From characters to words

I’ve been using Skritter to help me work through Remembering the Hanzi and it has been immensely helpful. But I’m conscious that these are all single characters rather than words. I’m looking for some advice on two things:

Chinese: How did you transition from characters to words? I’m assuming the answer is as “simple” as to just start reading.

Skritter: I notice that Skritter has the concept of characters, words and sentences but I can’t figure out how to use these. I solely study the Remembering the Hanzi deck at the moment. Do I need a new deck? How do I focus on words or phrases that use characters that I’ve covered already? Any advice or suggestions welcomed as I get the feeling I’m not using the full capabilities of Skritter.

Thanks in advance

Thanks for reaching out! It is definitely important to start exposing yourself to the words in context. While using Skritter, you can find example sentences for many of the characters in the “i” section. We are working to add more example sentences. What additional resources are you currently using? One option is to create your own custom study deck where you can add the things that you have already learned from your other resources. Depending on what they are, we may already have a custom deck.

Is there any plan to allow users (iOS app here) to author their own example sentences, just like people can with the nemonics?

I come across many uses of words I’m studying on Skritter with people in conversations on WeChat. I’d love to be able to use “relevant” sentences from my own life as my examples instead of the often awkward example sentences present currently. Some sentences at the higher HSK (4+) or words outside HSK are just ugly.

Hi Apomixis,

You can currently add custom sentences on the website. First, go to the section, click on the word, and then click on the edit button beside the existing example sentence. You can then write your own custom sentence. The team is working on the plans to add this to the app, so it will be available there in the future. Let me know if you have any other questions.


Hi, I’m also learning with Heisig and using the Heisig list. You got the book and read the introduction so you know we aren’t really following the original method in some ways since James Heisig was really talking about learning characters in isolation so you would go through all 1500 characters in book 1 with no pronunciation and not much meaning other than that gleaned through the keyword. So some purist might say you transition to words after you’re done with the book or even after book 2 as well.

When we use the Skritter Heisig list we are learning more than the story and keyword, we are doing some hybrid method and not delaying the real language learning until the end.

My first question is are you using the HSK Words in Heisig Order list? It’s based on an old HSK standard but they give you a bunch of words you can begin to work into your memory based on the characters you know to write from the current chapter and previous chapters.

Check out that list. I want to bridge the gap to get comfortable on graded readers so I’m also trying to learn higher frequency words earlier than I would in the pure Heisig method.

Thank you for your reply. You’ve opened up Skritter in a whole new way for me.

I have tended to learn the characters from the physical edition of the book. After learning a batch (usually a chapter), I’d turn to Skritter and focus on the character drawing / recognition. I then pick up tones as an after thought. You are right, not pure Heisig but not pure Skritter either.

No, I had no idea this list existed. I’ve added it and started to use it. Thank you.

I have started to look at tracking the characters I personally come across and seeing if I can overlay those that I’ve covered in Heisig so far. Early attempts at this have shown me that studying single characters is great for recognition but less helpful for reading.

My biggest, self inflicted, barrier has been only using Skritter with a single list. I didn’t want to pollute my Heisig progress. It turns out that managing multiple lists is fairly straightforward.