Fundamental Written Chinese teaches both mastery of individual characters and reading comprehension. It introduces characters gradually, moving from simple independent characters to more complex compound ones. How characters are organized and constructed is taught through the liberal use of charts that display the structural and organizational regularities of each character, that is, its radical, phonetic component, shared graphic components, stroke order, and principles of proportion. This knowledge is then reinforced by exercises at the end of each chapter that require students to draw on the compositional information presented in the charts. Reading skills are taught through written passages that are accompanied by questions and exercises. Chapters begin with a reading passage and end with one or two shorter supplementary passages. Because words in Chinese are often composed of two different characters and because the optimum method for introducing new characters requires limiting the number of new radicals and structurally unrelated characters that can appear in any one character, many of the written texts in ""Fundamental Written Chinese"" make limited use of a Hanyu Pinyin-plus-character system of writing. This makes it possible for the text to remain faithful to a very controlled approach to character learning while allowing students to read passages that are within the scope of their abilities in spoken Chinese. The authors of ""Fundamental Written Chinese"" and its accompanying text, ""Fundamental Spoken Chinese"", treat written and spoken language as two different but related systems that are most effectively learned by delinking the sequence in which the particulars of each system is taught.
Nora Yao is head tutor in the School of Asian Studies and director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Auckland. Margaret Lee is senior tutor at the University of Auckland. Robert Sanders is senior lecturer in Chinese at the University of Auckland.