Chinese Writing Practice: 5 Tools for Mastering Written Hanzi
Like most skills, learning to write in Chinese takes practice.
Recognizing a word in context is a different skill from being able to write it down.
Luckily, we’re found some of the best available resources.
These will provide you with the structure, motivation and engagement needed to practice Chinese characters and your Mandarin writing skills.
After that, we’ll go over some tips to help you maximize your studying.
- Hanzi Grids
- Arch Chinese
- Chinese Writer
- Purple Culture Worksheet Generator
- Remembering Simplified Hanzi 1
- Why You Should Practice Chinese Writing
- Tips for Studying Chinese Characters
- And One More Thing...
Hanzi Grids is a great online program that lets you customize every part of a typical character sheet.
You can change the font of your chosen characters (either simplified or traditional), and also customize your spacing and guidelines. You can also add a header to label each sheet and change the color of the grids.
Once you’re done with the configurations, you can either print straight from the browser or save it as a PDF to print later.
Basic access to the site is free, but a small fee is required to change background guides and other features. Just know that those extras aren’t 100% necessary for practicing characters.
The Arch Chinese website has a learning system focused mostly on Chinese writing skills, with resources and activities that cover radicals, stroke sequences and handwriting practice.
Arch Chinese lets you create custom worksheets to work on Chinese characters and words, as well as custom flashcard decks. There are even game templates where you can load vocab lists to make custom games for practice.
You can access the site and try out some of its tools for free, and the resources and charts are also available for free.
For full access to the program features, you pay either a recurring fee every five to 12 months or a one-time fee which can get you from 12 to 24 months of access at a time.
Apple | Android
Recommended by both students and teachers, the Chinese Writer app is a fun tool that tests your knowledge of the stroke order of given characters.
As characters fall from the top of the screen, you’ll need to write each one out before they reach the bottom.
The app records the words you mess up on the most, prioritizing them in future games so that you can get all the practice you need.
For those new to writing Chinese, the app also offers diagrams for stroke order, definitions in English, audio pronunciations and an animated introduction for basic Chinese character writing.
You can either use the given character packs (which are categorized according to official HSK levels) or customize your own.
The app is free to download with in-app purchases for additional character packs.
Purple Culture Worksheet Generator
This is an online resource that generates character worksheets.
Using either simplified or traditional Chinese, you can change the grid size, grid lines, font and number of traceable characters on your worksheet. Once you’re done, click the “Generate” button to download your free PDF.
If you have a pro account, you can add a bunch of extras to your sheets such as English definitions, stroke order, character hints or radicals.
A premium account on Purple Culture also grants you access to bonus features of their other generators, like their vocabulary list maker.
Remembering Simplified Hanzi 1
This book contains a thousand of the most commonly written characters (plus 500 recommended characters) in simplified Chinese.
“Remembering Simplified Hanzi 1” uses a tried-and-true approach based on logical ordering, where each character serves as the building block for the next.
The approach also encourages imaginative memorization, where every character is paired with a keyword that represents the concept.
The keyword is then tied in with the components of the character, such as the strokes, in a “story” that helps makes sense of the character’s structure.
Although it’s the first one in the series, user reviews have indicated that this book is better suited for those with basic knowledge of writing Chinese characters.
So if your writing skills aren’t at that level yet, it’s best to use it alongside other study materials geared toward beginners.
Why You Should Practice Chinese Writing
It’s true that many have survived day-to-day life without needing to further their Chinese writing skills. However, if you really want to master the language, writing practice is a must.
Practice means writing characters to the point where you don’t have to think about how they’re written. As professor Victor Mair of the University of Pennsylvania says, “Writing Chinese characters is a highly neuro-muscular act. You have to etch the characters into your nerves and muscles.”
Don’t worry, you’re not always expected to practice “Bart Simpson style,” writing words repeatedly on the chalkboard until the strokes are permanently etched in your mind.
The internet is full of educational tools to keep your writing in check, and I’ve hand-picked a few tools that you should consider adding to your study routine.
Tips for Studying Chinese Characters
Writing out the same words over and over again can be tiring and boring. And it might not be the most effective learning strategy for everyone.
Luckily, there are a few other things you can do to ensure you know every stroke.
Study the evolution of characters
To native English speakers, the Chinese language looks like a series of strange symbols.
If you take a look at the character development, you’ll notice that there’s a story behind each one. Chinese characters are basically pictograms and ideograms. They started off as ancestral symbols that looked like the concepts they were representing.
For example, rain is 雨 (yǔ), but was originally depicted as an “E” facing down with a water droplet trailing on each horizontal stroke.
By learning the origins, you’ll have a better understanding of the structure of your characters. It also helps with creating mental pictures as you recall characters in your writing practice.
Learn the different radicals
Chinese characters are composed of radicals that offer either semantic or phonetic clues.
By learning these, you’ll get clues about what other characters mean.
When the easy character 女(nǚ), or “female,” is used as a radical within a more complex character, the character is most likely describing something feminine.
For example, there’s 妈妈 (mā mā) for “mother” or 孀 (shuāng) for “widow.”
So when you’re trying to remember those “feminine” characters, you’ll at least have one element of the character in your head.
Remember the rules for stroke order
How is it possible to memorize the order of strokes for each character?
It seems like a daunting task, but there’s a method to the madness. Once you learn the eight ground rules for the strokes, the writing motion will eventually become second nature to you.
Everyone works at their own pace and has their preferred learning style. Because there isn’t one solution for all, give of few of these resources a shot and see which ones work best for you.
And don’t forget to reinforce the rest of your learning, including listening, reading and speaking. A program like FluentU can help with all of these in one powerful tool.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to go about your writing practice—as long as your chosen method gets you the results you need to move on to the next level.
And One More Thing...
If you want to continue learning Chinese with interactive and authentic Chinese content, then you'll love FluentU.
FluentU naturally eases you into learning Chinese language. Native Chinese content comes within reach, and you'll learn Chinese as it's spoken in real life.
FluentU has a wide range of contemporary videos—like dramas, TV shows, commercials and music videos.
FluentU brings these native Chinese videos within reach via interactive captions. You can tap on any word to instantly look it up. All words have carefully written definitions and examples that will help you understand how a word is used. Tap to add words you'd like to review to a vocab list.
FluentU's Learn Mode turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you're learning.
The best part is that FluentU always keeps track of your vocabulary. It customizes quizzes to focus on areas that need attention and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a 100% personalized experience.
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