This is one of the most commonly asked questions among my foreign students and friends since from my previous post(SHOULD I LEARN CHINESE CHARACTERS? ) that we know there are around 8000 characters out there according to a Chinese dictionary.

The above table tells us that the top 1000 characters account for between 86.2% and 91.1% of the characters occurring in the real world

With knowing 2500-3000 characters, you’ll be able to read general publications with no problem, just like the general native speakers of Chinese. 

But if you only aiming at understanding some daily simple signs, texts, or your friends’ posts on social medias, you will onlyneed to learn 500 characters which cover 72.1%~72.2% of the entire daily written material. If you want to take a Chinese proficiency test HSK ( ). 

Then please take a look at the tables below which I found from Wikipedia.

According to table 1 as below, you need 174 characters for HSK test level 1 and 347 characters for level 2 (need to learn another new 173 characters), 617 for level 3(need to learn another new 270 characters), 1064 for level 4(need to learn another new 447 characters), 1685 for level 5(need to learn another new 621 characters) and 2663 for level 6(need to learn another new 978 characters). 

Table 1.

Table 2

Table 3

The amount of characters for level 6 is quite close to a native Chinese speaker.
     There are some online free resources where you can study/learn Chinese characters, here is what I found and I find it really helpful!

Online Flashcards
form HSK level 1 to 6 with options of simplified and traditional characters.
Top 1000 Traditional Chinese Characters

Top 1000 Simplified Chinese Characters


Modern Chinese Character Frequency List现代汉语单字频率列表
(Simplified characters only)

Learning characters can be challenging, but it's a necessity! However, you don't necessarily have to be able to write every single character by heart, as long as you can recognize them, you should be able to read and type with no problem! ;) 

I hope you find this post helpful!
Keep up learning and and fun! ;)

SMART Mandarin 
Katrina Lee


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