Using Expansion for Writing Practice

January 12, 2011, 04:02 AM posted in General Discussion

Now that printable expansion sentences are here, here's one way to take advantage of that for offline study. Originally posted here, re-posting to this group at suggestion of Pretzellogic. (Oh, and chris just posted a message saying he follows a similar process).

A couple of months ago I started making a habit of copying out the expansion sentences longhand. (As many times as necessary until I am able to produce each sentence correctly at least once without "peeking"). I found that this was helpful in a number of ways:

  • Instead of just learning new characters, I am constantly reinforcing the truly high-frequency characters. This was my original intent.
  • Duh! Producing the characters is making me better at recognizing characters!
  • It makes me spend more time with the expansion, which gives me a better chance to absorb multiple instances of a pattern.
  • Writing hanzi is still painfully difficult for me, which slows me down. The forced extra time with each sentence gives me a more reasonable chance to really think about the sentence pattern. I'm much more likely to "notice" details -- a 了 here and a 得 there. Just reading and listening to the sentences, in the past I was apparently all too ready to be satisfied with comprehension.
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May 24, 2011, 12:40 AM

Hi there,


I agree that writing out the expansion sentences is useful and that was the strategy I have employed since I started. It definitely does make you think about the new vocab and sentence structures more when you have to concentrate on writing it out.


However, now that I am on Intermediate lessons I find that writing out all the sentences takes a long time and I find myself spending several days on one lesson when I really would like to move onto new material.


It's tricky to find a balance...

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August 01, 2011, 11:16 PM

The expansion sentences made me gasp when I first discovered them. Many of the words seemed dauntingly tough, still do actually, but I find it really challenges me to get into the language. I might try writing out the sentences this week.

Do you use Chinese character 'grid' paper? I've been practicing writing writing with Tuttles '1st 100 Chinese Characters' book and on the Skritter Chinese Pod practice pages. They both have the "X" in a box format to line up the lines.

The mouse wasn't cutting it for writing so I bought a great little Bamboo Pen writing tablet (reconditioned from Amazon) and have been happily churning through characters each day using it.

Is there any way to write in the answers using Simplified characters using the Skritter input? I've been going to Google Translate, typing in Pinyin, and then copying the Hanzi character it gives me (if it matches the Chinese Pod vocab I've learned).


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August 02, 2011, 03:24 AM

I'm all about the low tech approach with a legal pad and a pencil. When I really first started I looked into using grid paper but after a cursory search couldn't really find paper with squares the right size for me (too small, or crazy stupid big). If I'd held out for special hanzi paper I might have found something eventually. But I can't say I've felt the lack terribly.

For your last question, I'm not sure if you're specifically  asking if there's a way to input characters in webforms etc. using character recognition on a tablet setup, or if you're just looking for an easier way to input hanzi on a computer than playing cut-and-paste games in multiple windows.

If the latter, yes typing Hanzi directly is surprisingly easy. You just need something like Google Pinyin. I can't speak to tablet input, so maybe someone who's a big Skritter or Bamboo Pen fan will chime in.

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October 01, 2011, 08:24 PM

My approach has been to use Moleskine brand journals. They have grid squares and are small and light (3.5x5.5 inches, similar in size to a passport) which means I can take them anywhere and practice writing whenever I have some downtime. They typically have about 60 pages, enough for a few months of work (at my pace). Only 2 issues:

1) Since I am a US citizen, the navy blue cover makes it REALLY look like my passport. Confusing at times.

2) The grid is pretty small (5mm). Luckily I like using ultra-fine tip pens, but the really complex characters are pretty difficult to fit inside the grid. Some people may feel that the grid is too small.

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October 15, 2011, 05:23 AM

I solved the too big or two small problem by making my own, using Excel - adjusting the size of the box and deciding whether to show or not the grid, and whether to thicken the lines, then print them out.

The ones with the thicker lines, I put under ordinary bond paper, so they show through and I don't have to print the grid on paper. The result is you can make your writing look even without seeing all the squares when you are done.

I put it here:



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October 15, 2011, 05:56 AM

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where you make practice paper with whatever sample characters you want.