7 mistakes I made when writing Chinese characters and what I learnt from them

Learning Chinese characters is an ongoing challenge that never really goes away. Even after studying Chinese for more than a decade, I make mistakes and forget characters. In this article, I analyse seven mistakes I’ve made recently and share what I learnt from these mistakes.

7 mistakes I made when writing Chinese characters and what I learnt from them

This was originally posted on Hacking Chinese, but since we thought Skritter users would also find this post interesting, we published it here as well.

What mistakes have you made recently? What did you do about them? I’m particularly curious to hear if you learnt anything useful from my post. I realise that many of the examples might not be relevant for most students, sorry about that!

1 Like

Very interesting article and helpful.

I especially liked your pointing out the phonetics kang, yong, tang, gang and wang ( 康,庸, 唐,岡 and 罔) because I am so focused on the meaning alone of components for mnemonics purposes (I have found them more useful so far.)

I pay little attention to the phonetic aspect of the component, which is how native speakers find components useful (but that requires being advanced enough to have learned the components as useful words themselves.) Thanks to this article, I will pay more attention to phonetic patterns.

I don’t know if the breakdown below will help you or others, but in case it does, here goes:

In my head I call 禾 “standing grain” as it refers to grain still on the stalk, and 米 just “rice” although it actually means “husked rice.” The distinction helps with words like 糠 for “bran, husk” as it refers to the processed product instead of the living plant.

I break 岡 into “wide grass mountains” that form a “ridge or hill crest,” and 罔 into “in wide grass perish” within “nets that deceive“ to help distinguish them in words like 綱 and 網。

You have a very advanced vocabulary! I don’t know some of the examples you used, but I did note that Key dictionary in Pleco defines 瀰 not only as “overflowing” but also as “deep water,” and a quick glance at the words it’s found in suggests this meaning is more helpful for remembering, especially as the character contains water 氵 (I love Key dictionary!)

I had a terrible time remembering 專 at first until I discovered the weaving connection ( 叀 ). Then I was able to create the mnemonic “weaving-tile concentrates the thumb in a specialised task”. Once I was able to picture someone bent over this meticulous work with tool in hand, I have rarely forgotten it.

Thanks again for the article!