Mass Immersion Approach
Watch this video:
In the two videos above I am talking about Japanese kanji and the book Remembering the Kanji, but all of the same principles apply to Chinese hanzi and the books Remembering Simplified Hanzi and Remembering Traditional Hanzi respectively.
Once you meet someone even once, you are extremely unlikely to ever forget their face. You may forget their name, or even who they are and how you know them, but their face will continue to feel familiar. The goal of the initial Lazy Kanji/Hanzi round is to reach this point with kanji/hanzi. It doesn’t matter if you can’t remember what a character means; what really matters is that characters look like something to you; not a glob of scribbles. Once you reach this point, you can easily learn to read words through immersion and sentence cards.
The Lazy Kanji deck contains the most frequently used 1000 kanji presented in Remembering the Kanji order (frequency source). The Lazy Hanzi (Simplified) deck contains the most frequently used 1000 hanzi presented in Remembering the Simplified Hanzi order, and the Lazy Hanzi (Traditional) deck contains the most frequently used 1000 hanzi presented in Remembering the Traditional Hanzi order (frequency source).
The most frequently used 1000 kanji cover more than 90% of all written Japanese (source), and the most frequently used 1000 hanzi cover around 85~90% of all written Chinese (source). This should be more than enough to satisfy the goals of this original kanji/hanzi round. Once you reach Stage 4, you can do another, more thorough Remembering the Kanji/Hanzi round and learn to properly write the characters from memory.
How to Use
Get your hands on a copy of the actual Remembering the Kanji Vol 1/Remembering Simplified Hanzi Vol 1/Remembering Traditional Hanzi Vol 1 book. Volume 1 is all you will need for now. Read the entire introduction. I know it’s long, but just do it.
As you work your way through the Anki deck, read through the corresponding sections of the book. You don’t have to read the entries for characters that aren’t in the deck, but do read the interludes as there is useful information in them.
If you are learning Japanese, you don’t need to worry about making your own stories; the stories that come on the cards should be good enough. Unfortunately, the Lazy Hanzi decks don’t come with stories, so it may be a good idea to put some effort into making your own. That said, don’t worry about making the stories high quality. Don’t worry if your recall is bad; simply delete any cards that are giving you trouble. Also, don’t worry about writing the characters. Remember, the goal is recognition. Quick and dirty is the motto. You are going to be doing it “properly” later. This is just to give you some momentum to help you get started.
Chinese: Simplified or Traditional
Whether the variety of Chinese you’re learning mainly uses simplified or traditional characters, in the long run, you may want to be able to use both sets. When setting out to learn how to write both sets of characters, it makes most sense to start with traditional, and then learn simplified after. The reason for this is that, although there is a systematic relationship between the two sets, certain distinctions are lost when going from traditional to simplified. For example, take the characters “涼” and “冷”. As you can see, the components on the left are different (“氵” and “冫”). But this distinction is lost in the simplified versions: “凉” vs “冷”. Thus, when going from traditional to simplified, all you have to remember is that both “氵” and “冫” simplify into “冫”. But when going from simplified to traditional, you have to go through each character with the “冫” component one-by-one and memorize which of the two possibilities the traditional is.
That said, because the goal of the initial Lazy Hanzi round is simply to give your mind a basic ability to recognize characters, the logic I explained above isn’t relevant. You will gain most of your actual hanzi ability through immersion and sentence cards, and then develop the ability to write the characters from memory in a later Stage. You will have the opportunity to study both sets of characters then.
For now, if the variety of Chinese you plan on focusing on mainly uses simplified characters, get Remembering the Simplified Hanzi and use the simplified deck. If the variety of Chinese you plan on focusing on mainly uses traditional characters, get Remembering the Traditional Hanzi and use the traditional deck.