Mandarin PostersI admit it. I got carried away by the hype and the threat of Traditional character posters being out of print and discontinued.

My friend, Sookie4, posted on the Raising Bilingual Kids in Chinese & English Facebook group that a set of posters covering up to 99% of the most common characters used in modern Chinese texts was converting to only Simplified/pinyin and phasing out the Traditional/zhuyin version. Galvanized into action, she contacted Mandarin Poster about the discontinued posters and they said they would be willing to reprint if there were orders of several dozen.

Of course, we all jumped in. There was a huge group buy just from Bay Area parents alone. When would we ever have this opportunity again? It was a market’s dream.

I was hesitant, though. I had been planning to buy the Chinese Radical Scroll because that seemed far more interesting and useful to me. After all, what was I going to do with the posters once my kids had finished circling all the characters they knew on each set of 1,000? I didn’t understand why anyone would buy the posters, let alone buy multiple sets. (And people did!)

But alas. I am a follower at heart. So, I purchased the 2,000 high frequency characters as well and just hoped for the best.

When the posters finally arrived, I was excited for my kids to start circling the characters they knew. That is, until I realized two things:

1) The Chinese Radical Scroll was not laminated. And even though it was printed on a nice, thick yet pliable cardstock, I knew my family was not allowed to have nice things because my children (and here, I’m thinking specifically of Glow Worm) ruin EVERYTHING.

2) The other two posters, even though they were glossy and laminated, were also not going to hold up to the collective destructive force of my three children.

Thus, I knew that I would either have to find a frame for the Chinese Radical Scroll (which is of an odd size so that was going to be fun), or accept the fact that this scroll was going to be destroyed – it was just a matter of when. Also, I knew I would have to get frames for the two posters.

Thankfully, since so many of my friends also purchased the posters, I just had my friend, Fleur, pick up a few frames for me from IKEA when she was out there to get her own frames. (Don’t worry. All resources I used will be included at the end.)

Kids using Mandarin Poster 1So, finally after Fleur handed me the frames and I shoved the posters in, I let my kids have at it.

They had a great time. Cookie Monster had a lot more stamina so he powered through the first thousand (but I want to say it took about 30-45 minutes). He also wanted to do the second thousand, so I let him at that, too. He got bored of it much faster.

Kids using Mandarin Poster 2

Gamera got tired easily and pretty soon, I was the one circling characters for her! How does she trick me so easily? She made it through a few hundred characters and then she was done.

She also tried to start over multiple times so she got REALLY bored. Gamera started on the posters first, but then Cookie Monster circled over her circles and I could no longer tell who knew what. I guess that’s why some folks bought multiple copies. That way, their children could each work on a set independently of the other. But who has the space?

Cookie Monster's circles

Cookie Monster’s first set of circles

At any rate, Gamera, to this day, still has not gone through all the characters. But that’s ok. She does much better reading in context versus guessing characters based on frequency. I will just have to tell myself that a lot until I truly believe it.

The problem is, after the kids were done with the circling, I had nowhere to put these posters. I didn’t want to put more holes in my wall only to decide later that I hated where I put them. And of course, I had no idea WHERE to put the posters.

Cookie Monster's second set

Cookie Monster’s second set of circles

Just thinking about where to put the posters gave me a headache. Clearly, I did NOT think this whole thing through.

So, I did what any sensible person with buyer’s remorse did. I put the Mandarin posters in the laundry room.

For months.

Every now and then, the kids would remember the posters and would want to drag them out of the laundry room (where it was blocking my dryer) and circle a few characters before getting bored and then finding something else to do instead.

I’d gotten cut (as did the kids) by the edges of the frames a few times. It was in the way of my dryer. I constantly worried that the corners would take the eye out of one of my kids (because yes, the ER doctors know my children and me by sight).

Gamera's circled second set

Gamera’s second set of circles

I was really annoyed at the headache I’d caused myself.

I had been duped.

I mean, where was I going to put these damn posters? Were they supposed to be art? Decoration? Background clutter like in elementary school classrooms? These posters were totally useless to me if the kids couldn’t see or easily reach them. After all, I wasn’t putting up these ugly pink and green frames for my aesthetic reasons.

What a waste of money.

But then, one day, I got it in my head to re-arrange the front room of my house again. It was already set up for homeschooling, but it never felt quite right. So, I moved things around and lo and behold! I had freed up some wall space!

I immediately got into action. After all. I knew myself. If I sat on this, it would never get done. So I started Googling ways to hang pictures without punching a bunch of holes in my drywall. I called FedEx Office to find out if they could laminate my Chinese Radical Scroll and at what cost. (All of this is below in the resources.)

I got moving.

White Board and Mandarin Posters Set UpI found these awesome velcro-like Command Picture Frame & Hanging Stripes and put up a white board that had been causing me similar consternation, and the two 1000 character posters. Then I used painter’s tape and hung up my newly laminated Chinese Radical Scroll.

At last. I was done.

The kids loved it.

All of a sudden, their interest in the posters was renewed. They stood there, each with their respective dry erase markers, and got to circling. Even Glow Worm got in on the action.

They do drive-by readings and character circlings almost every day.

Cookie Monster staring at the Chinese Radical Scroll

Cookie Monster staring at the Chinese Radical Scroll

Sometimes, Cookie Monster will just pull up a chair and sit there, staring at all the characters. (What can I say? He can be weird.)

They will spontaneously circle characters.

Cookie Monster will quiz Gamera on characters he thinks she should know – and then also teach her new ones.

I realized that my children knew far more characters than I thought.

And because they can clearly see the 2,000 most frequently used characters in modern Chinese, they are also drawing connections between characters that I only just began to realize as an adult.

They have a much better feel for the breadth and scope and commonalities of the written Chinese language.

They easily search and find how many characters have the same radicals or sound components.

They recognize similar sound components, character components, and radicals and how those factors contributed to other characters’ sounds and pronunciations.

This is all happening in a very natural way. All from my kids walking up to the posters and staring at the characters for a few minutes a day and pointing out the things they notice. How much more will they integrate this information than if they had sat there while I lectured them on the same subject?

Plus, they love to show off how many characters they know to their friends who come over. They love (especially Cookie Monster) to point out the new characters they learned in class to me.


I take it all back.

I was wrong. So, so very wrong.

These posters are awesome.

Will they replace an actual learning curriculum or hard work? Can my children now just learn Chinese characters via diffusion?

Also, no. But the posters are very helpful supplements and provide a concrete and tangible way for my children to integrate the characters they have already learned, are learning, and will learn.

Alright. I hope you found this post useful. There almost wasn’t a post but GuavaRama basically came up with the title, brainstormed my talking points, and told me what to do. I was just following directions.

Anyhow, if you’ve stowed your Mandarin Posters in the laundry room or some equally ignominious place, get them out and start using them. They have proven to be much better than I initially thought.

Below, I’ve included some Tips as well as a Resource section for the items I used while making the Mandarin Posters more accessible to my children. Good luck! And here’s to clean laundry rooms.


1) Position the posters at eye level for your children. Make it easy for them to see the characters, circle characters they know, or examine the poster for characters they recognize.

2) Have dry eraser markers nearby and easily accessible.

3) Don’t force your kids to go through both posters in one sitting. (Or even one poster in one sitting.) That’s 2,000 characters!! Assuming even 1 second per character, that’s 33 minutes! And it will NOT take your child 1 second to recognize then circle the character while hunched over on the poster.

4) Let your kids interact with the posters however they want. Even if it means they’re just taking a marker to the posters and circling randomly. Or drawing on them. Let them play with it. Don’t try to force them to “work” on it. If they want to, great. If not, leave it alone.

5) If your kids can read pinyin or zhuyin, you may want to consider using tape or a black marker to draw lines and black out the pinyin and zhuyin. Otherwise, your child can easily “cheat.”

That’s a main reason why I couldn’t go through the poster and see if I actually knew the characters not. I couldn’t tell if it was a character I was unsure about – whether I knew the character because I saw the pinyin/zhuyin or because I could actually read the character.

Even though I was initially super annoyed about the pinyin and zhuyin presence for when the kids were circling characters, I got over it. The pinyin and zhuyin presence has been helpful in my children learning or figuring out how to read the characters that strike their fancy or look similar to other characters they know.

6) Make sure you use something sturdy to affix the posters to the wall. Your kids will be writing on the posters and erasing. That causes a lot more movement than you’d think!

7) If your children have gone through Sagebook 500, you might be surprised to notice that a lot of the characters your children learned in those sets are NOT in the high frequency 2,000 characters. Remember: Sagebooks teach your children the 500 most common characters used in children’s books – not in the Chinese language itself.

8) Also, just like flash cards, remember that if your child doesn’t recognize the characters on the poster, it doesn’t mean they can’t remember the characters at all. Indeed, they might be like Gamera and remember characters while reading in context, but not necessarily in isolation on flash cards or a poster.

9) The radical poster emphasizes the Simplified radicals. I didn’t realize this and initially panicked because I thought I purchased the wrong set. There is only one version of the radicals poster – and although Traditional radicals are listed under the Simplified ones as alternate options, but they are so small as to be useless to me.

I really wish Mandarin Posters would make a truly Traditional version of the radicals poster. But until then, you will have to make do with this version. Also, since I’m talking about wish lists, I really wish they would make a laminated version of the radicals poster. My children ruin everything so despite the heavy cardstock they use, I would have preferred a sturdier laminate version.



Laminated Chinese Radical Scroll

Laminated Chinese Radical Scroll

1) Mandarin Posters – Even though I linked up to them in the beginning of the post, I thought it would help if I included them in the resources as well. Don’t say I never did anything for you.

2) IKEA FISKBO Frames – For some reason, I can’t find the right size online, but I bought two frames for $4.99 each. The 1000 character posters are 50cm x 70cm (approx. 19.6 x 27.5″) so choose the appropriate size.

3) FedEx Kinko’s – (I know they’re FedEx Office now, but to me, it will always be Kinko’s.) For the radicals poster, the final cost (including CA tax) was $16.28. They charge $3/sqft and I chose the high gloss laminate vs. the matte laminate. Look in the store to see what you prefer. The matte seemed to make the words too dull.

Keep in mind, the giant laminator takes at least one hour to warm up – so unless you want to kill time there, drop it off and pick up later.

Also, I heard that Lakeshore Learning locations can also laminate for super cheap (especially if you have a teacher’s discount). I would call ahead and confirm since I did not personally do this for my poster.

4) Command Picture and Frame Hanging Strips, Large (24 pairs) (Amazon affiliate link) – These are velcro-like (but more spindly and weird) and they work awesome. Follow their directions.

Make sure you clean the wall and your frame with rubbing alcohol first. Then, make sure you let the ones you put on the wall “rest” for the recommended hour before hanging the frames. You may want to mark the wall with a pencil to give you a general idea of where to clean the wall as well as help you see if the posters are level.

I used 4 pairs (so a total of 8 strips) per frame.

5) Painter’s Tape (Amazon affiliate link) – I used these on the radical poster back instead of the strips because the painter’s tape is cheaper and easier to do.