What is Scritter?
Skritter is, in my opinion, the best way to learn to write Chinese characters.
I used it ten minutes a day for about a year and managed to learn to type over 1,300 characters (all the characters on the HK4 list, to be exact). In addition, I also learned the meaning and pronunciation of these characters.
Why do you need software to write characters?
If you have seen the video at the beginning of this article you already know that the software is really good.
But the real reason to use Skritter is the algorithm behind the software, which allows you to remember more than 90% of the characters you are studying (in the photo below you can see that in the last 7 days I was able to remember 93.8 % of the characters I studied, is the green number in the lower right corner).
Briefly, when you review the characters yourself you are forced to review all of them without precise criteria. Instead, Skritter keeps track of your mistakes and shows you characters you don’t yet know how to type more often.
When we talk about fifty or a hundred characters this may seem like only a small advantage. But when you start adding more and more characters it becomes a huge time saver.
How much does Skritter cost?
Skritter costs 14.99 USD per month, they also offer a 100% money-back guarantee and if after a while you decide not to pay more for your subscription, you can continue to use the software for free to review the characters you have already learned.
If you prefer, you can also subscribe for 6 months, one or two years, saving up to 50% on the monthly rate.
In addition, you can sign up for the free trial version through one of the links on this page and using the coupon “SDC3952.” If you later decide to buy it you will get an additional 10% discount.
How to use the software
Skritter offers great apps for iOS and Android where you can write the characters directly on the touch screen.
If you prefer, you can also use Skritter on your laptop. You have three options: use the mouse, use the laptop’s touchpad, or invest in a pen tablet.
The advantages of learning to write chinese characters:
The obvious advantage is that you learn to write. But, in my opinion, there is a more important point.
Many Chinese characters are very similar. As an example, take a look at 青， 请， 清, 情 and 晴. They all have a similar pronunciation ( qing, but with a different tone). However, their meaning is different (they mean “green”, “ask”, “pure”, “feel”, and “good weather”, respectively).
When you only learn to recognize the characters but are unable to reproduce them from scratch (ie you don’t know how to write them), it’s easy to get confused. Especially when the characters are used to form more complicated words.
Also, when you start typing characters regularly and learning radicals, something amazing starts to happen. Let’s take an example already used before, the word 游泳.
This is a very common word, it means “swim” and its pronunciation is “ young .” Even if I use this word very often, in the past it has always seemed impossible to reproduce it. Also, I used to confuse it with 旅游， which means “journey” or “travel”.
But once I learned how to write the basic components of the word 游泳, writing it became easier for me, and now there is no way I could be confused with 旅游.
After doing a lot of reading on the subject, using Anki for a year (an SRS that teaches you how to read characters), and Skritter for another year, I realized that there are a couple of common mistakes people tend to make:
- Learning the Mechanical Way: Typing a character over and over until it sticks in your brain is tempting. However, when you don’t know how to type a specific character, it’s much more efficient to stop and analyze the character a bit. What are the radicals that compose it? Can you find some trick (in other words, a mnemonic) to remember it?
- Not having a defined goal: You should have a clear and measurable goal instead of learning random characters on a random schedule. My goal was to learn the radicals and the characters for the first four levels of the HSK test (about 1,300 characters in total).
- Get Burned – Skritter is addictive. At first, it may be tempting to use it longer than you have anticipated. However, keep in mind that you will have to review the characters you are learning (or you will forget about them) according to the schedule calculated by the Skritter algorithm. If you learn too many characters too quickly, you will soon be overwhelmed by the number of characters to review per day. Therefore, at some point, you will have to choose between more study time or giving up. Remember that you must establish a rhythm that you can then maintain in the long term!
- Study the inappropriate characters: If you have never written a Chinese character before you can not start with characters that are too complicated. It’s going to take you an insane amount of time to learn each one of them, and you’re likely to lose motivation. Try to start with an easy deck, for example, the radicals or the HSK one. Remember that complicated Chinese characters are often a combination of simpler characters. An example? 意=立+日+心. Start at the base and build from it!
Other features of Scritter
Skritter offers a lot of options. Here you have the complete list. Some of the ones I like the most are the following:
- Pre-made flashcard lists (more than 1,000 lists are available)
- Statistics of your learning
- Add mnemonics to words
- Audio of the words
- Learning of tones and meaning
- Add learning objectives
- See the stroke order when typing a character
- Video lessons with mnemonics to help you remember the characters