Jan 11, 2021

5 Killer Tips to Master Chinese Character Stroke Order

Photo Credit: Marco Zuppone, Unsplash.com

When learning Chinese, you should not only know what characters to use but also how to write them properly. Stroke order is quite important in the Chinese language, and if you don’t care about the way you write letters in English, you will have to reconsider your approach when writing in Chinese. The Chinese are proud of their language, which has a complex writing system that consists of more than 50,000 characters.

Knowing the right stroke order can still be very beneficial, even in our digital age. Many Chinese dictionary apps and input methods have handwriting features that can only recognize characters if you use the proper stroke order. Besides, knowing the right stroke order will help you understand the Chinese cursive writing — 草书 (cǎo shū).

The character 永 (yǒng), which means “eternity,” is often used when teaching Chinese calligraphy because it includes eight of the most common strokes used in Chinese writing. Quite often, calligraphers’ skills are judged based on the way they write the character 永, and children are often taught writing using the so-called Eight Principles of Yong. Therefore, practicing writing this character can be very useful if you want to improve your Chinese handwriting. Here are a few other tips that might help you.

Follow the basic stroke rules

The Chinese writing system is very straightforward. To write any character accurately, you should write it in a certain way. Therefore, you must follow the eight basic stroke rules:

  • Top before bottom;
  • Left before right;
  • Bottom horizontal stroke last;
  • Left vertical stroke usually precedes top horizontal stroke;
  • Center stroke before wings;
  • Left-falling strokes before right-falling strokes;
  • Intersecting vertical strokes after horizontal strokes;
  • Minor strokes are usually written last.

Photo Credit: Michelle Mirales, Unsplash.com

Do fun exercises and play games

Many people find it difficult to memorize the stroke order in Chinese characters. Of course, writing the same character over and over again can be very boring, but you can make the learning process more fun and engaging. For example, you may use apps like Skritter. This app will force you to write characters from scratch.

Another helpful app is Chinese Writer App. It’s a game similar to Tetris, where you should write falling characters properly before they reach the ground. If too many characters get stacked at the bottom, you lose.

Use mnemonics

It will be easier for you to remember some characters if you understand the logic behind them. For instance, some characters are pictograms of the objects they describe: 木 (mù) means “tree,” 日 (rì) means “sun,” and 月 (yuè) means “moon.” On the one hand, only 4% of Chinese characters are pictograms. On the other hand, about 82% of characters are phono-semantic compounds, which means that there is a set of characters. Some of these characters are pictographic, while others suggest pronunciation.

Learn the art of calligraphy

Chinese calligraphy is a beautiful ancient art. Learning this art will help you not only practice your handwriting but also combine it with learning the Chinese culture. You can take calligraphy classes or learn it on your own. For instance, you can read the book Chinese Calligraphy Made Easy: A Structured Course in Creating Beautiful Brush Lettering.

You may also appreciate the Chinese TV show “中国汉字听写大会 (zhōng guó hàn zì tīng xiě dà huì).” This is a dictation competition broadcasted on CCTV 1. You can also watch this show for free here. Learning Chinese calligraphy might take a lot of time and effort, since learning thousands of characters is difficult even for native Chinese speakers, but the satisfaction from the process will certainly be worth your patience.

Use online resources

There are many online resources that can help you learn to write characters properly. For instance, Chineasy has images of the most common Chinese characters presented in illustrations. Each illustration reflects the associated character’s etymology and meaning. The Chineasy app allows you to learn Mandarin Chinese on the go by showing you clever illustrations that represent Chinese characters.

Memrise is another useful source — it’s a platform where learners share their mnemonic techniques.

We hope that these tips will help you master Chinese character stroke order and learn Chinese characters faster. Learning Chinese is both difficult and fun. Don’t forget that practice makes perfect. The more you write, the better your handwriting will be.

By Rhonda Martinez | A Super Chineasian

Rhonda Martinez is an English teacher, polyglot, freelance writer and contributor at LegitWritingServices.com. She believes that learning foreign languages helps us to see the world through different lenses. Rhonda speaks English, Spanish, French and German fluently.

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