This is an update on my experiment to learn to read Chinese. You can also read my original post on this topic, or check out all other posts on my experiment. After a bit of research I settled on Heisig's "Remembering the Simplified Hanzi" method - which is progressing really well.
A bad week
I had to go to Zurich for business for 4 days - and I knew I was going to be working long hours, so I didn't take Heisig with me. I thought I would mentally revise characters when I had the chance, but somehow my mind was always occupied with other stuff.
What made this worse was that last weekend I learned quite a lot of new characters, and I didn't get time to revise. This meant, 4 days without revising dozens of new hanzi, my recall was shocking. It felt like I had a re-learn a lot of stuff when I got back.
Some characters have quite clear imagery, and learning it once is enough. Forever. But I guess I had done a chapter which was sufficiently abstract that revision was really important.
Don't underestimate the value of regular revision!
Mixing stuff up
The more I learn, the more there is to confuse me. In case you find these detail points helpful to you as go work through the Heisig system, I'd like to suggest that you read through them, and "mentally innoculate" yourself so you don't fall into the same traps.
I think these points are important enough to bother documenting, if that tells you anything about whether I think they're important enough for you to read. :-)
- If you look at 谁, you will see it has two primitives: 讠 and (the other part I can't work out how to type). The second part has the image of a "turkey" ascribed to it, to make visualisations easier. My mistake was to think that's how you write turkey - which is actually 火鸡 (fire chicken!). The problem was I confused the actual word with the image associated with a primitive.
- But I'm not too concerned - practice can solve that.
- The hanzi for 'sound' (音) is made up of primitives which have the images of 'vase' and 'sun' - and the bottom line of vase does not overlap with the top line of sun. On the other hand, 'side' (旁) is made up of vase, crown & compass. In this case, however, the bottom line of vase is the top line of crown. This is no problem when I'm reading the characters, but when I try to write them, I don't always get the correct overlap/non-overlap thing.
- No problem, if I practice more, it won't be a problem.
- I got confused between 匀 and 习 for a while, until I mentally made a point of revising their respective images & compositions.
- If I practise lots, then this will become automatic.
- 安 (peaceful) is easy to remember as a character (it's fairly common) - but it's difficult to incorporate the concept of "peaceful" into an images sometimes.
- But as long as I continue to practise these visualisations, I'll get better.
- The word for punishment (刑) is made up of 'holding hands' and 'sabre'. I was trying to remember the image associated with 'two hands holding a sabre' but was drawing blanks. It was only when I remembered that my image was of two hands being cut by a sabre that the word 'punishment' popped into my mind.
- So I guess, if I practise reading these hanzi often, this issue will not arise. Or not as often, anyway.
- If you allow be to mix up word meanings ('W') and primitive images ('P') for a moment, then note the following: 手 (W:hand), 扌 (P:finger), 开 (P:two hands), 乃 (P:fist), 及 (P:outstretched hands) .... arghhhhh!! I think it would have helped if Heisig had pointed out that these similarities were coming, so that I could have been more careful when setting up the images in the first place.
- But by ongoing practice of being careful of how I construct these images, and lots of repetition, this won't bother me at all.
My goals of writing these notes in this much detail are twofold: (1) to put my thoughts in clear terms so I can learn from my mistakes, and (2) to help others using the Heisig approach so they can be more efficient at this than me.
As always, it's your comments to these posts that add the value - my notes are just a starting point. So let me know your thoughts. For those using Heisig, what kind of mistakes do you make?