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Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters (Matthews & Matthews) Reviews

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Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters (Matthews & Matthews) Review


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Tuttle's Learning Chinese Characters is an ambitious and unique book. It aims to teach the learner all about Chinese Characters through storytelling, visual imagery and historical explanation. Compared to the Roman alphabet used by most European countries, Chinese characters are a formidable and sometimes forbidding topic. After all, most Indo-European languages use letters, not pictographs which are amalgamations of images. Tuttle aims to teach the learner ways to memorize and familiarize themselves with Chinese characters in an interesting and engaging way. It claims to teach you in a revolutionary way how to learn and remember over 800 words and phrases of the most important Chinese characters using a mnemonic technique. But, you may well ask, what is the method exactly and is it effective? Read on...or as they write in Chinese  继续阅读...

Tuttle's Learning Chinese Characters is a book focused solely on teaching Chinese simplified characters and how to remember, pronounce and write them. Tuttle uses an unusual and method which uses a mnemonic story based style of learning, in short an unusual story is told in order that you associate it with the character and thus remember this character based on that association. Each of the 800 characters is explained in terms of its meaning, history and pronunciation. You learn to remember the various characters by reading stories in English directly related to the meaning and sound of the chosen character. The story is written in such a way that you learn to associate the character with the story and thus you can remember it with ease. This kind of mnemonic technique is very effective in helping you remember characters by associating images with them, so if you need to memorize characters for your Chinese Mandarin exam this might just be the book you need.

This method is quite different from most books teaching Chinese characters. Tuttle's Learning Chinese Characters seems more geared towards memorizing characters so that you can remember them in order to pass an exam. This type of memory technique is very effective but you soon forget the stories connected with each character when it is stored in your long term memory. Taking this method into consideration, the market for this book is quite narrow, limited to those who only want to learn Chinese Simplified characters and their meanings. For beginners or those wanting to learn conversational Mandarin, look elsewhere as this will only obscure an already complicated subject matter.

Quite frankly, this method is only for those who have used it before or think they would benefit from using a mnemonic style for memorizing Chinese characters. If you are learning Mandarin for the first time this book is not for you. The method is quite complex and at times unclear. It over complicates and baffles quite easily, particularly if you are a beginner. This book is suitable for students studying for the HSK Chinese proficiency exam, so it really is marketed toward the specialist Chinese learner and is perhaps best bought with other supplementary learning material as on its own it is not enough and may leave you bemused if this is your only resource. The method seems protracted, obscure and unnecessary and there are other books using less esoteric methods to teach Chinese characters so seek these out before you use Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters.

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