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    I do not think that I will reveal a terrible secret if I say that studying of Chinese characters is simultaneous solution of three different tasks: recognition of complex graphic images, fixation of these images in memory and creation connections or associations between these images and their meanings and pronunciations in mind or in brain. There is also a fourth task: reproduction of Chinese Characters,  either on digital devices or drawing characters on paper. But we will talk about that later. Now let's explore first three tasks.

    So, we have divided one complex task into three simple ones. The first and the most difficult task is perception and, of course, distinction of complex graphic images. The fact is that the processing of complex graphic images takes place in the subconscious, not in the consciousness. This is the trouble, because we practically can not influence this process. But this is also an advantage, because image processing in the subconscious mind is very fast. We can not influence the process, but if it goes, it happens very quickly. And we must take this advantage.

    Fortunately, we know in general terms how our subconscious mind processes complex graphic images. Fortunately, for many centuries of development of Chinese characters, for many centuries of using and learning Chinese characters, people unknowingly using the cultural analogue of "natural selection" came to a structure of characters that most closely corresponds to the natural way of perceiving graphic images. So we can use the natural ways of perception of these images in our own purposes.

    The first thing to note is that the subconscious mind stores images as a whole. It's important.  This is the basis for the so-called "flash card method", when the character is displayed to the user, and after a while its meaning or pronunciation is reported to him. All that is needed to remember the image, is to see it some necessary time. In this case, the activity of our brain is to try to remember "the picture". The suggestion of the meaning of a character creates "graphical-semantic" associations in the mind. But it's another task, and it doesn't help us in the second task solution or in the fixation of the image in memory. The fixation of the image in memory occurs by itself, spontaneously, regardless of our fussy activity: "memorize it, memorize it, memorize it..." And we remember, that we remember whole image as whole. That is why we easily recognize the Chinese character in a series of similar ones, although we can not yet reproduce it on paper or even to visualize it in our mind. That is why we can make easier the task of memorizing the image, presenting it for identification of it in a series similar to it. That is why the phonetic input loses to the graphical input systems, because when the syllable is entered, the system produces a set of characters that sound like the one you are looking for, and do not look like it.  (It should be noted that phonetic input is possible only when we know exactly how the character sounds and how it looks.)

    And we can note here the second thing: for our subconsciousness the similarity is the absence of differences. And this thing allows us to understand how goes images recognition itself. Our brain seeks similarity, noting differences. Where and how does our brain find differences?

    Please, look at these pictures: 猴 侯 喉. You see immediately that these pictures are different. And they differs by its first elements. And then, on second stage, You understand, that they are very similar by its last element. Therefore, we can see, two things: our brain analyzes the images by dividing it into some components and examines them sequentially, one-by-one. And the direction of this sequence of examination is determined by our cultural habits. (I suppose the Arabs, for example, can see the elements in reverse order, but it does not matter, we use direction from left to right or from top to bottom.) It's very simple: 什, 化, 代, 位, 们...

    And what happens when there are many elements, and they do not fit into a linear sequence? If they are located immediately in two dimensions: left and right, top and bottom? 媛 or 暖, or 暧. Our brain is not inclined to complicate your life without necessity. On the first "picture" we see "女" and "something else" without having the names of neither "女" nor this "something else". On the second "picture" we see "日" and again the same "something else". It's enough now. But. On the third picture we see the same "日", and something, that is not "previous something", but very similar to "previous something", and it differs from previous by one little element inside in this "something": "爰" and "爱". OK. We remember, that "the similarity is the absence of differences". And brain seek for differences. And he agrees to a similarity if he did not find a difference. Where? Outside first, along the periphery of the image, at the beginning and at the end of the usual sequence, and then inside the picture only. (We have seen this in the examples.) Then our brain focus on this differences, memorize it and use it as a "distinctive element", as a "label", for this image. Thus,  "日" distinguish "暖" from "媛", and "一" distinguish "暖" from "暧". If exist some element which distinguish one image from another, we can assume that for each image may exist such a set of elements, which distinguish that image from all other images. Let's call that sets of elements "markers". Thus, the marker of each image is set of his elements which distinguish this image from all another. The separation of complex graphic images into elements, their sequential analysis and selection of markers for each image, which makes it possible to quickly and easily distinguish this image from all others, is a natural way of image recognition.

    And we can note here the third thing: the markers help us to recognize (and memorize!) images. While we analyze image in natural way, we help our subconsciousness to memorize it as a whole. I'm sure I didn't tell anything new for You. Surely,  we can make good game for easy and efficient memorizing of Chinese characters based on the principles of natural image recognition way. Then we can add our third task to this game – creation the connections or associations characters and their "names" or "meanings", or creation "graphical-semantic" associations.  But how can we verify the correctness of memorization? We need to reproduce the required character, of course. So we come to fourth task – reproduction of Chinese characters.

    1. Handwriting. Old and wise technology. 人 - very simple. 犬 – simple. 狗 – may be worse. 猴 - ask the novice student to write simple word "monkey". 藏 - …
    Old and wise, but slow and difficult technology.

    2. Phonetic input. It is a mainstream technology.  You type on keyboard simple syllable "yì" (or "yi4"), for example, and get for choice... 337 different characters. What should You do?  You must select the desired character. Therefore, You must know its graphic representation. Phonetic input don't help You to learn Chinese characters. If You use phonetic input in our game to learn how to recognize Chinese characters, You must first learn to write them. How? By handwriting, of course, slow and difficult technology...

    Now the most interesting part begins. While you were looking through and analyzing the characters, you identified their elements, found their markers. Why not use them to enter Chinese characters? You can tell this information to the computer and ask him to compose a symbol according to the elements you point out or select it directly according to the entered marker.
    I tried to do this. And it turned out that it is easy and fast. It turned out that just two clicks of the mouse or touching the touch screen is enough to enter most of the characters. And only every fifth character requires 3 clicks for input, and never more. It is almost two times faster than phonetic input.

    The simple game for characters remembering become fast, powerful, efficient characters input system. In addition, it turned out that we can begin to learn the Chinese characters right from the first lesson now, not expecting to learn the pronunciation of all the characters, moreover, we can easily find the meaning of any character in the dictionary, without knowing its pronunciation, it is very important for the beginner. But we will stop now, and talk about technical details of composite input next time.

...to be continued...



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