This course is for absolute beginners taking their first steps in learning Chinese characters with the ultimate goal of reading popular modern Mandarin language materials, including books, newspapers, magazines, and of course, on-line materials. Even more specifically, it is geared toward those who may believe that Chinese characters are just to visually complex for them to ever master or for those who may have tried to learn characters in the past and failed. We focus on character recognition (rather than writing) and capitalize on the fact that Chinese characters are *not* each individual pictures, but are instead composed of repeating components that recur over and over again. By learning to identify these elements, we are able to break characters down into their parts, making the task of remembering them far simpler. In fact, by giving these components names, we actually change the problem of reading Chinese from a visual task into an essentially verbal one! In this first course, we'll be learning 150 fundamental high frequency characters and components (in their modern forms as used in the People's Republic of China).
The course is organized around 15 video lessons that each teaches 10 characters and their components. Every lesson also has an accompanying .pdf file that both summarizes the lecture and provides additional hints and information. While a highly motivated learner could complete the entire course in 15 days by tackling 10 characters a day, there is absolutely no reason you must proceed that quickly. Most students will probably want to spend about 3-4 weeks completing the program. Once you have finished this first course, you should understand the characters typically found in most first term, or even first year, Chinese textbooks and have an excellent foundation for continuing your studies either in our subsequent courses or on your own.
We introduce our mantra based system and learn our first 10 characters for: one, two, three, person, generic counter, no(t), also, woman, he/him, and she/her
We continue learning our next 10 characters, 11-20: son, a few, power, nine, big, wood, source, machine, cup, mouth
We conclude the first section with characters 21-30: middle, four, sun, say, perfective marker, child, good, eight, fire, white.
Moving onward, we master our next 10 characters, 31-40, including: horse, yes-no question particle, gate, plural marker, culture, this, hand, I/me, earth, to go.
With characters 41-50, we will have completed the first 1/3 of this course. We are well on our way! The characters in this lesson: mother, side, what, interrogative particle, one hundred, six, and/with, to arrive, above, below
We march on with characters 51-60: too much, small, again, work, left, right, friend, moon, to have/there is, companion.
More character and more components! Here we learn: five, place, seven, proper, to be, husband, not until, to be located, king, jade
With this lecture we pass the half way point toward our first 150 characters! We learn: country, knife, to arrive, to stop, to walk, cloud, to transport, to move, to meet/be able, older brother
With your 100th character at the end of this lesson, you will have completed the first 2/3 of this course! Here we learn: public, book, east, car, west, water, alcohol, many/much, name, mountain.
We continue to add to our inventory of characters with 101-110: to exit, few, home, to want, together, now, outside, to stand, station, sheep.
More characters, more components, including: beautiful, eye, nail, axe, to listen, new, heart, to want/think, to bear, verdant green.
We begin the final section of the course with the characters for: surname, to enter, to invite, pure, clear, to use, dawn, but, to hit, old.
By now you should be quite an expert in our system for learning new characters! This lesson includes: tall, to look at, to see, cowrie/money, clerk, again, first, expensive, north, capital.
Congratulations! We conclude with our final characters of this first course, bringing our total to 150 (plus components). The final ten include: rain, electricity, head, scholar, to buy, to sell, to be able to, towel, market/city, to die.
Some final remarks and a request for feedback from you!
This BONUS video was originally intended as the course introduction, but it wound up running far too long. Nevertheless, it does contain a good deal of useful information on the history and development of the course, its historical sources, my original motivations in developing it, and many other topics. While I later decided it was better to go with a short intro and then dive right into the lessons, I've chosen to include this original intro here to serve as a sort of FAQ for students who would like more background information or might have any lingering questions. So, if you're wondering about any aspect of the course, give this video a look, and there's a good chance your questions will be answered. Of course, you can also contact me as well!
I am a former academic linguist with a BA, MA, and PhD from Harvard. I have served as a professor of linguistics and computational linguistics at universities including Northwestern, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Arizona. I have also worked as a research scientist in computational linguistics at Motorola and lectured both nationally and internationally. In addition to writing and publishing numerous articles in academic books and journals, I am also the author of the book, Grammatical Competence & Parsing Performance, published by the University of Chicago Press. I have also had the pleasure of teaching computer programming at both the high school and college levels and greatly enjoy the challenge of making complex concepts simple and understandable.