Looking up Chinese characters

Don’t use a paper dictionary (but know how to use one), use an electronic one. (Even Chinese people sometimes have difficulty looking up paper dictionaries)

Traditionally, Chinese look up characters in the dictionary by first identifying the radical (the key component of the character) which they find in the radical index, and then counting the number of strokes in addition to the radical to identify the specific location in the index for that character, after which they see the page number. Basically, it’s an enormous waste of time. In fact, looking up a paper dictionary is such a challenge that in China they even have competitions to see who can look up words the fastest. You should know how to do it, but you’re truly wasting your time if this is how you lookup words. The best way is to have a smart-phone with dictionary software installed (such as pleco), you can simply draw the unknown character on the touch screen (after learning the radicals, you can draw any character in literally 5 seconds) and see the definition. Even better, most electronic dictionaries let you store the word you looked up so you can review it later. But whether you use an electronic or paper dictionary, it’s necessary to know the character components very well.

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