One of the obstacles of learning Chinese is the sheer number of Chinese characters. According to studies, commonly used characters are around 2,500 - 3,000. It is overwhelming for beginner students.
However, as some characters are used more often than others, it is possible for students to start with a very small number of characters. This approach requires treating each character as a building block, with each new character built upon the previous ones. For beginner students, especially those with no Chinese background, learning a small number of characters and using them well are really confidence boosters.
Due credit is given to John DeFrancis and his Chinese Reader series. But with each book as thick as a brick, his series looks daunting and intimidating. Also, after passing a threshold, this way of learning becomes increasingly inefficient. The top 500 characters count for 72.1% - 79.2% of the characters occurring, while the next 500 characters for only 11.9% - 14.1%.
At MSL Master, 320 characters are carefully selected and split into six Chinese Reading and Writing books. All books look manageable. Students learn the most frequently used characters, and most importantly, learn how to use them through many illustrations, such as combinations, sentences and narratives. Great attention is paid to: (1) all the illustrations are strictly confined to the characters already presented; (2) illustrations are not above students’ level.
With each book completed, students gain a deeper understanding on Chinese language, and develop necessary skills in writing Chinese text. Thus, this Chinese Reading and Writing series prepares the students for the next stage of learning.
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