Various numbers have been suggested.
The largest paper dictionary includes more than 55,000 Chinese characters in it, but the fact is that around 50,000 are rare and not known by most of people.
Current studies show that:
With the most common 500 characters you can recognize 75.8 percent of modern Chinese. Sounds exciting, right?
With the most common 1000 characters you can recognize 89.1 percent of modern Chinese.
With the most common 1500 characters you can recognize 94.5 percent of modern Chinese.
With the most common 2000 characters you can recognize 97.1 percent of modern Chinese.
With the most common 2500 characters you can recognize 98.5 percent of modern Chinese.
With the most common 3000 characters you can recognize 99.2 percent of modern Chinese.
With the most common 3500 characters you can recognize 99.5 percent of modern Chinese.
With the most common 5000 characters you can recognize 99.9 percent of modern Chinese.
With the most common 6500 characters you can recognize 99.99 percent of modern Chinese.
As a result, 3500 characters is considered to be the standard for literacy.
As a starter, learn 54 easy Chinese characters now!
But how do we choose the list of Chinese characters to learn? Here are some on top of the list.
According to frequency of usage, characters ranking top 5(frequency of use: 10%) are
的 一 是 了 我
No. 6 – No.17 (frequency of use: 10%)
不 人 在 他 有 这 个 上 们 来 到 时
No.18 – No. 42 (frequency of use: 10%)
大 地 为 子 中 你 说 生 国 年 着 就 那 和 要 她 出 也 得 里 后 自 以 会
No.43 – No.79 (frequency of use: 10%)
家 可 下 而 过 天 去 能 对 小 多 然 于 心 学 么 之 都 好 看 起 发 当 没 成 只 如事 把 还 用 第 样 道 想 作 种 开
Above are a few of most popular Chinese characters for your reference.
It is believed that the average literate Chinese can write between 2000 and 3500 characters without looking, but this number is getting smaller and smaller every day, because almost all modern Chinese is input on a computer, and you do not have to remember exactly how to write each character.
People can probably recognize 5000 characters in context depending on how ‘in touch’ with the language. Think about vocabulary in English. If you pick up a book with many words you don’t know, you may still be able to comprehend it based on the context of the words that you might not know. Same applies for Chinese.
No matter you are a total beginner in Chinese character learning or you have known some Chinese characters, there are always easier ways to learn Chinese characters. See how you will be able to write Chinese characters for 1 to 9 in less than 10 minutes.