Chinese characters are the hardest part of learning Mandarin Chinese. Prior to computers, the only way to learn characters was by hand-writing each of them hundreds of times. This is still the method for school children in China, Taiwan, and Singapore.
Learning to write Chinese characters by hand opens the door to a greater understanding of the relationships between various characters. It also leads you to a greater appreciation of the art of calligraphy and the beauty of Chinese writing.
Adult students of Mandarin have the choice of using computer input methods to write Chinese characters, but this approach gives only a superficial knowledge of the Chinese writing system.
Chinese characters are not written as random designs – there is an order to their construction. There are various types of strokes which are combined to create each character, and the strokes are written in a specific order.
The basic rules of stroke order are as follows:
- left to right
- top to bottom
- outside to inside
- horizontal strokes before vertical strokes
- left-angled strokes before right-angled strokes
- center verticals before sides
- bottom stroke last
- extended horizontals last
- frame is closed with last stroke
- dots - either first or last
There can be some overlap between these rules, but standard stoke order has been developed for each character. That's where eStroke comes in.
eStoke is a software program that animates the stroke order of Chinese characters. Students can watch these animations to learn the correct stroke order of any character.
The creators of eStroke explain their product:
eStroke has all the tools necessary for you to learn Chinese. In addition to showing the stroke order of every Chinese Character, eStroke also creates extremely high quality Stroke Sequence that can be pasted into your documents. Understanding Chinese passage is more than understanding each character. eStroke will annotates phrases in a Chinese text passage into English or German. This greatly helps you in understanding the whole text instead of each individual character.
Features Of eStroke
Some of the features of eStroke include:
- animation of every chinese character
- English translations
- production of stroke sequence charts and animated GIF files
- shows stroke direction
- creation of worksheet for writing practice
- highlights radicals
- animates in 2D gifs and 3D flash videos
- translates from Chinese to English, German, Japanese and French
- output can be scaled to various dimensions
eStroke is a very useful tool for illustrating documents and websites. I've been using eStroke animated GIFs on this website for many of my lessons and character profiles. It is very easy to use and has plenty of options for almost any purpose.
eStroke is available for Windows or Mac operating systems. The cost for a single license is US$39.00 which includes upgrades for one year. An evaluation version is available free of charge from the Eon Media website. iPhone and Android versions are also available.