I have been learning Chinese on and off since 2001. To this day, I am still intrigued by Chinese writing, and I highly recommend learning Chinese characters to anyone who wants to stay in China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan for any prolonged period of time. Even if you don’t intend to live in China, learning Chinese can be incredibly beneficial:
- You get to understand what Chinese people talk and write about.
- You are learning a writing system which gives you access to a huge “hidden” world of literature and web information. For most Westerners, this is the real hidden web.
- Chinese writing is the only pictographic writing system still in widespread use. By starting to learn how to write in Chinese, you embark on a fascinating learning journey.
On my journey, I have so far probably learned around 1500 characters, most of them in the simplified form which is used in mainland China (since the mid 1950s) and Singapore. A recent visit to Taiwan once again showed me the beauty and usefulness of traditional Chinese writing. Traditional characters are used in Hong Kong, Taiwan, most overseas Chinese communities, and of course, classical Chinese literature. I have since made the resolution to learn at least the 2000 most frequently used traditional Chinese characters as well.
Here are my 5 favorite tools accompanying me on this journey. Most of these resources can be used whether you want to learn the simplified or the traditional form: