Effective way to learn Chinese characters

If you are serious about learning Chinese, you already know that you’re in for a big challenge. Students of Chinese need to learn about 1,500 characters to be able to read the newspaper. Writing holds a high place in Chinese culture, which puts an emphasis not only on the shape of the character but also on the stroke order for each line. That’s a serious undertaking!

Luckily, there are modern tools that can help you study. Our favorite: Skritter.

Calling itself “the write way to learn Chinese and Japanese,” Skritter lets you draw characters onscreen. As you learn, it gives feedback and keeps track of your word list. Can’t quite remember that character? Ask for a hint, and you’ll see a faint shadow of the correct character. As you begin to draw, the outline fades away, forcing you to hold the image in your mind.

Screenshot of Skritter interface

Right kind of feedback

Feedback is a critical part of the language learning process. When you make a mistake, you need feedback to set you straight. But, too much feedback can be frustrating and actually slow down learning.

Skritter gives subtle feedback as you draw the characters, but doesn’t overwhelm you with info. The gentle prompts keep you tuned-in to the details.

They’re nerds, too

If we’ve made Skritter sound simple so far, that’s just because it’s easy to use. Actually, it satisfies all of our geeky cravings with its loads of features. Want to integrate with a dictionary? Check. Play audio clips to reinforce learning? Check. Add your own mnemonic clues? Check. Integrate with other Chinese-learning software? Check. (We could go on.)

These guys got it right. Computer-assisted language learning that is simple, friendly, and focused–all on top of a solid pedagogical foundation.

Way to go, Skritter. We think you’re awesome.