What is the usefulness of knowing the 8 basic strokes?

Many tutorials to Chinese characters begin with introducing the 8 basic strokes. It seems that the actual strokes in the different characters are almost arbitrary (except maybe that no circle is present). How can I use this knowledge? I might as well tell the students that there is only one basic stroke: the straight line, that at some places curves a little bit. Dots are sometimes longer commas, again which sometimes are shorter hooks. Also, the same strokes in different characters look different. Moreover, why 8? Where do compound strokes begin? Can you help me please? Thank you!

Knowledge of individual strokes should not be priority for beginners. Anything smaller than functional components can be useful to know, but mostly to improve penmanship, which comes far down the priority list for most people. You don’t need to learn the names of the strokes either.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you can ignore everything below the component level, because there are many characters that are identical save for the type of stroke used. For example, the only difference between 天 and 夭 is that the top stroke is different, as is the case for 干 and 千. Cases like these are relatively rare, though, and doesn’t require you to be able to name the stroke. You can just think of it as the stroke direction being reversed and the stroke sloping a bit in the second case in each example. If you want to be able to discuss such things, then learning stroke names is convenient, but like I said, it shouldn’t be a priority for most people.

Stroke order is more important, because it has a real impact on what your characters look like and your ability to read other people’s handwriting. I wrote this guide for learning stroke order on our blog last year, so you can check it out if you’re interested. One of the advantages of using Skritter is that you’ll get prompted to use the right stroke order, so many people who have used the app for a while might not even realise that they have internalised these rules.

If you want to know more about things you can ignore, I wrote a somewhat tongue-in-cheek guide to how to not teach/learn Chinese characters. Teaching strokes and stroke names is on that list! Here’s the rest:

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Thank you! So the world is in order :)). Your guide above really worth to take a good look at!

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