Sensible Character Learning System – Welcome!

Hi there! This page is now out of date. Check out the Chinese Character Learning System in all its glory on these pages:

Introductory video and blog posts


Direct to the ~7 hour step-by-step video course



Welcome to the Sensible Character Learning system! Over the next few weeks I’ll be outlining a sensible approach to learning the Chinese characters.

What do I mean by sensible? On one side I mean not mindlessly writing out the characters hundreds of times until it “sticks” – this is the traditional method. On the other side I’m not proposing any “learn characters in 5 minutes” shortcut to success. There are tips and tricks to learning the characters that can make you progress faster but it will still take time.

Perhaps the biggest reason why Chinese is a challenging language is the characters . Many people simply quit at an early stage because characters, and therefore all Chinese, is too “hard”.

Learning characters is a challenge I believe any reasonably intelligent person can surmount.

The problem is that many people do not have a system for learning the characters.

The traditional way

Whilst studying Chinese in Beijing I saw that nearly all of my fellow students followed the “copy characters out by hand X number of times and hope it sticks” method.

This remains the traditional way to learn Chinese characters. This old fashioned system is part of the reason learning Chinese is seen as so difficult.

The traditional method is like reciting Latin verb conjugations out loud in an old schoolhouse. The goal is to force the information in to the students’ heads through sheer brute force repetition.

This is not to say that the method does not work. In fact it’s the method used to teach most Chinese school children.

It’s just that this method is very inefficient and takes a very long time to get results. If you have 10+ years to get a grip on the characters (as Chinese children do) then of course you’ll learn the required characters!

How can we do better?

The goal of these articles is to provide a better system. I’ll be outlining a basic method that can be adjusted to your particular learning needs.

There are a number of modern methods floating around already – the problem is that by themselves they are incomplete. We’re going to take the best parts of each, reject that which doesn’t work and end up with a far more sensible approach to learning Chinese characters.

I’ll be outlining a better system over the next few weeks. Read through as the articles come out or wait until the end when I’ll compile everything into a PDF booklet.