Learning Chinese characters is one difficult task. Not only do you have to remember which character goes with which sound and tone, you also have to remember stroke order. These are all very important elements to learning Chinese characters. Let's go through three steps to learning Chinese characters more effectively.
1. Practice, Practice, Practice: You simply need repetition. Your memory is much more effective if you repeat characters over and over and over. If you are tested on a character, or if you test yourself on a character, and you forgot it, write down the pin yin and tone of the word, the definition, and the correct character ten times per error. This gets to be a lot, so you may want to use interactive programs and/or websites that mix it up a bit for you. For the diligent, this might not be an issue, and your pen and paper are (practically) free.
2. Word/Character association: The Chinese have written characters out to have rhyme and reason. They are not random. For the character "hao" (3rd tone) 好, meaning "good", the character is made up of two other characters: "nu" (3rd tone) 女, meaning "woman", and "zi" (3rd tone) 子, meaning "child". A woman with her child is good. You can make up your own associations, even if they are not correct by Chinese standards as long as it helps you remember the character.
3. Use your resources: I HIGHLY recommend www.skritter.com for all your Chinese character learning needs. For a small monthly fee ($11 if you pay once/month) Skritter will remember the characters you've forgotten and test you on them repeatedly in random order until you get them. Writing characters with your mouse is not as hard as you'd think! (I personally use the trackpad on my laptop computer.) There are several other programs and online resources you can use as well!
What are some word associations that have helped you? What are some other great resources? Please share for all the brain-strained students of the Chinese language!