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wordsfast-testIn my book, vocabulary is all-important, it’s the foundation on which all other skills are built. It doesn’t matter how good you are at distinguishing tones, sentence structure and character writing, if you don’t know the words, you won’t be able to communicate in Chinese. Here are some questions relevant for this category:

  • Why is vocabulary so important?
  • How do I learn characters and words?
  • What words should I learn?

Even though many articles I’ve written deal with vocabulary in some way (see all of them at the bottom of this page), there are a few which stand out as being more important than others. Here are five articles you really should read:

  1. The importance of knowing many words – In this article I talk about the fundamental question of why vocabulary is so important. Everybody knows that words are very important, but in this article I argue that it’s even more important than most people think.
  2. Creating a powerful toolkit: Character components – One interesting aspect of the Chinese language is that it lends itself very well to memory tricks. Learning characters by rote is extremely inefficient, so you should start building your toolkit early. Learn character parts, learn individual characters and then combine these to form powerful mnemonics.
  3. Memory aids and mnemonics to enhance learning – This article introduces the concept of mnemonics and memory aids, telling you how to study characters and words in a way that is both fun and efficient. The memory techniques I talk about here is useful for learning anything, not just vocabulary. Memory is a skill that can be practised.
  4. Spaced repetition software and why you should use it – This is perhaps the single most important tool to learn vocabulary (and other facts). It is many times more efficient that traditional vocabulary learning methods and something you have to check out if you haven’t already. SRS makes it possible to learn huge amounts of words without spending too much time.
  5. Holistic language learning: Integrating knowledge – Holistic learning means that we should integrate what we want to learn with what we already know, thus forming a giant web of knowledge. In this article, I talk about holistic learning and how it applies to learning Chinese, including how to improve your web and its infrastructure.

Apart from these articles, there are many more that might be interesting for advanced learners. Here is a list of all articles in the advanced category (scroll down to see all of them in a text-only list):

All articles

The importance of knowing many words
Creating a powerful toolkit: Character components
Creating a powerful toolkit: Individual characters
Spaced repetition software and why you should use it
Creating a powerful toolkit: Characters and words
Learning Chinese words really fast
Anki, the best of spaced repetition software
Using search engines to study Chinese
Why you should use more than one textbook
Diversified learning is smart learning
Spaced repetition isn’t rote learning
Review: Chinese Synonyms Usage Dictionary
Memorising dictionaries to boost reading ability
Dealing with tricky vocabulary: Killing leeches
Vocabulary in your pocket
Holistic language learning: Integrating knowledge
The Chinese-Chinese dictionary survival guide
Reading manga for more than just pleasure
Mapping the terra incognita of vocabulary
Reading speed: Learning how to read ten lines at a glance
When perfectionism becomes an obstacle to progress
Use the benefits of teaching to boost your own learning
Answer buttons and how to use SRS
Why learning Chinese through music is underrated
Kickstart your character learning with the 100 most common radicals
Extending mnemonics: Tones and pronunciation
Vocalise more to learn more Chinese
Chat your way to better Chinese
Learning Chinese in the shower with me
Measurable progress is a double-edged sword
You can’t learn Chinese characters by rote
Towards a more sensible way of learning to write Chinese
Remembering is a skill you can learn
Sensible character learning: Progress, reminders and reflections
How to create mnemonics for general or abstract character components
Don’t use mnemonics for everything
Translating to improve your Chinese
Horizontal vocabulary learning
21 essential dictionaries and corpora for learning Chinese
Is your flashcard deck too big for your own good?
Learning the right chengyu the right way
If you think spaced repetition software is a panacea you are wrong
Boosting your character learning with Skritter
Dealing with near-synonyms in Chinese as an independent learner
The get-back-up-to-speed summer challenge
Why manually adding and editing flashcards is good for you
Phonetic components, part 1: The key to 80% of all Chinese characters
Phonetic components, part 2: Hacking Chinese characters
Drills and exercises aren’t only for beginners
How to learn Chinese characters as a beginner
Flashcard overflow: About card models and review directions
Sensible Chinese character learning revisited
Sensible Chinese character learning challenge 2014
Sensible character learning challenge 2014: Milestone #1
Learn to read Chinese… with ease?
Handwriting Chinese characters: The minimum requirements
Sensible character learning challenge 2014: Milestone #2
Sensible character learning challenge 2014: Milestone #3
Sensible character learning challenge 2014: The Big Finish
Focusing on radicals, character components and building blocks
7 ways of learning to write Chinese characters
About cheating, spaced repetition and learning Chinese
Focusing on communication to learn Chinese
Learning to write Chinese characters through communication
Why you should think of characters in terms of functional components
Sensible character challenge, January 11th to 31st
My best advice on learning Chinese characters
How focusing on intent can help you learn Chinese characters
A minimum-effort approach to writing Chinese characters by hand
Learning Chinese by playing Mahjong 麻將 (májiàng)
The 9 best Twitter feeds for learning Chinese


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