Learning the characters for chinese
A bit of the radicals, a bit of brute force with Anki. If you review a character and forget it, just stare at it for a little bit. Soak in the details like you would a painting or something, remind yourself of the pronunciation. Then move on, and when you forget it again do the same thing, and after you do that some number of times it will start to stick in your head. Then one day you will have looked at the character so many times that it takes no effort at all to recall it, you pass through it without thinking. If you get characters mixed up with each other (a problem im starting to deal with now that I know a few), then each time you confuse one for the other, pull them up next to each other and note the difference. This is where radicals can be helpful. Like this: 族施 These characters are the same except for the little guy in the bottom right. I think the one on the left is an arrow, and the one on the right I cant remember the radical, but its the character for also. So also arrow also arrow zu shi zu shi. And like kraemdar said, divine patience.
Studying the radicals helps a ton here I think. I didn't actually study radicals but did Heisig which calls them primitives but is very similar. When you look at 田 and 由 and two completely different concepts/images come to mind then it gets hard to mix them up.
Hmm, maybe I will have to bite the bullet and do a properly comprehensive study of them then.
Seriously, a lot of patience. You can use memory hacks like the one in Heisig's Remembering the Kanji/Hanzi and that's a bit a helpful and actually kept me from quitting Japanese but it won't make reading Chinese anywhere as easy as reading the roman alphabet. I think it's very much worth it to learn the parts of the chinese characters that make up each character - the radicals. Memorize those. There really aren't all that many so it's not so terrible. And you won't forget them since they well repeat constantly in all the Chinese characters you'll see. I would then read lots of text with pinyin and just pay attention to the characters as you're reading the pinyin. And be patient. I'm talking years here. I know Steve learned Chinese characters really well in a year but he was college age or something and he was literally doing that all day every day for the year. Of course it's gradual but it took me about 5 years to really learn enough Japanese kanji to feel semi literate (about 1200ish kanji).
yes yes, Breaking the characters down into radicals and using mnemonics to tell a little story (Heisig, Wanikani, Mandarin Blueprint etc) helps get them crammed into your short term memory. Doing a little bit of writing, learning stroke order when first learning. But after that it's a matter of committing them to long term memory with MASSIVE amounts of flashcards and reading and time and patience. Unless you are a genius, SRS (Pleco or Anki) is basically mandatory to get enough characters (at minimum 2-3k+ for native chinese media) memorized in order to consume content beyond graded readers / HSK 1-3.
Even with all the mnemonics, you will forget characters over and over again, that's totally normal! The key is to not give up and keep going. Eventually they start sticking and a beautiful pattern emerges and you guess the meanings of ones you haven't seen before.
For my first year of learning, I was doing at least one hour every day of just learning new characters and reviewing them on top everything else (sentence cards / reading / listening / grammar etc). Now it's down to 15-20 min...every single day.
And then you have to read a ridiculous amount to actually get a good grasp of what the characters actually mean / multiple definitions depending on context.
I love hanzi...it's way easier to memorize thousands of characters than understand native speech hahaha.
This is a good description of the almost Sisyphean task of learning Chinese characters. Almost Sisyphean, since if we stay with it, we don't forget them as easily soon after learning them, since we become more and more familiar with how they are constructed, how they are related to each other etc. In a way like learning any vocabulary items, just harder, requiring more intense daily effort.
I know this post is a month old, But if you're still looking, Tuttle's Learning Chinese Characters is an interesting book for a fairly low price. It develops a story method for remembering the characters, since stories are easier to remember. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/080483816X And there's nothing stopping you from making your own method from scratch and not buying a book (the method is explained in the preview on Amazon).
In a nutshell, you have 5 archetypes that appear in stories and they represent the tone (fairy for rising tone, giant for high, dwarf for falling, teddy bear for low and a robot for a neutral). You make a story by combining the archetype with the meaning of the parts of a character, the meaning of the whole character and a sound word that gives you a sound hint.
For example, 听 (tīng) listen, it's made up of the characters for mouth and axe and has a high tone. So you need to combine a giant, mouth, axe, listen and a word whose sound reminds you of tīng (eg, tingle). So my story was: "A tingle went up the giant's spine and his mouth opened in shock as he listened to the tale of the axe murderer." And of course you try to visualize the stories in your mind.
The book covers 800 characters and gives you stories. Their stories are 2 parts, meaning and sound, but I usually simplify them into one piece. To be honest, I don't know if I'm totally sold on the method, since it does take some time to create the stories, but it's an interesting memory aid for starting out that really does help jog your memory. And of course do reading as you learn characters, make you own method of repetition and novelty.
You could take empty paper and just use it for extra practice? Only 10 repetitions is very little, especially if you are starting. At least for japanese there is fancy practice paper with empty boxes for characters for you to fill, but any paper with suitable grid to keep characters regular enough works.
Once you do know basics well enough, you start to pick familiar elements from new characters and learning them becomes easier.
Thank you both, but I am very short on money...
Is there a free method? I'm more than willing to learn. It's just the characters dont like to stick with the methods I used (the book let me copy the hanzi 10 times each, now I'm just reading)
Mandarin Blueprint is the most effective method I've found, if you can afford it.
I would try the following book: James W. Heisig, "Remembering Simplified Hanzi".
This book is about the characters only (separated from the sound).