Resources for Studying Chinese Characters

Study materials, tips, links, and apps to help you read, write, and memorize Chinese characters

These websites, books, apps, and programs will help you learn how to read and write Chinese characters and make the time-consuming process of memorization much easier:

ArchChinese: Designed for beginning students, this website has a number of very useful features for learning how to write Chinese characters (including animated stroke order charts), among other resources.

Books

Learning Chinese Characters, Vol. 1: A Revolutionary New Way to Learn and Remember the 800 Most Basic Chinese Characters (Alison Matthews, Laurence Matthews): Most helpful for beginners but also a good reference tool for more advanced learners, this book uses a cartoon-based mnemonic approach to aid in memorization. It presents the characters in a logical order that also makes them easier to memorize, and it also contains useful information about each character.

Learning Chinese the Easy Way: Read and Understand the Symbols of Chinese Culture (Sam Song) presents the structure and meaning of basic characters in a helpful, interesting way. The book also provides downloadable audio files to accompany the text.

Reading and Writing Chinese: A Comprehensive Guide to the Chinese Writing System (William McNaughton) presents the 2,000 most commonly used characters in a logical order based on simple character elements, so that you learn all the constituent parts of characters (such as "radicals") before learning the complex characters composed of them. This learning plan is effective for students taking a long-term, in-depth approach. The pronunciation, meaning, and stroke order for each character are given, along with simplified versions for characters that have them and some compound words that use the character. The book also provides some helpful information for memorizing and understanding the etymology of various characters. Available in traditional character and simplified character versions.

Mobile Apps

The apps below use a more dynamic, interactive format to help you learn how to write Chinese characters:

  • Chinese Writer by Molatra/trainchinese (for iPhone/iPad) is a fun game-based app for practicing and memorizing Chinese characters. iLearn Chinese Characters takes a more systematic approach; it has a free Lite version and a full version for $4.99.
  • Monkey Write is a popular Android app that teaches you how to write Chinese characters. The basic version is free; additional character sets can be purchased separately.
  • A number of Chinese dictionaries available in Apple and Android formats have features such as stroke order charts and character animations to help you learn to write characters; see the dictionary page in this section of the website.

Software

Although smartphone and tablet apps have the advantage of convenience, more traditional software is still very useful for more intensive study:

Multimedia Learning Suite Chinese Characters Memory Lifter: Presented in a convenient “plug and play” USB stick format, this program uses multimedia flashcards organized by subject to help you memorize 3,000 Chinese words. Its useful features include a variety of learning modes, the ability to track your learning progress, statistical feedback on your performance, the ability to edit and expand vocabulary sets with your own data, and the ability to print flashcards. The package also includes a study guide, introductory videos, MP3 audiobooks for playback on portable listening devices, and a “Learn to Learn” booklet to help you get the most out of the system.