The Importance of Learning Chinese Characters

The importance of Chinese Character

This is the first part of "The importance of learning Chinese characters" series. Here is a complete list of the series:

  1. The importance of Learning Chinese Characters
  2. The first list of most frequent Chinese characters (1 -1000)
  3. The second list of most frequent Chinese characters (1001 - 2000)
  4. The third list of most frequent Chinese characters (2001 - 3000)
  5. The fourth list of most frequent Chinese characters (3001 - 4000)

Most people find the thought of learning Chinese characters quite terrifying. It is quite different compared to most languages, and with the addition of tones further making it seems to be untouchable. You may also wonder, how many Chinese characters do Chinese natives need to learn? Well, the number of Chinese characters they need to learn before graduating from primary school is 2700.

However, knowing a lot of characters is very important if you want to understand the way a native speaker communicate. The textbooks or teachers that you are learning from most probably will only use the words that you have studied previously, but native speakers will not even think about that. Therefore, if you studied enough words, you can string together the words to understand what are they speaking. You will not understand the meaning of a sentence if you don't understand enough words that make the sentence.

Fortunately, the characters that someone needs to learn is not that many. Here is an approximate number of Chinese characters needed to understand Chinese:

  • 1000 characters to understand 90% of written Chinese
  • 2500 characters to understand 98% of written Chinese
  • 4000 characters to understand almost 100% of modern written Chinese (even native speaker will be considered as literate at this level)

From here we can see that to understand 90% of written Chinese, you only need to learn 1000 characters; it is less than half of what the native speakers need to study before graduating from their elementary school!

Here is the list of 4000 most frequently used Chinese characters: Data source

  1. The first list of most frequent Chinese characters (1 -1000)
  2. The second list of most frequent Chinese characters (1001 - 2000)
  3. The third list of most frequent Chinese characters (2001 - 3000)
  4. The fourth list of most frequent Chinese characters (3001 - 4000)

*Since some Traditional Chinese characters are merged into a similar character in Simplified character, there will be some repetition in the Simplified Chinese.

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