Radical Fanatical

I have gotten to the point where creating mnemonics using radical meanings is quite troublesome. Sometimes I come across components Thar dont have meaning as they are not radicals. This is quite annoying and I have taken to giving them meanings or pretending they are variants of similar looking radicals. What do you guys usually do? Also I was wondering if anyone has a good ssource for traditional radicals as I am in Taiwan and studying traditional. A printout would be fine. But a way to get pleco to show all radicals, it sometimes shows some. Would be great. This is sorta an unspecific question and I am more looking for ideas on how people tackle their writing practice… the mnemonic method works but it can be quite exhausting not to mention the mystery radicals

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Do mnemonics using radicals actually work? I never learned the radicals, except incidentally, but I noticed that many, perhaps even the majority, of mnemonics created by Skritter users are radical-based. This might make sense if you have really got the radicals down, but even then I wonder. Mnemonics seem to work best when associated with a visual image. Perhaps the the Skritter users who employ visual images don’t bother to write descriptions for them, as this would be unnecessary, and that’s why so many user mnemonics I see are based on radicals. I always thought I was an auditory learner, and I have tried making up rhymes or “sound-alike” mnemonics, but even for me the visual images seem to stick better.

To make a specific question: has the Skritter team ever mined the data to see which mnemonics are associated with faster learning by the users employing those mnemonics?

For me personally, the first time I tried to use Skritter, I heavily leveraged the mnemonic devices. However, after a couple months, I nuked my progress and started over without them.

I found that reliance on mnemonics really slowed down my thinking ability, in that I had to default back to the mnemonic and “construct” meaning and tone from them each time I wanted to use them. The “picture” would come to mind quickly, but I still had to mentally pause to extract tone and meaning.

While this may work in an academic written testing situation, I found it useless for my conversational abilities. (Actually worse than useless…it actually made me slower)

Each person’s brain works differently, but my experience with mnemonics was poor if the goal is conversation.


I find that they certainly work. I tell my self the story as i write and always keep the meaning of the radicals in the order which the character is written. as best as i can. As an example.

壞 huài The DIRT is a LID on the NET in the WATER and my CLOTHES are (broken)

this illustrates the order is intact and the meanings are all there, but you will notice that CLOTHES is actually not right, there are some strokes missing. I have just taught myself that is is a variant.

I try to visualize the story as i recite, or before or after. Using the mnemonics is easy, making them is the exhausting part. Especially since most of my Skritter time in on my Android app, and i need to swing over to Pleco to break down many characters to check Radical/component meanings.


How is your writing effecting your conversation. The Mnemonics I use are just used to practice character writing. I don’t visualize characters at all when i am talking. I don’t even use the Mnemoics when i am reading, unless it is a character i currently studying the writing of at that time. I might do i quick Mnemonic refresh.

Not specifically radicals, but Remembering Traditional Hanzi by Heisig is great

Thanks for the feedback, @ceahorse. I have teed up a common radicals vocabulary list for my Skritter studies, but haven’t spent much time on it. This gives me some inspiration to give it another go. Even if it ends up not working for me as a mnemonic system it couldn’t hurt to learn the radicals to speed up sight recognition of poorly remembered characters or decode new ones.

I always use mnemonics on a need-to basis and I usually suggest that students do, too. There is no need to create mnemonics for tones, components or whatever if you remember those things anyway. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you keep forgetting that a character should have 竹 or 艹 at the top, or if you forget for the fifth time that a certain word is actually third tone and not second, then I would create a mnemonic for that specific part. I probably have thousands of such mnemonics, mostly for writing. I’d rather be a bit slow but still remember the character than getting it wrong or forgetting it altogether.


Olle correct me if I am wrong. When you encounter a new characters/word. Do you just identify the components, by English meaning, then recite them while you write a character. That seems much less work than creating stories. And just use the stories for the tricky characters? Perhaps after you have failed to reproduce it several times. What do you do when you find a component that has no meaning? I have committed your 100 common rads buy wonder how you check the meaning of radicals when analyzing a new word.

Yeah, that’s basically what I do. However, creating a story needn’t take more than a few seconds if you’ve practiced creating mnemonics for a while. I at least think about how the components integrate, I don’t just say them out. I visualise, feel, hear, smell.

I have no specific strategy for meaningless components, I just learn them by rote. If that doesn’t work, I come up with some kind of mnemonic to help me remember the shape. It can help to go to the original etymology, even though that can be hard to find. That’s why I want Outliers dictionary so much. :slight_smile:

Hello, I had a recent discussion with someone about this book. I take it you would recommend it? I am using Tuttle’s Reading and Writing Chinese, Traditional Character. I wondered how Heisig compared. I haven’t had the opportunity to look at this book and it’s not available as an e-book, i.e. sample.