How to memorize Mandarin characters

After exactly ONE month attending BaoBei (week long school holidays deducted) Ethan brought home 30 word cards today. One look at them and already I shook my head thinking how on Earth would he be able to read all those?

BaoBei word cards

But surprise, surprise! Ethan took out those word cards and read them to me effortlessly! Watch this video of him reading those cards!

That is Ethan’s progress in exactly ONE month. Just a month ago he is a COMPLETE banana, not knowing a single Mandarin word and now he is already reading 30 words and conversing in simple Mandarin! Not bad! I doubt if I had send him to kindergarten instead will he be able to read anything at all in just ONE MONTH.

And then came the difficult part. I knew this is coming. Ethan wants ME to read those cards! I told him I don’t know Mandarin but he insisted to TEACH me! =_= That kid would NOT take NO for an answer and was very persuasive that he won’t let me out of his sight until I agreed to read those cards.

He began teaching me… *and all I saw was alien characters!* >_<

It was a crash course as he expects me to learn ALL 30 words immediately! When I said I dunno, he’ll go, “THINK! Try and THINK what is the word!” *slap forehead*

Finally I mastered half of it. You know how I did it? I visualized pictures out of the words to help me memorize the words! Here are some examples..

山 Shān (Mountain)

I see those 3 lines as mountains and that helps me remember this word very well :)

口 Kǒu (Mouth)

I see lips forming a mouth here :D

雨 Yǔ (Rain)

Raindrops! (^_^)

面包 Miànbāo (Bread)

Ahh… My favourite loaf of Gardenia in there! Haha…

So that is how I memorize those characters-lah! >_< There are lots more such as I see a cane in the word Lǎoshī 老师 (teacher) and arrow pointing down in Xià 下(down).

Of course this won’t help in WRITING those characters as we’ll need to know the proper strokes and all but at the moment, this helps me look SMART in front of my kid! :P

* Ethan @ 49 months

42 Comments + Add Comment

  • //

    Hahaha.. me can only recognize the Ai characthers.. ho ho ho.. seen it in Naruto's comic,on the ForeHead of Garaa..

    • //

      LoL! Aki ni.. memang karut lah! But bagus jugak baca komik banyak banyak.. pandai jugak jadi nyer.. :)

      • //

        Hahaha.. I'm kaki komik ma.. hm,but my friend says, he learned the character same as your technique also.. He said that,almost all of the mandarin character were actually drawing the image of the words.. just like what u r doin here.. LoL… ^_^.v..

  • //

    hahaa… u're such a creative lady :)

    • //

      ohh!! forgot to praise ethan boy. He is so clever, he could remember all the words after one month in bao bei!! such a clever boy.

  • //

    Trouble is they will apply memorising to ALL the other subjects – dependent on rote learning. They can score straight As but ask them a month or so later, they will tell you they've forgotten everything. Some even memorise 2-3 page English/BM essays for the SPM exam and they can hardly speak the languages. And people wonder why straight As students can't secure scholarships for themselves… They can only do one thing – memorise to excel in exams. Real pathetic!

  • //

    Oops…link typed wrongly. Hehehehehe!

  • //

    ROTFL… the bread cuneiform u translated! So cute!

    Ethan is a smart boy, well done!

  • //

    i no read mandarin :/

  • //

    Merryn, u sent Ethan to the exact center. Just 1 mtnh he can learnt that 30 words, really a BRAVO to him! Genius and his memory is good.

  • //

    hehehehe!! and how nice is Ethan to learn from the class and teach you the chinese words.. you better brush up and learn well!! i mean you, kapal selam, not Ethan.. hahaha~~ :D

  • //

    Very good job for Ethan. Just a month can recognize so many Mandarin words already. Haha Merryn good way to recognize the word in graphic.

  • //

    Easy as ABC.. Haha

  • //

    Chinese words are special in a way. Well done to your boy~

  • //

    Well done Ethan boy!

  • //

    Haha…read like mat salleh.

    Why Jonathan can hardly remember the wordings on his flash cards? *scratch head*

  • //

    No choice, got to read more,just got to read more,must read more

    • //

      Eugene, u r scaring me -_- i can hardly cope with 15 wat more? But i believe Ethan will cope well. Kids fare much better than old ladies..

  • //

    If Bananaz had followed my cousin's advice of learning one word per day by now not consider Bananaz as my vocab would be good enough for me to read the Chinese newspaper. Wow Ethan is pandai. Well certain language we have to learn by memorising and your way is a great way to think in pictures just like those gurus who taught how to max their memory skills and pixz is one of the method. Dont worry about how to write start with one word a day and moreover you have got a perfect teacher at home that's even easier. Not all learning must be by memorising like STP commented only on certain subjects.

  • //

    gosh… i fail too… i only know 10 out of all the cards he showed… hahaha… dont tell!

  • //

    I knew he won't have a problem. You can breathe a sigh of relief. Your money's worth! Well done, Ethan!

  • //

    Visualizing things in the characters is a great way to remember them. Thanks for the tip. It will help this banana greatly!

    2 thumbs up for Ethan!! :)

  • //

    So, are you planning to send Ethan to Chinese school? It is a good start for him now. Good job to Ethan.

    • //

      Yes I am. So I'm preparing ME too for all da homeworks n more -_-

  • //

    How old is Ethan btw? :P He's so cute! Oh, I didn't know you don't know Mandarin, I'm partially a banana as well. I can speak but I can't read nor write HAHA

    • //

      He turned four late july :D

  • //

    The conversations we had the other day, make me sending the small one to the centre before putting her in the kindie. At least for now, she is not pressurized with bundle of homeworks.

    • //

      Ouh! Da cili padi is in there now? Great! She'll be reading u books in no time! :D

  • //

    Actually, that is exactly how those Chinese Characters were formed in the first place, accept for the Gardenia bread one. Haha.

    • //

      Seriously? Wah.. Not bad me. Hehe.. Da Gardenia okay wat.. Easier to remember liddat! :D

  • //

    You need a PRO teacher like me . . . I can teach standard 1 to standard 3 Mandarin :P hehehehe

  • //

    That was exacting how my teacher taught me years ago, very interesting method, and unique chinese charac.

    • //


  • //

    Quite worth studying in BaoBei, not only Ethan's learning, you also learning chinese.. :)

  • //

    Merryn you are so clever to come up with this method. Ethan's memory is very good. Bao Bei not bad eh…I can't wait to enrol Gwen to Bao Bei but Gwen's memorizing power is quite poor lor.

  • //

    Really impressive to see Ethan read so many words from flash card. Seriously, flash card is a good tool to memorize & recognise chinese word.

  • //

    so clever Ethan!! bet if u show this to Quachee, he would be surprise too!! and try ask Quachee the one read all the characters!! hahaha!! :D

  • //

    You r in the correct way of recognize Chinese word by visualized the word! Every Chinese word (the way of writing the particular word) is forming by picture actually… :)

  • //

    That is one way to see those words haha! I never knew mian bao has a loaf of bread shape in it… then again, chinese characters know me, but I don't know them =3.

    I can't read, can't write nor can I speak fluently… so bleh… I am like the "Banana" white inside yellow outside :D.

  • //

    Merryn, YOU ARE SO SMART!!!! in no time u will be able to read many characters ler. Hence you pay one fee to Bao Bei and in the end, 2 of you get to learn mandarin!

  • //

    amazing! kids reallyh absorb stuffs like a sponge!

  • //

    You are definitely on the right route!

    I did a post on my interview with an ex Primary School Chinese teacher who now owns a webstore that sells Chinese titles (saw your comment! :) . She has a series which teaches using this pictorial way:

    In case any of your readers are interested. Here’s also the interview to share:

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MeHome is where MY heart is.
I am a mother to two boys; Ethan and Ayden and a wife to Darling William. I'm a stay at home mum who blogs to break the monotony of life and to avoid feeling jaded. Would love to get to know all the Super Mommies and Daddies and Babies or Singles out there with the hope that we can learn more from each other. Most of all, I am a happy person, and I hope YOU are too.

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