When we met with the people behind Mandarin Poster last year we really liked the idea they had for creating a giant poster of the most frequently used Mandarin Chinese characters. In fact, we liked it so much so that we decided to partner with them to create a series of posts that will cover each of the characters from the poster and show how they can be used along with example sentences – but more on that later.
To give you an idea of what exactly Mandarin Poster is and the inspiration behind it we caught up with one of the creators, Chris, to have him explain all.
Tell us what exactly Mandarin Poster is?
Basically it’s a giant poster of Chinese characters. It includes the 1500 most frequently used characters and the most common pronunciation for those characters – some characters do have multiple common pronunciations and for those characters we’ll be providing a page on our website to view them. To make sure that the poster was high quality we chose a heavy 200g paper and it’s also laminated for protection, which also means that you can use certain whiteboard markers to write on it.
How was the list word list generated?
The Chinese government does actually have a list of the most frequently used 3000 characters, however, whereas they have separated the characters by stroke order, we instead opted to order the list by frequency. Therefore, the first character, and the most commonly seen, is 的. It has been estimated that 1500 characters covers over 90% of most documents, and 3000 characters takes this up to over 99%. The list itself was generated through combining previously created frequency lists and using the search engines. I think we combined about 6 different lists, all the while ensuring the Chinese governments recommended characters were in included.
Why did you decide to create the poster?
Well, I used to stick little Chinese notes all over the place to help me remember characters. I had a whole list opposite the toilet, ha! At about the same time I also started using Heisig’s method for remembering how to write characters by hand and then decided I wanted to create a list of the entire set so each day I could tick off the new ones I had learned. Creating a giant laminated poster seemed like the obvious thing to do. I got a lot of strange looks at the uni printers, but I thought the final product turned out really well, and friends who saw it always commented on it and encouraged me to make more.
What do you say to people who aren’t convinced?
Well, we don’t want to persuade anyone really. It is what it is. A giant mass of lovely chinese characters. If you are like me and are striving to create a sort of “study cave” like place, then I think the poster fits right in. It really is a great idea to surround yourself with study materials, whether it be a mandarin poster, flashcards or even newspaper cuttings, it’s all useful and good to have when you need a break from books and other media.
How do you suggest using the poster?
Well, a good first step would be stick it on your wall somehow. Or perhaps the ceiling above your bed? Actually that is not a bad idea, I might try that. The poster is laminated so you can use marker pens. I always try to find at least 10 characters each day that I know, and I will circle the ones that I feel I don’t need to review. You know, the ones that I feel have been committed to long term memory. If it’s 1 character a day, or 50 a day, it’s all progress. It’s just having something there as a reminder of your daily progress which is nice. I think a lot of language learners can appreciate that.
Do you have any future plans for the poster?
Next will most likely be our traditional version of the poster, and following that will be the second 1500 characters. We also hope to be able to create many other resources for Chinese learners as well in future so check the website from time to time to see what’s on the horizon.
Where can people find out more about Mandarin Poster?
They can go to the Mandarin Poster website, which at the moment is quite basic. You can read about the poster and most importantly order a copy for yourself. We are selling the poster for $24.99US with free international shipping, so no matter where you are in the world you can get one.
Thanks to Chris for taking to time to fill us in on the details and inspiration behind Mandarin Poster.
Now, back to the project I was talking about at the start of this post. At some point over the next week we’ll be launching a brand new section at Chinese Hacks that will cover each and every word from Mandarin Poster. One post a day, every day. Featuring the character, it’s pronunciation and definition, and also actual real-world examples of that character in use from news stories of the day. We’ll be trying our best to start of easy with the most frequently used characters and then gradually increasing the difficulty as we progress – which means this should be great for beginners to follow along with.
If you have any questions about Mandarin Poster, or want to ask us a question about the project we have hatching, then please leave a comment below!