationships. For example, you’ll learn the semantic-phonetic compounds of a Chinese character before learning the characters. It means that you’ll deploy fewer efforts to learn new words thanks to a special learning order.

Using this approach teaches you what to look for in a Chinese Character and where to look, and that’ll allow you to recognize/guess the meaning or its pronunciation instantly or nearly so. In other words, in this new world on Ninchanese, you will learn the real meaning of characters by learning first their ancestors, that is to say, from where they come from and how they are built. Here’s an example of a character tree:


Primitive characters appear as characters in their own right, whereas primitive components do not. The primitive component 灬 is an abbreviated form of the primitive character 火. The parameter r is the SUBTLEX-CH usage frequency rank of the character. Pronunciations are given in pinyin romanization. Note that each character is only assigned a single meaning. That is even though most actually possess a range of broadly related meanings.

More bang for your buck, what’s not to like in the idea?

The study compares the new algorithm to other well-known character learning methods, such as Heisig’s. It found that it outperforms previously published orders and algorithms.

How? The idea behind this new algorithm is also to introduce useful words you’ll be able to use productively right away. You won’t just be learning components. Characters and their components are only introduced when they compose multiple-character words or when the character forms a single-character word itself.

In short, it’s all about learning Chinese characters and words in a special order. This order takes into account:

This has a number of benefits. It’ll tremendously develop your character recognition and acquisition. What’s more, it will also help you distinguish similar sounds and characters and also characters that share the same sound.

Learn characters and words you’ll be able to use right away

This approach to learning to read and write Chinese has another clear advantage. The words you learn can be put to immediate and productive use when reading and writing sentences. These activities help the learning process. That’s why you’ll be learning Chinese characters in an optimal learning order. 🙂

Even if you are mainly focused on learning immediately useful words, you will find this new world useful. You’ll be able to recognize words more easily after learning the characters and words in the Universe World. That, in turn, will help you learn sentences and grammar more easily.

Note: Sometimes, you’ll be learning characters that are rarely used on their own. That’ll be because these characters are often found in words of 2 or more characters. These, however, are very frequently encountered. It’s a great way to understand a word deeper and learn it faster. Just keep in mind that by learning these characters, you’ll be adding them to our collection of learned words on Ninchanese and in your SRS. So, if you don’t want to learn components or single characters you won’t find yourself using as is, we recommend doing the classic story worlds of Ninchanese first.

So, what do you think? Ready to experience a new way of learning Chinese characters that’s both easy and fast for you? All thanks to the help of an algorithm that devised a clever order in which you should learn them?  We sure hope you have a blast learning Chinese characters this way! Be sure to let us know your thoughts!

We wish you success in your Chinese learning!

The Nincha Team

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3 replies on “New world: The Chinese Character Universe – Science-based Chinese character learning”

I’m really interested in this, it reminds me of Domino Chinese, I know you’ve put a lot of work implementing it but it would be really cool if it could be used as an alternative course with grammar, pronunciation and listening tests.

Hi Jimmy, Thanks for your message and your suggestion. Something we should think about! In the meantime, we are working on a new world on Ninchanese that will help you even more we believe. Stay tuned!

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