Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters Review

As all regular readers of the Mandarin project know, I started by originally intending to learn just the Chinese characters as my writing system. Eventually, I stopped and learned a hybrid of simplified characters and traditional characters. Still, the resource I used to learn those characters was Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters for the Beginner learner.

This is my review.

The Pros of Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters

Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters contains all the characters for the HSK A test. This is great, because unlike other language programs, you learn in real-time exactly how proficient you are becoming. For this portion of the Mandarin language, you are learning exactly what is needed to reach a certain level. For a counter-example, Teach Yourself claims that you’ll get to B2 or even C1 bt following along with the book. This is a massive claim, and wonder if anyone who finished a Teach Yourself book could pass a B2 level exam.
With Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters, it concentrates on one part of the proficiency standard. The vocabulary. As vocabulary is about memorisation and repetition, you can conveniently say, “I know x amount of characters, which is the equivalent of X level.”

It gives information on the stroke order for each character. Most books on the subject simply say, “This is an example stroke order. All characters follow these stroke rules.” That’s not great when you’re trying to learn how to create them tuttle helps you through the process of learning the stroke orders of every character.

This isn’t so relevant for my purposes, but it’s important to note anyway. The third major benefit of the character learning material in Tuttle is that it gives you every eventuality. There’s information on which radicals make up the characters. There are simplified characters. There are traditional characters where needed. Theoretically, you could learn Pinyin from this book for the hundreds of characters they have.

The Cons of  Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters

This might be considered a bit of a personal rebellion against the material. However, I think their stories for the mnemonics are overly complicated, and yet still too similar.

We have a character for each tone. We have a situation comprising radicals. Sometimes the mnemonics are for pronunciation, sometimes they are for meaning. It’s all a bit jumbled. I’m sure others might enjoy the approach, but I see it getting confused.

You’re trying to remember a character. “Teddy(tone) does this.” or “Teddy does that” can be mixed up quite easily if you’re trying to learn more than five to ten characters day.

Also, the stories can be very convoluted. “Teddy drives a wagon and then bounces over a bump in the road whilst he’s carrying a box of crayons.” Again, some people will love long mnemonic chains to learn a single character, but I prefer much shorter and more unique representations for a mnemonic system.

Conclusion to the Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters review

I always hate the review structure. I’ve had to write the bad things about the product even though I think that the good in Tuttle outweighs the bad by a considerable margin. There comes a point where every language learner will have to take pieces of their own method of learning, and use materials in their own way. That’s how I used Tuttle; I took the good, which was the material and stroke order information, and I abandoned the mnemonic stories and created my own.
I think if you’re looking to learn characters, and move beyond Pinyin, that you couldn’t get better than going with this book. I’m not saying that as a salesy speech, but because i truly recommend the product.

Get it from Amazon here:
Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters: A Revolutionary New Way to Learn and Remember the 800 Most Basic Chinese Characters

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