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5000 Most Common Chinese Characters, Printable and Excel Spreadsheet

9 May

This site is of course now archival/effectively inactive, but I found this while trawling through a forum and had to share it. Credit to Ryan Kellog, an excellent human being, for the spreadsheet.

Kellog’s spreadsheet: 5000 Common Characters.

Printable PDF: First 5000. For the chars that have no descriptions – don’t freak out, there are maybe 10, all after 4750 – assume that they’re included because they found commonly in names.



Best Way To Learn Mandarin Vocab: Picture Flashcards

31 May

Mandarin Picture Flashcards

Well, maybe not the best way. Right after I published this for the first time, my favorite voice of cynicism scanned through the post and asked me how I could possibly know that this was the best method out there. Sigh. Fair enough, voice of cynicism. For the sake of accuracy, then, let’s just say that this is a really, really good way of learning new Mandarin vocab. Introducing… picture flashcards!

Instead of regular flashcards, which have English on one side and Mandarin (character, pinyin, etc.) on the other, picture flashcards use no English, only Mandarin. One side picture, the other side Mandarin. I’ve found it much easier to actually use the vocab I learn in this method, whether in writing or speaking. I have far fewer of those wait-I’m-translating pauses when I only associate the word with the concept that it’s meant to express, instead having to go through the middleman of my native English.

Below is an example of how I format mine. The benefit to this format is that I don’t need a double-side printer or scissor skills, as I can just fold the paper in half lengthwise. The drawback is that it uses twice as much paper. Go with your personal priorities, I suppose.

Mandarin Picture Flashcards

And this is a fairly conceptual example. If the vocab list is along the lines of “turtle”, the flashcards should take all of 10 minutes to create and print.

Once you have the formatting down, it doesn’t take all that long to create a nice set of picture flashcards. I’ll make my Word doc format available for download ASAP, but until then (or if you gasped in horror at my waste of resources), columns on Word or one of those online flashcard format gadgets work perfectly well.

I’m sure – as in 100% certain (do some of you already use this method?) – that I’m not the first one to have thought of this, but I haven’t yet been able to find any sites or microblogs working with this. Admittedly, the only Google searches I did were “mandarin picture based flashcards” and “image language learning flashcards”. Yeah. If any of you find a good resource, please share in the comments.

[Update: You can make these on Quizlet! Click the “Add images” box when you create a new set, and you can upload images on one side of the flashcard without text. Much, much faster than Word Docs.]

In my defense, I haven’t even logged in to WordPress for a couple of months, much less found the time to actually write anything. The joys of being a full-time student… To paraphrase the wisdom of Goku, “GGGGGGAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!”

My summer begins next Wednesday, so hopefully I’ll jump back into regular posting soon. If you try this strategy, let me know how it works for you. Hope all y’all have been keeping up your study – keep on truckin’!

(Note: This post was mis-updated (read: completely erased) more than once, and I was frustrated enough by the time I finished rewriting it that I just clicked Publish without any proofreading. Please tell me if you spot anything that needs edits.)


The Best (Online) Chinese Dictionary – Reblog from Hotpot

9 Mar

Here’s a re-post from another great China blog – City Hotpot. This is my first reblog, so apologies for any repeat information. I’ve just started using as well, but it seems to be a great resource. Check it out!



If you’re learning Chinese, this is by far the best dictionary I’ve found: Here’s a brief overview of why and how you can use NCIKU as a great reference tool and resource in helping you to learn Chinese.

Why It’s the Best  

  • English-to-Chinese translation.  If you type in the word, “restaurant,” for example, NCIKU will give you just what you need to know in a clear and easy to read fashion: the characters of the word in Chinese, how to pronounce the characters, and the context of how the word is used in sentences. (NCIKU is also an excellent Chinese-English dictionary.  However, for this article, I’m going to focus on NCIKU for people who are learning Chinese.

Preview of “restaurant in Chinese, restaurant translation by Nciku Chinese Dictionary” copy

  • Most popular word in everyday usage is listed first.  Sometimes, there may be more than one translation of a word. NCIKU gives you a brief definition of each…

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