Jake Gill (高健), CEO of the character learning app Skritter, is a long-time learner of Chinese and also has experience of teaching Mandarin. Along his journey, Jake has picked up lots of tips and tricks for making Chinese characters stick. In this post we share some of Jake’s advice from his BCI talk on 9th June.
In 2021, Mandarin learners have access to a wealth of resources and information, with online courses, apps and websites readily available. However, Jake notes that this can lead to information overload, more distractions and a tendency to compare yourself to others online. Jake’s talk helps Mandarin learners to navigate through these challenges to succeed in their character learning.
Start with small goals
Many Mandarin learners aspire to become fluent, and Jake suggests that the best way to get there is through setting yourself small, achievable goals to focus on. Learning Mandarin is a long journey, but succeeding at reaching these small milestones is rewarding and reminds you of the progress you’re making every day. This approach helps to keep things fun and motivating.
Make studying a habit
Jake highlights the importance of ‘showing up’ for your Mandarin learning. Sticking to a routine and studying every day will ensure your Chinese continues to develop at a steady pace, and your learning will be far more effective. It may be writing ten characters a day or reading a page of Chinese, but sticking to this habit will help you to progress.
Study smart, not hard!
Connect the dots
Combining your Mandarin learning with something else that you’re passionate about can be much more motivating, so Jake recommends exploring topics you’re interested in when studying Chinese.
It’ll be more fun and more motivating!
Jake himself built upon his fascination with typography when he began learning Chinese. He is a visual learner who enjoys creative challenges, and this interest in Chinese and typography is reflected in his colourful graffiti style Chinese character artwork.
Make use of resources
There is an abundance of resources out there for Mandarin learners. It can be difficult to identify the most useful ones, but it’s worth seeking out the resources that you find valuable. Jake’s list of suggestions could be a good place to start:
- Hacking Chinese – blog, challenges, resources (free)
- Pleco – Mobile dictionary (free/paid)
- Hanzicraft – Character lookup tool (free)
- Outlier Linguistics – Character dictionary (Pleco Add-On)
- Du Chinese – Graded Reader (free/paid)
- The Chairman’s Bao – Graded Reader (free/paid)
- Mandarin Companion – Graded Reader (paid)
- You Can Learn Chinese – (free Podcast)
5 steps to mastering characters
Jake follows a five-step process to master Chinese characters. Follow these steps and see how your learning improves! This might sound like a lot of effort, but Jake promises that following this process becomes quick and automatic once you’re used to it.
Really look at the character. Pick out things you already know or recognise.
Stroke order, structure, and analysis of functional components.
Not copying… writing. Ideally from memory, and without looking at the character or word in question.
Does your character match? If not, try it again!
This doesn’t happen immediately, but these steps plus exposure make memorisation much easier (and quicker)
- If you would like to hear more about Jake’s learning journey and his tips for making characters stick, you can watch the full talk here.
- Read more about Jake in our Mandarin Aspirations post: Skritter CEO Jake Gill on experimenting and ‘showing up’