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I am learning both Chinese and Japanese. I'm having trouble with the character system. Any help/tips?

For learning: Chinese (Mandarin)
Base language: English
Category: Language

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    Could you tell me your problem more in detail?

     

    The Chinese dictionaries have a double ordering for finding characters;
    1) with respect to the semantic key (radical)
    2) with respect to the number of strokes when you write the character

    Some new Chinese dictionaries are arranged w.r.t. Pinyin transliterization,
    but in this case you should already know the character.

    I will not go into the details, but I am quite sure that with these hints and some
    Internet navigation you will find your way around.

    Good luck with your mighty tasks!

    As to studying characters, the most important things that helped me were to focus on stroke order and learn radicals. It seems unnecessary, but you'll find that once you do this, you're less likely to forget a stroke here or there. The closest equivalent would be to learn the alphabet before trying to learn words in English.

    As to looking up words in a dictionary, many dictionaries have pinyin, but if you have the character and don't know how it's pronounced, then you'll generally look it up either by radical or stroke count. (Both of these are good reasons to learn stroke order, since you might think that 口 has 4 strokes since it has four sides unless you knew that the second stroke contains two of the sides--I can't tell you how many words I've failed to look up as a result of miscounting the number of strokes.)

    you should buy a chinese dictionary,learning to use pingying.

    I minored in Chinese at the university level, and my recommendation for you is to first learn radicals, than focus on the most commonly used characters. There are a limited number of radicals, and after you have them memorized, it makes studying the characters themselves somewhat easier. After you get these characters down, branch out to what interests you. You can find some books on Amazon for the most commonly used characters in Chinese speech/writing.
    If you have a Macintosh, I would recommend Provoc. Although support is discontinued, it's still available free on the internet. It was an absolutely indispensable part of my Chinese studies during college. You can type in the character, the english, and add the pinyin in the comments. When you review, it can organize Characters that you have incorrect the most, and you can label parts of speech.
    Repetition, repetition, repetition. It's how many of the Chinese students that I taught in China learned their first characters.
    As for grammar, Chinese doesn't have a truly set grammar except for Subject - Time - Place - Action (although there are variants of this). There are a lot of different grammar patterns in Chinese, so it's important to focus on the patterns and get them down so you can produce them automatically without thinking, and then move to other patterns. There are also Chinese grammar pattern books in Amazon.
    Best of luck.

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