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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 yukamina » Wed 08.01.2007 3:39 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:

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".

Heisig isn't a guide to learning Japanese, it's a guide to remembering the kanji(meaning, writing, reading). After using Remembering the Kanji 1 and 2, you won't know Japanese, and I don't think anyone here is saying that you will. HOWEVER, if you have a foundation in the Japanese language and want to learn all the kanji(because knowing 100 kanji might get you reading 今日の天気はいいですね, but you definitely won't be reading the newspaper anytime soon), Heisig's method can help.

I've finished learning an English meaning for all the joyo kanji(and more) and I've started learning the pronunciations using the 2nd volume. The kanji are categorized phonetically, so 過,渦, and 禍 are learned together with the pronouciation カ(and an example word). It is MUCH easier to remember that 渦中 means 'in a whirlpool' when you know the kanji in it mean 'whirlpool' and 'middle' than trying to memorize that those squiggly line mean 'in a whirlpool'. Sure you may not be able to accurately guess the meaning of any given compound, but once you're told what it is, it is VERY easy to remember, even if the word is rare. There are a ton of words with meanings that directly relate to the kanji in them. 要求(need+demand=demand)、乾燥(dry+parrched=dryness)、巨人(giant+person=a giant)、海底(sea+bottom=sea floor)、and 愉楽(pleasure+enjoy=pleasure) to name a few. If you work quickly with this method, it is worth not knowing the pronounciation of 2000 kanji for a short while(only if you like the method of course, but you don't have to bash it if you don't).


Also, I just have to say this. 馬 means うま, but うま is the Japanese word for 'horse' so 馬 means horse. There is nothing wrong(in itself) with knowing what a Japanese word means in English. And if learning that horse is a pictograph of a horse helps you remember it and distinguish it from other similar kanji, there's nothing wrong with that either. Someone with no knowledge of kanji won't look at 馬 and think 'well, that looks like a horse', but once you're told , it's not hard to see the resemblance. Wow, I wrote more than I thought I would @_@
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby skrhgh3b » Thu 08.02.2007 4:38 am

i don't know if this has been mentioned yet, but i'd highly recommend the basic kanji books. they're workbooks, so they actually give you reading and writing exercises to go through. i've been using them this summer to brush up on my reading/writing, and they're pretty good for review too. anything that's not a workbook is probably just going to be a supplement, though. with that said, one of the most used books in my library of 30+ is henshall's. i find his mneumonics completely useless, but his etymologies are really interesting.

anyway, you can criticize the various methods out there all you want, but i'm convinced that native teachers don't understand how to teach kanji to adult learners. i studied abroad this summer, and i was in a class that was testing me on 30 or more kanji every single day. it was nothing more than a sadistic exercise of short term memory. somehow, the only new kanji that seemed to stick in my brain was 畳 - how useless is that?
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby Infidel » Thu 08.02.2007 5:58 am

Someone with no knowledge of kanji won't look at 馬 and think 'well, that looks like a horse', but once you're told , it's not hard to see the resemblance.


It's not hard? The kanji is so stylized that it doesn't resemble a horse at all. You have to get picture series showing the evolution of the symbol from the original turtle shell hieroglyphs to begin to understand why it evolved the way it did. Even so, you have to have an extremely creative imagination to look at that kanji and claim it isn't hard to see the resemblance.
it was nothing more than a sadistic exercise of short term memory. somehow, the only new kanji that seemed to stick in my brain was 畳 - how useless is that?


You are supposed to reinforce those cram sessions by utilizing them outside of class. Of course short term study isn't going to translate very well into long term memory if you don't have a transition program.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Thu 08.02.2007 8:43 am

anyway, you can criticize the various methods out there all you want, but i'm convinced that native teachers don't understand how to teach kanji to adult learners.


You can replace "kanji" there with "Japanese" -- unfortunately, for someone wanting to teach Japanese, native speaker status is of supreme importance and actual teaching knowledge, experience, or training doesn't count for as much. You are right that some native speaker teachers assume that foreigners should learn kanji the same way they did in school.

There's also a very strong perception even among some teachers that the number of kanji the students "know" is a direct representation of their Japanese knowledge, and so they see things like this "30 kanji a day" method as an intensive course in Japanese.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby yukamina » Thu 08.02.2007 8:28 pm

Infidel wrote:
Someone with no knowledge of kanji won't look at 馬 and think 'well, that looks like a horse', but once you're told , it's not hard to see the resemblance.


It's not hard? The kanji is so stylized that it doesn't resemble a horse at all. You have to get picture series showing the evolution of the symbol from the original turtle shell hieroglyphs to begin to understand why it evolved the way it did. Even so, you have to have an extremely creative imagination to look at that kanji and claim it isn't hard to see the resemblance.


Well...I didn't think it was hard. I think kanji like 川, 木, 山, 鳥, 火, and 母 are easy to see pictures in too. I remember even my Japanese teacher was drawing some diagrams and making a few mnemonics for some kanji.

That said, I think if you're going to try learning kanji with a method like Heisig's, you should learn at least grade one kanji first.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby sushi4ever » Fri 08.03.2007 11:45 am

okay, i have a question aside from the discussion this thread turned into ^^

after years of learning without any schedule whatsoever i finally settled down on studying with the genki series and i bought the genki I textbook and the accompanying workbook.

but then this thought sparked my mind: at what time should i start learning kanji in depth? right from the beginning? or after book 1?
i wanted to buy the basic kanji books because from what i've seen so far they seem best for me (i love extensive reading and writing practice). i happened to find all the heisig volumes online sometime but the concept was way too odd for me, i rather learn by reading words/compounds...

plus: you automatically learn some kanji throughout the genki lessons which are no problem for me at all (thank god XD)

so, what would you recommend?

edit: hiragana and katakana are no problem at all, i learned them years ago during a weekend and they're still glued to my synapses XD
reading and writing them fluently goes without saying, i considered them the easiest step in approaching the japanese language ^^
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Fri 08.03.2007 11:51 am

This is going to be an opinionated issue, but my advice is not to learn kanji in depth until you have a good grasp of basic Japanese grammar -- at least finish Genki 1, if not 2. Of course, there are kanji in Genki I and II so it's not like you won't be learning any kanji at all. My suggestion would be to do Genki I and II and then pick up Kanji in Context.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby sushi4ever » Fri 08.03.2007 12:03 pm

thank you for the quick reply!

yeah, that's what i've been thinking in the back of my head...

so i'll first get a solid base on grammar from the books and then build my vocab (which leads to more kanji anyway then)

till then, i'll just use the genki vocabulary for my SRS ^^
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby Dehitay » Fri 08.03.2007 12:35 pm

There's pros and cons to both sides of diving headfirst into kanji or not.
If you choose to try to study kanji intensively, you'll have yourself a measurable goal which makes it a bit easier to progress. Also after you're done learning kanji, it makes it easier to remember the vocabulary that contain kanji that you remember well. However, there is the ever so common downside of only remembering about 60-70% of what you studied after you get far enough into it.

If you choose to learn kanji just as you learn vocabulary that contains them, it will make the kanji much easier to remember as you go along. You'll be able to catch on to patterns and guess how kanji in words you haven't seen before are read. However without an obvious goal, this sometimes becomes tiresome, but you would have had to do it after you finished learning kanji anyways. More complex kanji compounds will be harder to remember at first, but they'll get easier as you get more familiar with the kanji.

As most people probly know via my previous signature, I chose to dive headfirst into kanji. I think the goal of 1945 kanji is easier to work towards and gives a sense of accomplishment that makes it easier to continue.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby lbum » Wed 08.15.2007 6:56 am

Right now I am trying to decide what way to study kanji. A lot of people are saying that you should do some reading that goes with the kanji you are going over. So I was wondering if anyone knew sites or stories that have the kanji that you would learn first for like the level 3 and 4 JLPT if you do please let me know or point me to the direction of a place in the form that might have that information. I hope that learning the kanji then seeing it in sentence form will help.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby AJBryant » Wed 08.15.2007 10:19 am

When you learn new vocabulary, LEARN THE PROPER WAY TO SPELL THE WORD. That means kanji. You're not doing more than 10 or so words a day, right?

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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby Chris Hart » Wed 08.15.2007 2:12 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
anyway, you can criticize the various methods out there all you want, but i'm convinced that native teachers don't understand how to teach kanji to adult learners.


You can replace "kanji" there with "Japanese" -- unfortunately, for someone wanting to teach Japanese, native speaker status is of supreme importance and actual teaching knowledge, experience, or training doesn't count for as much. You are right that some native speaker teachers assume that foreigners should learn kanji the same way they did in school.

There's also a very strong perception even among some teachers that the number of kanji the students "know" is a direct representation of their Japanese knowledge, and so they see things like this "30 kanji a day" method as an intensive course in Japanese.


I would go as far as saying replacing "kanji" with "a new language". I would think that it applies regardless the language in question. I have no education, training, or knowledge in teaching English, however I have been asked questions from people learning the language, and the wonderful question "Why is it that way?" always comes up in one form or another, and I must simply reply "Because it is", or "That just doesn't sound right"
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby Duncan » Mon 08.20.2007 5:15 am

Well...I didn't think it was hard. I think kanji like 川, 木, 山, 鳥, 火, and 母 are easy to see pictures in too. I remember even my Japanese teacher was drawing some diagrams and making a few mnemonics for some kanji.


I'm glad you didn't find learning to read Japanese difficult. I'd agree that associating those symbols with, say, river, wood, mountain, bird, fire, and breast is not that difficult. The next few hundred were harder for me- I agree with the poster in this thread who said that you ought to learn them as you learn words.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby AJBryant » Mon 08.20.2007 6:52 am

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
This is going to be an opinionated issue, but my advice is not to learn kanji in depth until you have a good grasp of basic Japanese grammar -- at least finish Genki 1, if not 2. Of course, there are kanji in Genki I and II so it's not like you won't be learning any kanji at all. My suggestion would be to do Genki I and II and then pick up Kanji in Context.


Right, I disagree. :)

This is one reason people have problems with kanji, I think -- it divorces the kanji learning from the actual language.

Students learning Chinese have to start dealing with kanji (okay, hanzi) from DAY ONE -- and they cope quite nicely. I see no reason why people can't or shouldn't start picking up kanji from the day they finish learning hiragana (which should be accomplished by the end of Friday in the first week).

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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Mon 08.20.2007 8:54 am

Well, if your kanji book provides you with reading practice then it's not divorced from the language
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