Practicing Chinese Characters By Writing Them In the Air With Your Fingers

At least initially, for learning new Chinese Characters, it is important to frequently practice writing and reviewing them. While of course using mnemonics may be a very effective way to learn, probably better than solely using rote memorization, if done actively, I still believe that it is necessary to instill into your brain the character via eye-hand coordination to REALLY remember it. This article will discuss, among other things, practicing Chinese Characters by writing them in the air with your fingers.

How Does One Learn Chinese Characters?

Many memory experts refer to the forgetting curve

The Forgetting Curve
The Forgetting Curve. Image via Wikipedia.

which refers to how much one remembers over time based on how often he/she reviews the material. (In the image above, the memory axis refers to the percentage of the material remembered based on how many reviews were done.)

Learning Chinese Characters absolutely applies to this. While I highly recommend using flashcard programs or any other memory devices you like, I do think it is necessary to practice writing characters to properly remember them. If you can write a Chinese Character, then you can also read it. But, it does not work in the reverse necessarily. It is possible to be able to read and recognize a Chinese Character, but not be able to write it.

What Can You Do If You Don’t Have An Electronic Device Or Paper To Practice Characters With?

This is the crux of this article. If you are without any electronic device, paper, or practice sheets, say while you are out doing errands or standing in a queue (line), you can still practice Chinese Characters.

How? You might ask? By writing them in the air with your fingers. If it helps, you can think of yourself being like a music conductor, except with writing Chinese Characters.

I first learned of this technique a few years ago, from one of my best friends, who is excellent at Chinese and is a non-native Chinese speaker. Even Chinese people themselves sometimes practice characters by writing them in the air with their fingers.

I just use my right index finger to practice characters in the air, but you can choose whichever hand and whichever finger works best for you.

Additional Benefits Of Writing Chinese Characters In The Air With Your Fingers

  • In addition to practicing eye-hand coordination, writing the characters in the air, forces you to visualize the characters in your mind. This is a very effective way of remembering anything, especially Chinese Characters.
  • In addition, you can use your imagination to come up with any story or stories about the characters, while writing them in the air, to help you remember them.
  • It allows you to practice characters much more often. While many of us are plugged into the Internet 24/7, sometimes, we are without a mobile phone, or computer, or even paper and pen. But, you always have your mind, so can practice Chinese Characters, any time, and anywhere.

Final Tips About Practicing Chinese Characters

  • As mentioned before, frequent review is necessary to really sear a Chinese Character into your brain. I do believe mnemonics to be an excellent memory tool, so maybe you can combine the best of both. You can use mnemonics and frequently write down the character either on a mobile phone, paper, or in the air with your fingers
  • Pay special attention to the stroke order of characters. It is important to develop good habits while learning Chinese Characters, and remembering the stroke order is very important. Remembering the stroke orders will probably make you much more efficient at writing Chinese Characters than if you didn’t learn the stroke orders.

What did you think of this article? Do you have anything to add? Let’s discuss it in the comments below.

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