Note: As a general prerequisite, study and familiarize yourself with Chinese writing strokes and rules. There's no shortcut to this. This will provide you with a good solid foundation on how Chinese characters are formed.
Tips on how to quickly learn Chinese characters:
- Only way to learn Chinese characters is to memorize them, practice writing a character on paper until you remember it. Start from easy ones, which also include all the strokes, for example, 一(one), 十(ten), 中(middle),山(mountain), 上(above), 火(fire), 河(river), 入(enter).
- Rather than writing one word many times before doing the next one, write each word once or twice then go through the whole list again until you've done the required number of repetitions. This will reinforce the new words more firmly in your memory.
- Read Chinese newspapers, booklets and books found at your local library or Chinese market
- Watch movies or TV programs with Chinese subtitles, it is a great way to learn Chinese speaking and writing at the same time in a simulated real-life scenario.
- Use post-it notepaper to write down the characters and stick them on the objects you are about to learn.
- Write vocabulary words using index or flash cards on one side with the definition on the other side.
- Use your imagination by linking the shape of the new word by first glancing to something you are familiar with.
- Play vocabulary by creating a 3-column vocabulary sheet with characters, pinyin, and English definitions. Fold the paper with only one or two columns showing and then take practice written tests.
- After a while, you will notice that many characters have elements in common, either related to meaning or pronunciation. Note the common elements and use them to help you remember new characters.
- Take advantage of free learning Chinese resources online.
If you can memorize about 1,000 - 2,000 characters, you will feel comfortable with reading and writing modern Chinese.