A few radicals go a long way towards recognizing characters

Learning to read Chinese characters is a good example of an extremely steep initial learning curve that gets easier over time. When faced with this kind of learning curve, I try to find a way to see the progress I'm making, because otherwise it's easy to get demotivated.

In this case, learning some of the components (radicals) that make up characters is a good way to start, because then even if I don't know a character I can at least point out the radicals inside the character that I do know. It also helps with looking the character up in a dictionary, or describing it to a friend.