What is Encoding
Encoding is Effective
Associations are simply a form of substitution. With encoding Chinese we substitute the vague or unfamiliar elements of Chinese with something concrete and familiar. Familiar things are easier to remember. The picture below gives and example of associations for Chinese character parts.
When you link the Chinese (new and unfamiliar) with the familiar (tractors and dinosaurs) already in your long-term memory, those new things stick in the mind nearly as good as the old things they are attached to. That’s how our brains work, that’s how associations work, that’s why this method works.
The memory palace is a mental storage system that is naturally built into everyone’s brain. Don’t believe it? Try this: think back to your earliest home or apartment. Look around it in your mind. Do you remember the rooms, the furniture, and the area outside? Think about pretty much any place you’ve ever spent much time. Despite never studying any of them, you can remember at least the basic layout of them all, and probably a ton of details of most of them. The way the memory palace works is simple: you put whatever you are trying to remember into all of those places that are so clear in your mind. When you want to recall anything, you just go back to the place where you put it and ‘see’ what you put there. How does this relate to this learning system? When you learn a new Chinese word, it is converted into an image that tell you all about the word. Then that image is placed into one of your places, your memory palaces. When you need that image, it is sitting safely in that well-remembered place in your mind.
How does this method create images to put into your memory palaces? The two videos below show just how easy it is. The first video shows how to do characters, the second shows how to do vocabulary only.
The 80/20 rule as applied in Encoding Chinese has to do with what you study. If you study random Chinese characters and vocabulary, your progress will be discouragingly slow. Studying frequently used words, you reverse the situation, exponentially increasing your progress. You won’t get that kind of success any other way. It’s ‘Work smarter, not harder’ in practice.
The list below shows just how few Chinese characters you need to learn to hit a reasonable skill level.
100 characters = 42% recognition 200 characters = 55% recognition
300 characters = 64% recognition 400 characters = 70% recognition
500 characters = 75% recognition 600 characters = 79% recognition
700 characters = 82% recognition 800 characters = 85% recognition
900 characters = 87% recognition 1000 characters = 89% recognition
1500 characters = 94% recognition 2000 characters = 97.0% recognition
Encoding is Fun
Chinese is one of the hardest languages in the world to learn. As a result, many people give up before they ever reach any level of proficiency. One of the chief causes of this is that it takes many hours of concentrated study. Without a good system, much of this concentration and effort is wasted when the things learned are quickly forgotten. Encoding Chinese is a system of creating images. So right from it’s most basic level, it is more creative than academic. Add to that the fact that the images created are almost always dramatic, funny, or interesting, and you have a study process that is more like watching a movie than cramming for exams. Scenes of Yoda and Professor X playing mental games, a T-Rex slamming a basketball, and a naked Gandhi hanging his robes on the laundry line are all in a day’s study. An hour of learning using the encoding method feels more like ten minutes.
Finally, almost every Chinese learning system is going to cost many months to many years of study time just to reach basic levels of speaking and reading ability, not including the ability to write. Encoding Chinese has already, in it’s brief time on the scene, changed all of this. First of all, most of what you need for a full and effective study life is included in the pages of the book. The only other tools that you might really need are a good dictionary and grammar book. Recommendations for good ones can be found on this website, under the ‘Resources’ tab. While you might find some that are just as good as the recommended ones, you might not. The ones recommended on the website have been tested by new learners and experienced learners and they work.
Encoding Chinese is an amazing time saver. In the past it was not uncommon for a person to have to study 3-10 years before reaching any real level of skill with the language. With encoding, the same levels can be reached in 6 months to 3 years or less. Also, because of it’s effectiveness, less time is wasted on: 1) relearning things forgotten, 2) restarting after giving up completely, 3) studying useless material, and probably most importantly, 4) days or weeks of missed study sessions because of lack of motivation. Lack of progress is a huge motivation killer. With encoding, real, tangible progress is made in every study session, even short ones. So save your money and time for something useful, like a trip to China.
What people say about Encoding Chinese
In one month and a half I’ve been able to learn over 270 characters! I never thought I’d be able to not only recognize but also write that many!
It has also helped with my pronunciation of the Chinese syllables. Although pinyin is wonderful, the spelling of some syllables really threw me off. But now that I have a character for those syllables it is easier to pronounce the words correctly. It’s not just my progress that gives me motivation to keep using this method to study, it’s just a fun way to study! My goal is a hour a day, but time goes by so fast while studying that I’m always trying to find more time in the day to make just one more story for a character and then maybe just one more :) !
R.L’s system is the most creative and comprehensive method I’ve seen for studying Chinese characters. As an adult learning Chinese, I have struggled to retain newly learned characters over time. The “Encoding” method showed me how to store characters in long term memory using proven mnemonic methods and a clever system for breaking characters up into simpler images. I now keep his book on my desk as a reference whenever I need to learn a new word.
Encoding Chinese method has truly been a priceless treasure in helping me learn this very difficult language. Within a short period of time I have been able to recognize and read many characters!
Honestly, before this method, I didn’t enjoy the thought of learning hundreds and hundreds of characters.
But now I look forward to my study sessions because this method makes it fun!You use your creativity and imagination in an enjoyable way that makes the components of each character come alive. It also effectively locks the meaning and tone in your memory.
This method is by far my favorite way of learning Chinese.
In my first week of using the encoding method, I learned 50 characters.
I have been using this method along with my Chinese classes for nine weeks now and can recognize, write, and properly pronounce over 400 characters.
The whole idea is for the components to form ideas that will be easy to remember, and this method lets you customize your manner of remembering to yourself.