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Charles Benoit

My first job out of Yale was a position with USAID in Vietnam.  Luckily for me that posting included six months of intensive Vietnamese language training on the big island of Hawaii.

Throughout my Vietnamese study I often thought to myself: if I could learn Vietnamese, then what about Chinese?  And with that began a life-long study of Chinese characters. Because I was studying independently, there was no road map of which characters to study and in what order. To support my Chinese studies I had to create 5,000 flashcards.

Two decades later I found myself working in China with a need to relearn what I had already mastered.  No one tells you that Chinese characters must be constantly renewed or become confused and/or forgotten.  The flashcards I had originally created had been left behind in Saigon, and I now dreaded the thought of having to start over from scratch.  Instead I created a database program to manage the (re)learning process.

Chinese is always listed among the world’s most difficult languages to learn.  That statistic is based wholly on how many hours of study are needed to reach defined levels of proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing the target language.  Chinese is actually a relatively easy language to learn to speak.  It is learning those characters that takes eons of effort (time).  If there could be a way to learn characters quicker, then Chinese would become an easier language to learn.

My desktop application has since been moved to the Internet, where it will soon be accessible to all.  When fully debugged, it will be moved to its permanent location: Until then it can be viewed (and used) at:

The website features an Optimum Study Order of the most frequently used 5,000+ characters based on multiple sources of self-generated frequency data (from a year’s worth of daily newspapers and several novels to the Bible and Pali Buddhist Canon). I estimate that using the application I have created would conservatively cut the character learning curve by at least 30% !  Chinese just became that much easier to learn.

Charles Benoit

If it were possible to learn and remember Chinese characters in less time, Chinese would become an easier language to learn.  That is the purpose of the website I have created: