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Which method for Kanji

Have a textbook or grammar book that you find particularly helpful? What about a learning tip to share with others?

RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby stevie » Wed 07.11.2007 7:47 pm

Another caveat, if you try this with chinese speakers, is what if you know a simplifed character to a native of say Taiwan who more than likely only knows the traditional form, or vice versa? Just a thought when 吃 was brought up, though I think this one in particular is the same in both traditional and simplified.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby Pork Chop » Thu 07.12.2007 4:05 am

Ran into a roadblock today in my tutoring session.

In a nutshell, my tutor doesn't know how to quiz me or test my progress with my current kanji approach. That approach consists of running through the first 730 kanji in the kanji-a-day calendars, focusing only on stroke order, english meaning, 1 or 2 readings, and a couple specific combinations. Seems my approach is a bit too cursory (at this stage) to be considered achieving working knowledge of the kanji.

Unfortunately, I'm not quite at the Kanji in Context level eventhough I have the books.

It looks like I'm going to have to go with a separate book to actually learn the kanji more deeply.

I'm still planning on going through the calendars for some immediate familiarity, as well as reading through a mnemonic book or two just for added exposure, and moving on to Kanji in Context later.

Took the advice of a friend who's about the most advanced guy I know locally and went for the Basic Kanji series. Hate spending more money but at least it's got exercises that can be photocopied, as well as focus on readings & combinations.

If I use the Basic Kanji books as my main "textbook" when it comes to kanji, while using everything else as a supplement, I should be alright- I hope. hehe
Last edited by Pork Chop on Fri 07.20.2007 12:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby Suedenjin » Thu 07.12.2007 7:01 am

stevie wrote:
So yes, I think there is reasonable grounds to doubt that a native speaker will automatically understand your intention by just pointing to a single character, especially if you try what you have suggested with less common kanji/hanzi.

The ability to misunderstand seems to be abundant here. I don't SUGGEST anything. I was merely using a couple of examples to illustrate why I don't agree with Yudan's view of kanji as lacking any kind of meaning outside context and phonetics. They do. Indeed. Thus it can be extremely helpful to know the anatomy of kanji using a component approach to kanji as the one Heisig is using. You will remember the writing of kanji too.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby Suedenjin » Thu 07.12.2007 7:06 am

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
I'm questioning the idea that someone armed only with Heisig could carry out significant communication in Japanese or Chinese just by writing characters on paper.

The power of constant misunderstanding and misinterpretation ..... I have never suggested that the use of Heisig was aimed at "writing characters on paper to carry out *significant communication* in Japanese and Chinese". I think you are misinformed when suggesting that kanji are devoid of ANY meaning outside (phonetic or other) context. I used A FEW examples to show how many kanji/hanzi indeed carry significant meaning across such a linguistic abyss like that separating the spoken and written Japanese and Chinese languages.

The (most basic/common) kanji/hanzi for fire, water, dog, person, woman, bird, hand, look, friend, stop, child, mountain, river, stone, source/spring, ash, elephant, feathers, tiger, cow, pig, stink, sheep, ox/cow, "car"/wagon, up, down, sail, field, rice, man, power, rain, thunder, fall/autumn, summer, north, bamboo, umbrella, tree, rest, and gather, just to name a few more, will EVOKE a very similar kind of understanding in both China and Japan. That may or may not be *significant communication* per se, but it is indeed a communication of basic and profound MEANING using kanji/hanzi. Outside context. Outside phonetic add-ons. Over the bamboo curtain ;).
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby stevie » Thu 07.12.2007 8:43 am

Well there are two sides to a misunderstanding, the listener's misinterpretation and the speaker's failure to relate their point clearly. In the context of a relatively trivial discussion such as this one, if multiple people are consistently misunderstanding then what am I to do but assume the speaker is more at fault? (this of course works both ways in the argument, but no-one has actually said they misunderstand my own or yudan's posts).

Anyway, your direct quote, the porition of the post that I was responding to:
Are you seriously questioning the ability of Japanese and Chinese people to understand "sign language" using their own script??


I think my response was quite appropriate and don't at all see how this was a misunderstanding, and I'm sure the majority of people would agree. I was merely trying to point out that there is a reasonable cause to doubt this ability, because the tone of your quote suggested to me that you thought it was ridiculous to do so. If I misunderstood then oh well.

And here's a good reason why, from my friend Anita, a native Taiwanese:
Steven says: if I walked up to you in the street and showed you a piece of paper with 食 written on it, what would you think?
anita says: 食?
anita says: restaurant
Steven says: what would you think if someone who didn't speak chinese came and showed you that?
anita: I just speak the word
anita: and ask him
anita: why are you showing me this
Steven says: what if you didn't speak english? or if he doesn't?
anita: if I didn't speak english .... I dont understand what is he saying to me

Anyway, I think this has gotten out of hand and kind of confused. I believe your original point was that Heisig isn't a trickster or a fraudster, and as I already said I can't really agree or disagree because I have never read RTK outside of a quick browse in a bookstore in Japan. It seems to me that his idea is sound and that people just make the mistake of thinking that the amount of kanji they know is like a quick fix for learning Japanese. And I agree that that isn't Heisig's fault. So I don't have any argument with your original statement in itself.

I just can't subscribe to the stuff that came after that - again I don't doubt that knowing 2000 kanji is an advantage and if Heisig helps you to achieve that then that is all fine. I just haven't needed to delve into such a method yet, as I do not have difficulty remembering kanji really, nor separating similar ones. I just practice reading and using them and it becomes second nature. Whatever works for you is fine.

As an aside (another one!) I may be remembering wrong but I think you said you are at an intermediate level in Japanese, I assume you had a good knowledge of Kanji (ie its usages in the language, the general 'feel' of it, etc) before you went back to Heisig like a month ago or whatever. Could a person only just delving into Japanese for the first time do this though? Of course it depends on the person, but I don't think any could do it as effectively as someone who already has considerable experience or some familiarity with the language (enough to call themselves intermediate anyway).
Last edited by stevie on Thu 07.12.2007 9:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby Suedenjin » Thu 07.12.2007 10:23 am

stevie wrote:

I just can't subscribe to the stuff that came after that - again I don't doubt that knowing 2000 kanji is an advantage and if Heisig helps you to achieve that then that is all fine. I just haven't needed to delve into such a method yet, as I do not have difficulty remembering kanji really, nor separating similar ones. I just practice reading and using them and it becomes second nature. Whatever works for you is fine.

That's the attitude I found lacking in a lot of discussions here. Heisig was the devil. You should by all possible means avoid using Heisig books and so on. My very first post here was a reaction on this unfounded anti-Heisig bias.

What came after that - from me, that is - was merely extensions on the idea that kanji/hanzi per se are carriers of some basic kind of meaning in many, many cases. Taken out of context - here we go with "in context" again ;) - they may have sounded strange, but I still insist on that quite a few kanji/hanzi have a MEANING not depending on what language you are using when looking at them.

As an aside (another one!) I may be remembering wrong but I think you said you are at an intermediate level in Japanese, I assume you had a good knowledge of Kanji (ie its usages in the language, the general 'feel' of it, etc) before you went back to Heisig like a month ago or whatever. Could a person only just delving into Japanese for the first time do this though? Of course it depends on the person, but I don't think any could do it as effectively as someone who already has considerable experience or some familiarity with the language (enough to call themselves intermediate anyway).


Yes, you remember correctly. Some sort of intermediate level, yes. (Since I do this on my own I have no other students to compare my knowledge with, but considering the statements on books I read I am.) But I am sure that I could have succeded the first time I used Heisig if I hadn't been way too sloppy at the end. Still, I managed to remember several hundred kanji after this initial merry-go-round with the Heisig and I indeed found that extremely useful when starting with various textbooks and so on.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Thu 07.12.2007 10:36 am

Suedenjin wrote:
I still insist on that quite a few kanji/hanzi have a MEANING not depending on what language you are using when looking at them.


The only people who can derive meaning from isolated characters are those who read languages that use those characters. Maybe a Chinese or Japanese native can get meaning out of an isolated character, but what about a Frenchman, or an American, or a Mexican? It is completely, 100% dependent on their language. The fact that some characters "mean" the same thing in Chinese and Japanese just means that the characters are used in the same way in both languages. It doesn't mean that the character takes on this abstract "meaning" separate from *any* language.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby Suedenjin » Thu 07.12.2007 10:59 am

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
Suedenjin wrote:
I still insist on that quite a few kanji/hanzi have a MEANING not depending on what language you are using when looking at them.


The only people who can derive meaning from isolated characters are those who read languages that use those characters. Maybe a Chinese or Japanese native can get meaning out of an isolated character, but what about a Frenchman, or an American, or a Mexican? It is completely, 100% dependent on their language. The fact that some characters "mean" the same thing in Chinese and Japanese just means that the characters are used in the same way in both languages. It doesn't mean that the character takes on this abstract "meaning" separate from *any* language.


Are you seriously trying to say that "a Frenchman, or an American, or a Mexican" aren't born with instant kanji recognition software in their heads? Wow! I guess we must ask someone to write a book about how to learn kanji and offer it to these poor souls! :o
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby witega » Thu 07.12.2007 1:25 pm

Suedenjin wrote:
The (most basic/common) kanji/hanzi for fire, water, dog, person, woman, bird, hand, look, friend, stop, child, mountain, river, stone, source/spring, ash, elephant, feathers, tiger, cow, pig, stink, sheep, ox/cow, "car"/wagon, up, down, sail, field, rice, man, power, rain, thunder, fall/autumn, summer, north, bamboo, umbrella, tree, rest, and gather, just to name a few more, will EVOKE a very similar kind of understanding in both China and Japan. That may or may not be *significant communication* per se, but it is indeed a communication of basic and profound MEANING using kanji/hanzi. Outside context. Outside phonetic add-ons. Over the bamboo curtain ;).


But I can get the exact same effect by simply drawing a picture of a dog, bird, mountain, woman, etc. In fact, my 'way' is more effective because I will evoke the basic understanding among not only literate Chinese and Japanese speakers but among Vietnamese, Russians, Ecuadorans, and illiterate Chinese speakers.

Or in other words, yes, Japanese and Chinese can 'communicate' using basic kanji--but it is communication at the level of pictograms and pantomime which they could carry out just as effectively without the kanji. It is not *linguistic* communication by any definition of the term.

What I, and I think most of the others arguing with you, object to in your approach is that you are treating the kanji as isolates rather than as integral parts of a full language system. Neither the Chinese nor Japanese use individual characters in isolation. A single character may carry a certain level of meaning but its the same level of meaning as pointing at myself to mean 'I' or cradling my hand and wincing to mean 'pain'. It's not language.

To go back to one of my earlier examples, 店にも行けない is *not* about a 'store' and 'going' (or even 'motion'). It is about the absence of motion. Knowing the kanji without knowing the kana and the grammar tells you less than a picture would.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby SirFirestorm » Thu 07.12.2007 1:46 pm

Written characters are tools in a language. How you use those tools are dependent on the context and syntax of your sentence. They have no meaning outside of the language they are intended to represent. Yudan is saying it is as simple as that.

You sound like you think kanji is a sentient being or something able to convey messages without the luxury of a complete sentence or contextual basis of thought.
Words and meanings can change depending on context; kanji changes depending on context. It is the magical power of a complete sentence as opposed to broken individual kanji with the approximate meaning of your intended thought.

I dont think Heisig is the devil or you should avoid it, but I think the intended use has been confused with the actual usage by beginner students of Japanese. Kanji is not useful in and out of itself, there is no benefit to learning so many in the beginning. It should be used as a supplement to learning kanji after you have a firm foundation of grammar knowledge. Too many beginners spend all that time learning kanji only to realize they cant read even the most basic of sentences or do diddleysquat with all that kanji and just give up.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby Chikubi » Sat 07.14.2007 9:15 am

OMG, Suedenjin your speed in posting messages is unparalled!
And aren't you the guy from that Heisig-infomercial? :D
Last edited by Chikubi on Sat 07.14.2007 9:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sat 07.14.2007 11:39 am

Kanji is not useful in and out of itself, there is no benefit to learning so many in the beginning.


QFT.

I think that some of the popularity of Heisig can be attributed to the confluence of four major (IMO) misconceptions about learning Japanese that many people fall victim to:
1. Learning to read mostly involves learning kanji
2. You should learn as many kanji as you can, as early as possible
3. Learning kanji consists of learning meanings and readings (and therefore combining this with #1, learning to read Japanese is mostly a process of learning meanings and readings of kanji)
4. Your Japanese knowledge can be quantified by the number of kanji you "know".
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby Suedenjin » Sun 07.15.2007 2:40 pm

Chikubi wrote:
OMG, Suedenjin your speed in posting messages is unparalled!
And aren't you the guy from that Heisig-infomercial? :D


Sheesh! You have seen that??? It should have been a secret weapon against The Enemy of Kanji Beauty. B)

Me too wants to be in Shanghai. Not fair.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby Chikubi » Mon 07.16.2007 12:01 am

Hahaha, you CAN! Expenses are cheap here, not to mention everthing's booming in Shanghai and Kanji everywhere! I won't shock you how cheap it is to learn Japanese here (around 300 EUR 1 semester=half a year...oops!) :)
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby Suedenjin » Mon 07.16.2007 6:26 am

Chikubi wrote:
Hahaha, you CAN! Expenses are cheap here, not to mention everthing's booming in Shanghai and Kanji everywhere! I won't shock you how cheap it is to learn Japanese here (around 300 EUR 1 semester=half a year...oops!) :)

Yes, theoretically it's possible. But I would have a REALLY hard time to convince my wife and kids to move to Shanghai so I can enjoy being surrounded by A Beautiful and Insteresting script :D
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