Studying actual words only

I only study definitions at the moment as I just want to read Chinese but I still get so many individual characters that mean very little on their own. Wish there was a way to stop them coming through otherthan just ban. My wife is Chinese and she says a lot of these individual characters mean nothing. So it’s a waste trying to learn them really

Do you have the “Add character when learning a word” option disabled?

Yes its disabled… It’s things like 华 and many others that basically mean nothing or their own. There are lots of these dead words that I have to weed out and ban as no one will ever need them

Someone who knows the scheduling better will have to answer your question from a technical point of view, but from a pedagogical one, I can assure you that learning individual characters is extremely useful. Not directly as a beginner and not all the time, but the biggest boost I noticed in my reading ability was when I went through the 3000 most common characters and really learnt their individual meanings (I knew about half already at that time, so perhaps intermediate level or something). The reason is of course that knowing individual characters allows you to guess the meanings of new words much better, which is something you need to do all the time until you’re truly at a near-native level. I’m not saying you have to do this or that it’s the best for you, but I don’t think “no one will ever need them” is correct. :slight_smile:

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Good point. I shall persevere then! Just frustrating when you don’t se them in reading material! How many words do you know in skritter? I am currently at about 2000. How many words do you think someone has to know to be a translator? Obviously reading at the same time as well. Cheers

Actually, I only use Skritter for writing single characters, so I might not be the typical user. I have added 5843 characters so far, which probably isn’t typical either.

Xiaomi I had the same problem back a couple of years. What I did is made my own definition to prompt me, which includes the words it is included in. For example;

示…RAD. to show; spirit; ancestor (e.g. 警~;表~,显~,指~;预~) (Kangxi radical 113)

I have found that since I have done that my comprehension has skyrocketed.


There’s a lot more to being a translator than how many words you know. Professional translators will also specialise in a particular field.

At about 13,500 words in Skritter terms I feel fairly comfortable translating e.g. a magazine article, although will probably still need to look up a few words. Even if I can guess the meaning given context and the characters, dictionaries and web search help with some of the subtleties. I would guess if I got up to 20k I’d not come across too many completely new words.

Definitely agree that learning character definitions is useful. It shouldn’t be too much extra work, if you know 含英咀华、荣华、华侨、华山、华为… then learning the meaning of 华 is not going to be much more of a challenge. I often break down words into characters when I get them wrong and carefully check the different meanings of the character to make sure I get the meaning accurate, either doing this or just adding the characters should work. Also worth noting that many characters that aren’t normally used on their own appear in 成语 with their original meanings.


Adding words for context like @113 suggests is essential, I think. I always do that.

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