Remembering Simplified Hanzi (James W. Heisig) VS. Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters (Matthews)

ouyangjun116
February 08, 2010, 03:21 AM posted in General Discussion

Hello Everyone,

 

I'm hoping we can have a discussion on the difference and advantages between the two learning methods presented in:

James W. Heisig's, "Remembering Simplified Hanzi Book 1: How not to forget the meaning of Chinese Characters"

vs.

Matthews & Matthews, "Tuttle:  Learning Chinese Characters Volume 1"

 

Other than the obvious, which is that Heisig's book covers 1,000 characters while the Tuttle book covers 800, what are the advantages and disadvantages to both?  Which book is better in regards to being effective in remembering the Chinese characters?

 

I am currently using the Tuttle book, but have never used Heisig's book.  I'm looking to get peoples opinion about the difference between the two methods (are they the same method or are they different)?

 

Also looking for opinions on which is better.

 

Thanks,

欧阳骏

 

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John
February 08, 2010, 06:24 AM

I'm familiar with Heisig's approach, but not Tuttle's, so I can't compare. I was under the impression that Tuttle simply copied Heisig's approach and did their own version of it.

Could you explain Tuttle's approach a bit?

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Keth
February 08, 2010, 07:10 AM

Tuttle tries to tie in remembering the sound of the character as well as the meaning of the character.In fact Heisig also tells you the sound in a seperate section. I just went through the book and added the sound to each character.

Both books are useful but in fact I find just reading the characters and looking up the ones I cant remember or dont know seems to work best for me.

So apart from Cpod I try reading BBC Chinese web pages , and books I can buy in England in Chinese.

What I find frustrating is that many of the radicals dont have a sound given for them.So you are forced to remember those just visually.

 

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pretzellogic
February 08, 2010, 07:40 AM

I've tried using Matthews' Tuttle book.  In theory, I really like the visual approach it takes toward memorization.  I haven't tried Heisig's book, so I can't really compare. 

I do like the Tuttle book.  Its strength is a really focused approach to learning a character, and I would GUESS that it might be the most efficient way to learn a character.  Its weakness is that most Chinese words are more than one character, so learning a word using Tuttle means that you learn one character first, and then after learning a few more characters, you learn the 2nd character you needed to know to learn the word cpod just taught.

 

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ouyangjun116
February 08, 2010, 07:49 AM

你好John,

 

The Tuttle Method:

 

Let's use 刮 - to blow

舌 + 刀 = 刮 

(of course it is the distorted form of 刀)

 

The young chef runs his TONGUE on the KNIFE to lick it clean and then BLOWS on it to dry it.  // The GIANT, guardian of kitchen cleanliness excuses this as he also loves the taste of GARLIC.

This is the format for each character.  The meaning of the character is to be made up of a story with the subcomponents of the character.  The first part of the story is to give you the meaning by looking at the subcomponents which should trigger the story leading you to the meaning of 刮.

 

The second part which I have put in italics is for the tone and pronunciation.  GARLIC for example is supposed to trigger gua and the GIANT is an archetype that means it is first tone.  Any time there is a GIANT in the story it is first tone (Fairy = second; Dwarf = fourth; Teddy = third).  Honestly I do not use the second part too often in regards to tones and sounds.  I find the first part very useful though in regards to memorizing meanings.

 

I'm amazed at how quickly I'm going through the book and retaining everything.

 

Is this the same approach that Heisig is using?

 

谢谢,

欧阳骏

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mattahmet
February 08, 2010, 08:37 AM

I also studied Matthews' book, and found it enjoyable at first, but all the silliness with fairies and dwarfs and wheels started to wear on me. And I found a lot of the stories so nonsensical that I couldn't remember them well enough to make use of the mnemonic anyhow. I haven't used Heisig, but I found this image of a page from the original Japanese "Remembering the Kanji" book: http://www.trussel.com/jap/images/heisig01b.jpg

I've also studied the free 40-page PDF extract of Hoenig's book, which he makes available on his website: http://ezchinesey.com/ He admittedly adopts Heisig's method, but with some improvements, I think, like showing more clearly the components of each character. I like his explanations. It just feels like someone's talking to you, giving you tips on how to remember each character.

I felt that Matthews' working pronunciation into their stories was a bit overkill. Anyhow, at my intermediate level, I usually know words with the character, so I know the pronunciation and meaning, just not the character itself.

I'm now using http://remembr.it/ flashcards, which don't offer any mnemonics, but the repetition and grouping of characters seems to be pretty effective on its own.

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ouyangjun116
February 08, 2010, 10:42 AM

你好mattahmet,

 

我同意你的观点。  I also find the pronunciation and tone overkill on the stories.  I do not usually read that part as I usually already know the tone and pronunciation of the word.  My spoken Chinese versus my written is much further along, so just remembering the meanings and not all the other stuff is what is most useful to me. 

 

For flashcards I use a site called www.flashcardexchange.com  I really like this site for Flashcards.  If you sign up for the membership, which is a lifetime membership for $20 you can use their study tools like the Lietner Flaschard Learning System.  

 

I will look into the other links you have.

 

谢谢,

欧阳骏

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hkboy
February 08, 2010, 11:09 AM

For me, it was really hard to get started.  At the end of the day, you just have to find something that works for you. I searched and searched.  My bookshelf is full of books, along with an expensive CD-ROM program.  I also bought  “250 Essential Chinese Characters”.  This must be a cousin of the one mentioned in the original post. 

Anyway, I finally settled on “Remembering Traditional Hanzi”.   It has 1,500 characters and they are all on www.skritter.com.  My 2010 Resolution was to start learning characters.  According to skritter, I have learned 120 characters, with a retention rate of around 93%.  I sit down on the sofa and look at the stories/characters and then go and practice them on skritter. I can't "get" some of the stories.  However, I think up a new story for the ones I can't accept. 

Thanks for bringing this up.

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bababardwan

hkboy,

Are these stories just made up ones to try and help remember the characters,or are they the original stories..ie..related to how the characters were formed and evolved in the first place?

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hkboy

bababardwan,

I think the stories are just made up to help you to remember the characters. Like I said above, some of the stories are bit too abstract.

You can actually download the first 5 or 6 chapters for free.

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ouyangjun116

Yes, they are just stories to help you remember the characters. They are not really related to how the characters were formed and evolved in the first place.

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hkboy

oh. and bababardwan,

Can I respectfully ask you to consider changing your avatar back to the previous one? I assume it's from that blockbuster movie which I never saw.

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bababardwan

为什么?

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hkboy

only a request. keep it.

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BEBC
February 08, 2010, 07:39 PM

I think the best way to learn to read Hanzi is to combine drawing and memorisation with a lot of reading. A boxer spends some time in the gym and some time running (comparable to memorisation), but it's his time spent sparring in the ring which improves his ability the most. Reading and reading really does work. You have to find texts based on frequency which introduce characters gradually and which have lots of repetition of previously learned characters. The "Read Chinese" (Yale) series is very good if you are learning traditional hanzi. Focussing on reading has been the main way I have managed to retain about 600 characters over the last year or so....flashcards and associative methods alone weren't half as effective for me.

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bababardwan
February 09, 2010, 12:15 AM

hkboy,

Are these stories just made up ones to try and help remember the characters,or are they the original stories..ie..related to how the characters were formed and evolved in the first place?

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hkboy
February 09, 2010, 02:14 AM

bababardwan,

I think the stories are just made up to help you to remember the characters. Like I said above, some of the stories are bit too abstract.

You can actually download the first 5 or 6 chapters for free.

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ouyangjun116
February 09, 2010, 02:24 AM

Yes, they are just stories to help you remember the characters. They are not really related to how the characters were formed and evolved in the first place.

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changye
February 09, 2010, 02:30 AM

The problem is that mnemonics are often more difficult to remember than target characters are........

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hkboy

changye,

Yes. And when I first started learning to write, I showed them (Hong Kong wife, mother-in-law, co-workers) skritter and my new book. They were mildly amused. It finally came down to the fact that they wanted me to get out my paper and pencil and write & copy the characters many many times.

They may be right.

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ma_tai
February 09, 2010, 02:44 AM

I looked at the Tuttle book, but never considered buying it. I could not imagine trying to remember all those silly mnemonics for hundreds of characters.

For me, I find repeatedly writing out the characters themselves, and using them in sentences is the best way to learn them properly, especially to remember the differences between similar characters. This is what the Chinese do as kids to learn characters: write them out hundreds of times each, practicing until perfect.

You can also say the sound of the character as you write it occasionally to associate it. I don't find that I get much from flashcards themselves. But they're an ok way to test yourself. But then again, you can just read things, as has been mentioned.

I'm using a workbook called Chinese Made Easy (published in HK, but has a Simplified version). It is aimed at highschool kids (with levels 1-5), but the approach is really good for remembering characters, lots of repetition and revision. A bit closer to CPod's philosophy than many other Chinese textbooks. You learn the patterns/grammar through examples and repetition rather than just memorisation. It really suits my style of learning personally.

 

Matt

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hkboy
February 09, 2010, 02:46 AM

changye,

Yes. And when I first started learning to write, I showed them (Hong Kong wife, mother-in-law, co-workers) skritter and my new book. They were mildly amused. It finally came down to the fact that they wanted me to get out my paper and pencil and write & copy the characters many many times.

They may be right.

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hkboy
February 09, 2010, 02:50 AM

Hey Matt,

I think I have seen those books at the shops here in Hong Kong. They look really nice.  There was simplified and traditional. 

I almost bought it but my wife would scream bloody murder.

How far have you gotten?

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ouyangjun116
February 09, 2010, 03:28 AM

I know a lot of people do not agree with the Tuttle/Heisig method, and think that memorizing the story is more difficult than memorizing the character, but for me it is what works best.  The retention rate and speed is unlike anything I've ever used for studying Chinese characters. 

 

Previously I used the method of learning by rote, writing over and over the same character... the problem was that if I didn't see the character frequently I forgot it and did not retain anything.  My estimation is that by rote I was retaining around 20% of what I was studying.

 

In January I picked up the Tuttle book and in 6 weeks I've gone through over 600 Chinese characters with an estimated retention rate of 90%.  Far more effective and with real results I'm to see and put to immediate use.

 

This is not to say the Heisig/Tuttle method is best for everyone.  It is what works best for me. 

 

I don't think the Heisig/Tuttle method would work great if it was only being used in isoloation though.  I live in China, so on a daily basis I see hundreds of characters before my eyes.  Seeing the character at first I say, "I know that character", but then I forget what it is... at that point I start to use the Heisig/Tuttle method and it triggers my brain and I remember the character.  After seeing the character many times, the Heisig/Tuttle method will start to go away and you will simply recognize the character upon seeing it.  But for learning new vocab and retention... I'm a converted beleiver :)

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ma_tai
February 09, 2010, 03:40 AM

I've just begun book 3. Like most here, my speaking ability is beyond my reading/writing, but I find that it doesn't matter that much. My focus using the books is to learn the characters, and actually, already knowing some words in pinyin just makes it quicker, not tedious.

My thinking too is that young children learning a language always have a spoken ability beyond what they can read and write, so there is nothing wrong with always playing catchup with the learning of the characters. So I mainly use CPod for spoken, and then reinforce the words, grammar and characters with the written textbooks.

I don't think there is much way around it... When learning Chinese you have to learn every word twice, once as a spoken word, and then as a character. Hopefully remembering the association between the two. I do find though, that the characters often help to cement my memory of the meaning of a word (because so many letter combinations repeat with pinyin alone).

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hkboy
February 09, 2010, 03:42 AM

only a request. keep it.