In this article, I am going to tell how to learn 10% of these characters in just ten minutes and 50% of these in half a month’s time.


So let me ask you. How many Chinese characters do you know? How long has it taken for you to learn this amount of characters?


Some people tell me me that they have spent a long time to learn and memorize Chinese characters. But the time spent and the results gained does not equal for these people. So how do you learn Chinese characters efficiently?


Chinese characters are the more difficult aspect of the Chinese language besides Pinyin. The amount of the commonly used Chinese characters is around 2500.


2500?! My students used to say to me, in English there are only 26 letters!


2500 indeed sounds frightening. But today I want to tell you how you are going to learn 10% of these character in ten minutes! How? Please Look below:


  • (de) 
  • (yī)
  • (le)
  • (shì)
  • (bù)


Are you kidding me?! How can these five characters count? To understand this, we first need to know the concept of high frequency characters.


High frequency characters are characters which occur most frequently in printed material. They are a small number of common characters that make up the majority of any Chinese text.


According to the Chinese encoding character set for information exchange (信息交换用汉字编码字符集)[GB2312] published by the National Standards Agency in 1980 shows the statistic as below.


The most frequently used five characters which counts for 10% of the total usage of all characters are:


  • (de) 
  • (yī)
  • (shì)
  • (le)
  • (wǒ)


The most frequently used 17 characters which counts for 20% of the total usage of all characters are:





















 The most frequently used 140 characters which counts for half (50%) of the total usage of all Chinese characters are:






不 (bù)






个 (gè)

上  (shàng)




时 (shí)

大 (dà)


为 (wéi)


中  (zhōng)


说  (shuō)

生  (shēng)

国 (guó)

年 (nián)

着 (zhe)

就 (jiù)

那 (nà)

和 (hé)

要 (yào)

她 (tā)

出 (chū)

也 (yě)

得 (dé)

里 (lǐ)

后 (hòu)

自 (zì)

以 (yǐ)

会 (huì)

家 (jiā)

可 (kě)

下 (xià)

而 (ér)

过 (guò)

天 (tiān)

去 (qù)

能  (néng)

对 (duì)

小 (xiǎo)

多 (duō)

然 (rán)

于 (yú)

心 (xīn)

学 (xué)

么 (me)

之 (zhī)

都 (dōu)

好 (hǎo)

看 (kàn)

起 (qǐ)

发 (fā)

当 (dāng)

没 (méi)

成 (chéng)

只 (zhī)

如 (rú)

事 (shì)

把 (bǎ)

还 (hái)

用 (yòng)

第 (dì)

样 (yàng)

道 (dào)

想 (xiǎng)

作 (zuò)

种 (zhǒng)

开 (kāi)

美 (měi)

总 (zǒng)

无 (wú)

情 (qíng)

己 (jǐ)

面 (miàn)

最 (zuì)

女 (nǚ)

但 (dàn)

现 (xiàn)

前 (qián)

些 (xiē)

所 (suǒ)

同 (tóng)

日 (rì)

手 (shǒu)

又 (yòu)

行 (háng)








长 (cháng)



位 (wèi)

分 (fēn)

爱 (ài)

老 (lǎo)













使 (shǐ)











常 (cháng)



正 (zhèng)





So if you learn just ten characters per day, you will eventually master half of the most frequently used Chinese characters in approximately half a month’s time! Isn’t that amazing?


And what’s more, the most frequently used 500 Chinese characters count for 76% of total usage of all characters. The most frequently used 1000 characters count for 89.8% of total usage of all characters.


It is important for learners to proficiently master these high frequency characters in order to build up their reading and writing fluency. To achieve this, learners need to practice the characters by writing each one of them, and then use the newly learned characters in meaningful context in phrases and sentences.


Your proficiency of Chinese does not solely depend on how many characters or words that you know of, but on how many high frequency characters and words that you have mastered.


Tips for learning high-frequency words


  • Create words and sentences using high-frequency characters. First make words, then simple sentences, and then gradually more complex sentences.
  • Write high-frequency characters on cards with words and sentences so that you can carry these with you at all times.
  • Use high-frequency characters to express your own ideas and experiences both through speaking and writing.
    • For the characters or words you haven’t learnt yet, you can temporary use your native language or Pinyin.
  • Learn Chinese with an experienced teacher. It will save you a lot of time by utilizing their knowledge of high frequency characters.


Learn the characters and words sequentially by their frequency. You will find yourself proficiently speaking, reading, and writing Chinese in no long time.


Hero image by Alexander Ramsey (CC0 1.0)