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What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

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What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby Study » Sat 12.15.2007 11:06 pm

I know there are many threads about RTK1? But, they all seem to devolve into a debate :( dominated by one or two people. What I'd like to know is how are you using RTK1 and what have you gotten out of it. I'm especially like to hear from people who are not following the standard format of learning all the keywords first before learning the readings and vocabulary.

Previous Japanese study:
University Japanese 1 class taken 25 years ago and again recently. 25 years without studying Japanese.

I am going slowly through RTK1; I'm up to about 870. I am attaching kanji to Japanese vocabulary that I already know as I learn the keywords.

This is what prompted me to post this. I picked up a Japanese magazine I subscribe to called Takarazuka Graph. In August it took me about 15 hours to read a 4 page transcribed interview (one in every edition) because I had to look up most of the kanji. I got the December issue yesterday and was able to read:

今この一瞬一瞬が
とてつもなく愛おしいのです.
限りなく続くと思もっていた
この日常が終わるのですから。

限り I had picked up in context not from RTK. I knew the meaning but not the reading for 愛おしい。It's part of a message from an actress who is leaving the company and it's hardly rocket science, but the Japanese friend I was with was shocked. She's know me as completely illiterate in Japanese for 25 years. It was a happy accident that this passage is made up of kanji from RTK 1 before number 870, but it defineately motivates me to keep at it.
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RE: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sat 12.15.2007 11:28 pm

You might find interesting threads over at Remembering The Kanji forums; most of the people there are RTK users. (I'm not saying you can't ask your question here, just that you can browse those forums and see a lot of useful information and stories.)

(side note, did you mean 愛しい rather than 愛おしい? I'm just asking because いとおしい is a word but it's usually not written with kanji.)
Last edited by Yudan Taiteki on Sat 12.15.2007 11:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby Study » Sun 12.16.2007 2:20 am

Thanks!
Remembering the Kanji is a great site, but the dominant view there is "Orthodox Heisig" which is not what I am doing. I was wondering if other people are using his method as an adjunct to other materials and methods and if so how are they doing it. I know Heisig himself says you shouldn't, which is one of the reasons why his method is controversial. I don't think what he says is all that important. He wrote the book 30 years ago. How people use it is up to them. I was trying to avoid the "same old same old" debate.
(愛おしい was how the word was printed. I've noticed this magazine uses kanji sometimes when the convention is to use hiragana).
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RE: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby Jack W » Sun 12.16.2007 6:20 am

In several months, I might be your guy. After lurking and reading the recent discussion on RTK1, and having previewed it online, I figured I'd try it. I've always loved languages, was very functional in German back in high school (which was over 20 years ago), and (for what it's worth) though I sometimes like anime, my interests in Japanese go beyond wanting to be able to say silly things like Watashi wa sugoi desu. :)

In terms of background, I have started the kana version of "Japanese for Busy People," and will go back to it, my only complaint about volume 1 being that there are NO kanji at all, just kana. When I could wish they introduced kanji for words for which I know they exist, such as tokei or otoko, or even names like Yamada. Probably they have a reason for this, though, which may become apparent later. I have also been enjoying Jay Rubin's little book Making Sense of Japanese: What the Textbooks Don't Tell You.

I am only 34 kanji into RTK1, and have made notecards with just these kanji on one side, and on the other, the kanji repeated, with the "keyword" in one corner. However, even without all the warnings I read here (which I nonetheless took to heart), I am well aware that the kanji do not "mean" those keywords. So I came back here just now to look at the kanji materials, find as many of those kanji as I can, and write down the on and kun readings on my notecards (some of which I already know), as well as some compounds containing the kanji if possible. I will confess I'm already puzzled by some of the kanji chosen -- "nightbreak"? "convex"? "gallbladder"?

On the plus side, this is just about the first time I've sat down and seriously tried to write kanji. Something which again, I feel, at least can do me no harm. I will force myself to write the on and kun readings in kana also, not romaji, for the same reason. (I am only typing using romaji because the IME isn't working on my computer at the moment.)

I haven't posted much on this forum, but if I have either significant luck with this method, or significant problems, I will try to come back and post about them. :)
Last edited by Jack W on Sun 12.16.2007 6:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sun 12.16.2007 3:01 pm

Some of the kanji are chosen because they have simple forms and those forms are found in other kanji -- or because their combinations are simple.

For instance, if you know 旦 (I guess that's "daybreak"?) and 月, it's not that hard to learn the shape of 胆 (gallbladder).

(Although as a side note, the left part of gallbladder is actually not the moon kanji but a simplification of 肉 that has resulted in an identical form with 月, unfortunately.)
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RE: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby Shirasagi » Sun 12.16.2007 4:25 pm

Not that it really matters from a writing mnemonic perspective, but you'll find that typically an element of a character isn't really the character that it looks like.

One example is 体, meaning "body". This looks like "person" and "origin, source", and so it's easy to think, "Oh, the source of a person is their body!" But actually the original character was two completely different elements (骨 "bone", and 豊 "properly aligned") that were simply wore down and simplified through time until you have 体. This is why it's bad to look at kanji as ideographs or logographs. At first they were that, but over time the Chinese used other characters to standardize the forms, so that now rather than representing ideas, the characters are simply words "spelled" with various recognizable components rather than with letters.
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RE: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby yukamina » Mon 12.17.2007 5:13 am

I don't think you need to learn a word for every kanji in RTK. Some of them are uncommon/obscure. They're there for building blocks(吾, 旦)  or for re-enforcement(桐).

In RTK 月 is given a second meaning of flesh(or something) for story building. Personally, I use whichever meaning works better for the kanji in my mind.
Shirasagi wrote:
Not that it really matters from a writing mnemonic perspective, but you'll find that typically an element of a character isn't really the character that it looks like.

One example is 体, meaning "body". This looks like "person" and "origin, source", and so it's easy to think, "Oh, the source of a person is their body!" But actually the original character was two completely different elements (骨 "bone", and 豊 "properly aligned") that were simply wore down and simplified through time until you have 体. This is why it's bad to look at kanji as ideographs or logographs. At first they were that, but over time the Chinese used other characters to standardize the forms, so that now rather than representing ideas, the characters are simply words "spelled" with various recognizable components rather than with letters.

Yeah, it might be less accurate, but it's easier to take them for what they look like now rather then what they originated from... RTK mnemonics are hardly etymologies ^_^;;
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RE: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby Jack W » Wed 12.19.2007 6:38 am

Well, it's some extra work adding the information I mentioned to the notecards along with the "keywords," but it's extra work that I hope will pay off eventually. I did have some "aha" moments where I found words that I already knew, but didn't know that was how they were written -- I imagine this is common at this stage of the game. These would include 冒険 (risk-something) and 風呂 (wind?-spine). Also, though I'd heard Hayaku, ike! any number of times in anime, never would I have guessed that ohayou could be written お早う, though apparently it generally isn't.

The aforementioned kanji 吾 was one I'd never seen before, as the only kanji I'd seen for "I" were 私, 僕, 俺, and 我 (the last of which is apparently a variant on 吾). However, I have a hunch that it'll become important later on that 吾 can be seen at the right side of 語, and has the same on reading....

Anyway, I'll keep at it for now, and be back if anything goes wrong. :)

Gundaetiapo wrote:
風呂 is basic vocabulary, I recommend looking it up.


No fear, I know that word, I just didn't know that was how it was written. :)
Last edited by Jack W on Wed 12.19.2007 4:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby Gundaetiapo » Wed 12.19.2007 11:22 am

風呂 (wind?-spine)


風呂 is basic vocabulary, I recommend looking it up.
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RE: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby sugoiaisukurimu » Mon 12.31.2007 3:49 am

I'm about...116 in? It's been very helpful. All of the kanji I took from there I know very well and I learned very quickly (while the kanji I am learning by putting my own in is less effective). I think it's a very good method. I just need to apply it to the kanji I learn on my own. :3
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RE: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby mps » Wed 01.02.2008 7:37 pm

I finished RTK1 about a year ago using Fabrice's website. It provided benefits well worth the time spent (about an hour a day for four months). Shortly afterward, I passed JLPT3 with an essentially perfect Kanji score. Since then, I review about 10 minutes per day and have maintained my retention. While the keywords are just suggestive keywords, I find them useful training wheels on the kanji that help me remember vocabulary (like training wheels, I can discard them later), and I can easily write and distinguish complex kanji. Another benefit for me was that RTK1 allowed me to study on my own after the kids were in bed. I can't think of many other ways to pick up so much kanji in ~120 hours (If it takes you far longer than that, RTK1 might not be the best approach for you). I think RTK1 accomplishes its stated goal of preparing you to learn Japanese well.

However, it doesn't teach you Japanese, it just prepares you to learn Japanese, so you still need to do a full-fledged Japanese course of study. IMO, RTK1 pays back over the course of study the relatively small amount of time and effort it takes to learn the writing and keyword meanings. For me, it's been a big payback on a small investment (even if it isn't for you, the worst that can happen is you wasted a relatively small amount of time). Still, there's a huge amount of additional study in learning Japanese, so don't look for anymore from RTK1 than an excellent solution to its very narrow aims, which are only a small piece of the big picture.
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RE: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby nukemarine » Sun 01.06.2008 4:32 am

I would not call 300 hours (assuming an average of 10 minutes per kanji) of study a small investment. Now, in the long run of learning Japanese at a basic fluent level (say 10,000 hours worth of input), it's about 3% of the time. If you're just going the traditional route where Japanese is a small part of your day (perhaps 1,000 hours worth of input), it's a huge investment.

Since I'm going the contextual route, it's been a big help. It's not too difficult to attach the Japanese words to the Kanji. I've been rebuilding my SRS with the sentences from "Understanding Basic Japanese Grammar" which should take 3 months. After that time, I guess I'll post the pros and cons of doing Heisig before going into learning mode.

Please note: if you use Reviewing the Kanji website, there's plug-ins you can download to modify how that website works for you. Since you like to use Japanese keywords when you already know them, there are plug-ins that allow you to modify the original Heisig keyword. Just remember that if the Kanji is used later as a primitive, you have to make sure the visual picture you create incorporates the Japanese keyword.

It's a common misconception (on this board at least) that Heisig is about mnemonics. It really is about the visual picture (can you mentally see the story in your head). I'm saying this to emphasize the risks you take using Japanese keywords if you have not internalized them as a basic concept.
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Re: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby jcdietz03 » Fri 01.02.2009 11:49 pm

I can't say I have gotten too much out of it. I am on 950 of RTK.

In my first year Japanese course I take at a continuing education college at night, one learns ZERO KANJI in the first course. Several kanji are introduced in the other courses in the four-course series they offer, starting with 100 in Japanese 102. You do learn to write hiragana and katakana in the 101 course. I am taking the course because I'd like to learn to read Japanese. I'm not as concerned about the other three language skills.

In the course, there are several reading practices, where you read a passage in Japanese and answer questions about the passage, also in Japanese. The textbook we use is Nakama. The readings are always given in a kanji+ furigana format. I was able to recognize some of the characters in the reading passages. In one lesson they are talking about "things in your room" - I was able to recognize the kanji for "shelf." In one lesson they are talking about days of the week and days of the month. These kanji are all quite simple - I was able to recognize all of them.
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Re: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby gilozoaire » Mon 01.05.2009 4:39 pm

Benefits of Heisig:

- not feeling too overwhelmed when learning new words, seeings pages written in "full" japanese (as in filled with kanji)
- and especially the ability to learn new kanji after you have learnt all the primitives. It really becomes extremely easy for most characters.
- guessing the meaning of unknown words without knowing the prononciation, then looking up the english "translation" in the dictionary and finally finding the actual word. It only works 50-60% of the time though.
- kanji recognition is now very fast (ex in IME, when I have looked up a word in a dictionary, I don't need to check the word again to know what kanji I have to chose. It's only a short term memory thing though, but influenced by the familiarity of the kanji)

I've tried looking up the kanji for words that I already knew at some stage in my study and it worked really well, but afterwards I felt compelled to study what kanjis were left. And then I discovered I had made some mistakes in the process (not noticing some smaller primitives etc). It wasn't too much of a problem though, but I had to correct some small things here and there.

bad things:
- many compounds where the meaning(s) of the individual kanji have nothing to do with the meaning of the compound, or where the meaning is hard to decipher. In this case, Heisig is only useful when writing them or recognizing the shape.
- doesn't teach the readings: I often remember the meaning of the kanji compounds better than their pronounciation, which takes longer to acquire for me.
- I'm not a native english speaker. Some of the keywords Heisig has chosen are far too obscure for me. Therefore, these kanjis containing obscure keywords or primitives have a less definite image in my mind.
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Re: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby furrykef » Tue 01.06.2009 6:24 am

gilozoaire wrote:- I'm not a native english speaker. Some of the keywords Heisig has chosen are far too obscure for me. Therefore, these kanjis containing obscure keywords or primitives have a less definite image in my mind.


Native English speakers have that problem with Heisig too.
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