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Chinese Characters At a Glance

If you think there are too many Chinese characters, it is not true at all! But I don't like to talk about it, just like we don't need to know how much oxygen exists on our planet, we breathe just as much as that is necessary to health.
How many Chinese characters do you need to know? It is far less than you may imagine. Is 1000 too few? Is 2000 enough? Or better, 3000? In any case, it depends on why you learn Chinese.
With one thousand Chinese characters one can read a short novel and write a simple letter, just like Chinese students in the second grade can do. If one knows 3000, admiration! It corresponds to the level of Chinese that students in middle school achieve. These people can read and write newspapers, novels, and essays. That is, they are free to do almost everything in Chinese.
The brutal misconstrue is that many believe that there are too many Chinese characters. Comparing with English we are sure that the total number of Chinese characters is less than the total number of English words, and the number of commonly used Chinese characters is less than the number of commonly used English words.
Here are the coverage rates of the most frequently used Chinese characters:

  The most frequently used Chinese characters     coverage rates %(statistics of publications)  
10 12
100 40
500 80
1000 95
2500 >99

Thus China National Language Committee just announced 2500 Chinese characters as common used. Now you know how many Chinese characters you should learn as a simple outsider.


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