Make a list of 1001 Chinese characters and learn them

I entered this task on my 101-in-1001 list long before I knew I would be studying Chinese full time this semester and the previous one, which is why it somewhat diffuse. Please let me explain. Even if Chinese characters are useful to know in themselves, words are what really counts, so this item ought to have been formulated differently. A character can mean a multitude of things, and in modern Chinese a single character can take on so many meanings that it sometimes becomes meaningless without context (which is why one ought not to rely solely on a dictionary when choosing characters for a tattoo).

In classical Chinese, words were often only one character long, but in modern Chinese this is not the case. Instead, words commonly consist of two characters or more, forming a meaningful unity and making the language more distinct (since more syllables are used for a given word, there is less room for misinterpretation). So, really, I ought to have had a task about learning 1001 words instead of characters.

I am pretty certain that I have learnt a thousand different characters as they appear in various words. As of this moment, my vocabulary software (ZDT, see Chinese section) contains 1719 words. Not all of them tallies with a new character, since old characters appear again in new words. However, most words contain more than one character, so early on, I learnt a lot more than one character per word. My estimate is that these two roughly cancel each other out, meaning that I know roughly 1719 characters and words. Even if this is false, I have a 719 wide margin, which is certain to be enough.

When I practice characters at home, I use a certain pad, not for any practical reason, but because it is sometimes nice to be able to leaf back and look at old stuff (and note how my study technique has changed along with my handwriting). As I could have written about this goal a long time ago, I decided to do it so this post coincided with my finishing the hundred pages of that first pad. I have now done so. For your information, learning a thousand characters require a lot of time and I seriously doubt I would have managed this had I not studied the language full time. But I did, and so I managed to accomplish this goal.

Tags: