Chinese Character Masterclass - Learn Chinese Characters - Outlier Linguistics

Schools recommending Outlier materials

    1. Unit I: Intro and Foundations
    2. Lesson 0: Intro to the course/what to expect
    3. Lesson 1: Rules of Memory
      Lesson 2: Three Attributes of Writing/Three Functions
    4. Lesson 3: Deep Structure, Surface Structure, and Stroke Order
    5. (sample video below!)
    7. Unit II: How Chinese Characters Actually Work

    Lesson 4: Form Components
    Lesson 5: Meaning Components
    Lesson 6: Sound Components
    Lesson 7: Sound series (characters with the same sound component)
    Lesson 8: Empty Components
    Lesson 9: All about character meanings

    1. Unit III: Tips Strategies for Learning More Effectively
      Lesson 10: The "IME Method"
    2. Lesson 11: Spaced Repetition
    3. Lesson 12: The Pipelining Strategy
      Lesson 13: The Minimalist Strategy


A comprehensive online video course from the Chinese character experts, complete with PDF chapters to teach you how to learn Chinese characters more effectively!

We've been teaching a course at ICLP—one of the world's most prestigious Chinese language schools—for years. Now we're making it available to the public for the first time as an online course!

You'll get lifetime access to over a dozen video lessons about Chinese characters (simplified and traditional) and how to learn them, plus you'll learn:

  • ● 300 characters, specially curated to teach you how characters actually work
  • ● all about functional components in characters
  • ● how to learn new characters more efficiently
  • ● how to recall characters you've learned more reliably
  • ● tips for learning vocabulary

This course is aimed at all levels and does not require you to own or use any of our other products—it's entirely self-contained! But all students in this course will get a 15% off discount code for use on any of our other products.

Can I go at my own pace? Will I be able to access the course once it's finished?

Yes! We'll keep the videos available online, and the PDFs are yours to keep, of course.

Is this course for beginners, intermediates, or advanced learners?

It's for anyone! The point of the course isn't to learn the 300 characters we'll be covering. The point of the course is to teach you how to be an effective, independent learner of Chinese characters using functional components. So it may be a bit more intensive if you're a beginner, because you'll probably be encountering many or most of these characters for the first time. If you already know the characters that the course covers, it will be a bit less intensive and you'll be able to focus on learning how characters actually work.

How long does the course take to complete?

It depends on you! Some people do about a lesson per week, while others do a lesson per month. There's a lot of information to absorb, so it may be difficult to go faster, but you can if you want!

So feel free to go at your own pace!

How much time will it require per lesson?

That will depend on your level and how deeply you want to dive in. It will probably be more useful for me to describe what kind of material the course will have, and then you can probably estimate how much time you want to devote to it per lesson.

The video lessons will likely all be 5-15 minutes long. There will also be PDF materials covering the same or similar material, often in a bit more depth than the video. And there will be 25 characters per week to learn.

That's actually quite a bit of material, but remember, you can go at a slower pace if you'd like! Or you could decide to just look over the characters rather than memorizing them the first time through, and then come back to memorizing them later. It's up to you! You get lifetime access to the course, so you can always come back to it again later to dive in deeper!

Will I need anything (apps, etc.) in order to take the course?

The course is as self-contained as possible. However, we strongly recommend having a dictionary (on mobile, we recommend Pleco; MDBG is a great web-based dictionary) and a flash card system (Anki for desktop is free; the Pleco flash card module is also great) available.

That being said, the characters we cover during the course will all have entries in our dictionary. If you don't already have the dictionary, you'll be able to get it at a discount if you enroll in the course. It's absolutely not a requirement for the course though!

Your Instructors

Ash Henson, PhD
Co-founder, Outlier Linguistics

Ash has a PhD in Chinese from the National Taiwan Normal University's Graduate Institute of Chinese. His dissertation research focused on using the latest research in paleography and historical Chinese phonology to create a framework for analyzing Chinese characters based on their functional components. He has worked as a Chinese-to-English translator for many years, and has also learned Dutch, Cantonese, German, some Japanese, and a smattering of other languages. In addition to his work at Outlier, he's also published several peer-reviewed papers on Chinese paleography and phonology.

John Renfroe
Co-founder, Outlier Linguistics

Before co-founding Outlier, John studied Linguistics and Paleography in the Graduate Institute of Chinese at National Taiwan Normal University. He co-founded and later ran the Taipei Classical Chinese Reading Group, a weekly reading group consisting mostly of graduate Sinology students from western universities. He also taught classical Chinese to members of the group who had no previous instruction in the language. His coursework and research focused on excavated Warring States bamboo texts, historical Chinese character morphology, and the Shuowen Jiezi 說文解字 and its commentaries and criticism.

Sample lesson

Revealing the logic of the Chinese writing system

Chinese characters are composed of functional components—components which express sound and meaning

We'll teach you how these components work and how to use them to recall characters more effectively

You'll also learn how to use this knowledge to learn new characters more efficiently in the future

What our students are saying:

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

"Amazing Course"

"The course is amazing! I was a HSK3 level reader, but could barely write. Using your course has not only helped me to learn to write, but has boosted my reading comprehension. I guessed the meaning and sound of 症 today, having never seen the character before."

Robin O'Connor (France)

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Improved Recall

"After a month of not reviewing, I was able to write (not just recognize) 283 of the 300 characters in my queue. Before I took the Outlier course, it would have been 0."

Edsko De Vries (Netherlands)

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

"The characters all stick"

"But now [the characters] really all stick. In less than 3 months with all your tools about learning efficiency, I can say I have memorized 570 Characters and 2100 words, with all the tones... I don't feel saturation, just the need to practice to maintain."

Pascal Morel-Fourrier (Singapore)

Master the Art of Learning Chinese Characters

With minimal pain and suffering, by learning the REAL underlying logic of the writing system!

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Rated 4.8/5 by 1000's of Chinese learners

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