Chinese Characters Piece by Piece

Learn 150 fundamental high frequency Chinese characters by taking them apart
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Instructed by Brad Pritchett Language / Chinese
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  • Lectures 18
  • Length 2.5 hours
  • Skill Level Beginner Level
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
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    Available on iOS and Android
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About This Course

Published 7/2016 English

Course Description

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. 

What are the requirements?

  • You do not need to know any Chinese or Chinese characters to begin this course. However, if you are completely unfamiliar with how the pronunciation of Chinese words is spelled out in our familiar roman alphabet (the pinyin transcription system), I suggest you do a web search and spend an hour or two familiarizing yourself with the basics.
  • The course is suitable for absolute beginners.

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Master 150 fundamental high frequency Chinese characters and gain the essential building blocks for continuing you studies.
  • At the end of the course you should be in a good position to tackle the dialogues in first term, or even first year, Chinese textbooks.

Who is the target audience?

  • 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. It is specifically geared toward those who may believe that Chinese characters are just to visually complex for them or for those who may have tried to learn in the past and failed. However, if you already know many characters and find learning them quite easy, it's probably not for you.
  • Please note, this is not a course in grammar or spoken Chinese. You'll need to tackle that elsewhere.

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: Part 1: Characters 1 through 30

A brief overview of the structure and goals of the course. 


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. 

Section 2: Part 2: Characters 30-60

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.

Section 3: Part 3: Characters 61-90

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 our system now quite comfortably established, we begin to pick up the pace just a bit as we learn the characters for: word, to speak, language, bright, peace, character, to learn, minute, ear, to take

Section 4: Part 4: Characters 91-120

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.  

Section 5: Part 5: Characters 121-150

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. 

Section 6: Conclusion and Bonus Video

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!

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Instructor Biography

Brad Pritchett, Linguist & Computer Scientist (Human Language Processing)

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.  

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