I would agree that we don’t have to know 4000 characters equally well, but the rarer ones do pop up more often than we think. I had a look at a frequency list of Hanzi (http://tinyurl.com/2bz83gy), separated into 2500 common and 1000 less common ones (http://preview.tinyurl.com/2a3xweu). These lists are never 100% accurate but they provide some guidance. I am far from knowing the majority of the less common ones (the second link) if see them isolated without context, but just from sampling them I have to confess that many of them do occur in normal contexts.
since you claim to know 4000 characters, do you really instantly know most of these characters in the less-common-list (the second link)? How did you count the amount of characters you know?
I do not know how I came up with the 4,000 characters. It was 42 years ago that I finished my studies. It is easier to recognize characters in context for sure.
So would you say today you still know 4000 characters? I am not asking to attack you or anything, I am really interested because as you know I am working vey hard myself at mastering Chinese.
Knowing a character is of course somewhat fuzzy concept but from sampling hanzi frequency lists I would assume that my “knowledge” is closer to 2000 hanzi or so. Almost everything I read I do in front of a computer so I can use dictionaries. Reading a physical book I don’t think I would enjoy too much due to the hanzi I do not know or do not remember.
Again, I don’t want to pick a fight (we are not discussing politics here), but based on my own experience I find 4000 to be a remarkable achievement and almost a bit difficult to believe. But maybe you have good advice that I havn’t come across yet on how to speed up character acquisition. I guess handwriting skills help a lot but I really don’t have time to delve into that.