Weekly Update - Feb. 08, 2020

February 08, 2020

Learning 3,000 Chinese Characters

You can track my progress here.

I learned 184 new characters, taking my total to 1744/3,000.

I spent 11.2 hours learning characters this week.

Short update this week - here are my thoughts. 👇

Knowledge Compounds

The Heisig book (see here for background) is split into two parts.

Book 1 (1,500 characters) teaches you a lot of characters and many primitives, elements that the author defines to help you learn characters. Each chapter in Book 2 corresponds to the characters and primitives learned in the same chapter of Book 1. Book 2 has much more focus on learning actual characters and less emphasis on learning primitives.

Because the first characters and primitives I learned were from the beginnning of Book 1, I’ve gotten the most time to practice learning those characters and primitives.

Now that I’m just starting Book 2, I am able to capitalize on the knowledge of those elements to learn more quickly and easily. Those primitves - like sun (日) and tree (木), which I learned right away, have become automatic for me to remember. Because I’m not struggling to remember those elements, it’s much easier for me to use them to build complex characters, like 晕.

It’s a relief that things have gotten a little easier. The end of Book 1 introduces a lot of new primitive elements. These are usually harder for me to remember because they’re completely new shapes and strokes rather than just combinations of primitives I already known.

And it’s rewarding to see that things I learned earlier are helping me today. Because I put in the work earlier on, it’s made it easier for me to learn today.

I’m (Probably) Learning Inefficiently

At this point, it’s become somewhat clear to me that if I was trying to learn most efficiently, I’d pause my character studying and spend much more time on speaking and reading. Spending 2 hours/day on only characters is too much, and it’s frustrating to only be able to say a few words after 2 months of studying.

It’s also super annoying to dedicate mental energy to words that I have literally never used in English. Why are you teaching me the character for tenebrous!? This is not a character I expect to need until I’m an advanced learner.

But, like I said last week, I’m going to keep plugging along to see if I can do it; maybe it will turn out to be more beneficial than I think.

I’m debating upping my new words/day to 40 or 45 (from 30), which would put me on track to finish in early March. If I did that, I’d have to sacrifice some time reviewing cards to learn new words.

That’s all for this week! Thanks for reading

I send updates on my progress every Saturday.