Many people are afraid to learn Chinese characters. One reason is that they feel the characters are too complicated. Another bigger reason is that many think that there are too many Chinese characters!
How many characters in Chinese? There are 54,678 characters that can be found in the Great Compendium of Chinese Characters, or what is called “Hanyu Da Zidian” in Chinese. So, with so many characters, how can Chinese people master and understand the language? The simple answer is that we don’t need to remember that many! 2,500 characters is enough!
Let`s take a look at some books that have compiled and collected Chinese characters as reference materials: the commonly used Xinhua Dictionary contains more than 11,200 characters; the Chart of Generally Utilized Characters of Modern Chinese lists the existence of 7000 characters; another document called The Chart of Common Characters of Modern Chinese only includes 3500 characters, and 1000 of these are considered “less commonly used characters.” As you can see, the number of commonly used Chinese characters are not that big. Now there are only 2,500 characters left for us to know!
Let`s put this all into perspective: if you know 2,500 characters, you can read 97.97 % of written text. With 3,500 characters, you can read up to 99.48 %. The Chinese characters used in Chinese literature are basically between 2000 and 3000.So 2,500 characters are enough for you to read a Chinese newspaper and Chinese literature.
If 2,500 is still too much for you, then let me reassure you that with only 900 characters, you can actually read 90% of a newspaper!
So don’t be scared to learn Chinese characters! Just go and give it a try!