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Good Kanji learning book......

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

RE: Good Kanji learning book......

Postby clay » Thu 06.28.2007 9:17 am

I hear a lot of "I learned 200 kanji in two weeks!" testimonials, but I have only seen a very small number of people claim to have used Heisig to attain true reading proficiency -- and without exception, these people ignored most of Heisig's approach and just focused on the meanings and stories.


I totally agree with your post, Chris, but my point is his book helps with motivation and is usually a stepping stone to more balanced kanji studies.

But maybe you are right and it is best to avoid it altogether. It's best not to anger Tony.
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RE: Good Kanji learning book......

Postby Infidel » Thu 06.28.2007 10:29 am

A good book for demystifying Kanji is Teach yourself Beginner's Japanese Script

Besides making kanji much more friendly, at the end of the book the reader will have a good handle on a number of kanji and be able to use a more in-depth book without being intimidated by them.
Last edited by Infidel on Thu 06.28.2007 10:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Good Kanji learning book......

Postby AJBryant » Thu 06.28.2007 10:53 am

Infidel wrote:

If you can't use the kanji in a sentence, then you don't know the kanji.


Quoted for truth.

Really, this is the reason for studying *any* writing system, and if you "know" all the kanji but can't actually read anything in Japanese, you *don'* know the kanji. You can only "draw" them. (Note I didn't say "write.")


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RE: Good Kanji learning book......

Postby tanuki » Thu 06.28.2007 1:10 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
LEARNING KANJI IS NOT THE SAME THING AS LEARNING TO READ JAPANESE. Yes, learning kanji is something you have to do to be able to read Japanese. But too many people seem to think that they just start from 1 and go until they hit 1945, and then they suddenly can read anything they want in Japanese. But without practicing, and practicing *a lot*, you're not going to be able to read.


And learning grammar. Lots of grammar.
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RE: Good Kanji learning book......

Postby Pork Chop » Thu 06.28.2007 1:57 pm

Well my situation's a bit different. I've got a ton of experience with spoken Japanese but I always neglected kanji, so my reading was always terrible. My grammar's not bad; good enough to get through almost all of the emails I get - once I get a clue on the kanji. But the kanji has seriously been a limited factor.

I think I finally decided I was sick of only being able to read kindergarten stuff; plus I noticed I was having a bit of a hard time expanding my vocabulary when the new words sounded like something else. I know that's not supposed to be the main reason for learning kanji, but it has definitely helped me break through a plateau keeping me from expanding my vocabulary. たりる is a good example. I had a hard time remembering it but something about the kanji for the verb (足りる) being the same as "leg" (足) just made the word stick.

The only book I can talk bad about is Read Japanese Today. Some of the stories are interesting. I think it'll help me remember some things- like certain popular combinations. But some of the kanji in that book just aren't correct. Maybe the author uses the classical form. I'm not sure. Some kanji, like his version of 学, are completely off.
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RE: Good Kanji learning book......

Postby Daiki » Thu 06.28.2007 4:38 pm

Well, since you seem to think Heisig is so evil, my second choice would be the "Basic Kanji" series, followed by Kenneth G. Henshall's "A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters". It's a lot like Heisig's book (the evil one), except this one has EXAMPLES of the Kanji in a word, the readings, and the history, so therefore, examples+readings+history= not evil (is that equation correct, guys?). Also, you DEFINATELTY need to check out White Rabbit Press's Kanji Cards. They're really helpful and convenient to have with you. By the way, I own all of these books and they're the most helpful to me, the ones who are complaining about the Heisig book are, oddly enough, the people who have not even read it yet. They're the ones that all say,"Well, I heard that..." So before you judge something, always remember: TRY IT OUT FIRST! (and I know you'll respond saying something like,"Well I already know it doesn't have examples of the Kanji in a word, so I know it won't help." But I said that for future-reference.) ;)

Oh, and by the way, the whole point of the book, like I said, is to teach you everything about the INDIVIDUAL KANJI as an introduction for further study of compounds, which will be that much easier because of it. So yes, I think it really does help.
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RE: Good Kanji learning book......

Postby jrivera » Thu 06.28.2007 5:15 pm

My teacher really hasn't focused on kanji that much yet. We've only learned about 20 kanji in about 56 hours of classes.
But since I'm impatient I bought Tuttle Language Library's "Kanji Power" and have learned to recognize and write 150 on my own.

It lists
-the kanji (of course)
-the on
-the kun
-the English meaning
-an attempt at explaining the shapes in the character (e.g., chuu/naka -represents an arrow penetrating the center of an object)
-the stroke order
-4 uses of it in sentences with full translations
-the most common compounds and English meanings
-empty boxes for practice

Usually the sentences and compounds use other kanji which haven't been covered at that point in the book so I don't find them particularly useful.
In the cases when I do recognize the characters, I try to guess the pronunciation of the word before looking at the hiragana and English meaning to the right of it.

After reading this thread I'm not sure this is the best way to study them.
There seems to be a differentiation between learning individual characters and reading them in a sentence that I don't understand.

Of course I can't use them in a sentence yet but if I don't study their individual meaning and on/kun reading... how could I learn to read them as part of a compound in a sentence at all???

Please clarify.
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RE: Good Kanji learning book......

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Thu 06.28.2007 5:41 pm

Daiki wrote:
It's a lot like Heisig's book (the evil one), except this one has EXAMPLES of the Kanji in a word, the readings, and the history, so therefore, examples+readings+history= not evil (is that equation correct, guys?).


Still evil, to me. "Knowing kanji" means nothing if you cannot read them in a sentence, and even learning example words is not the same thing as reading sentences, paragraphs, and longer passages. It's just a way to trick yourself into thinking you're learning Japanese because your "number of kanji" keeps going up.

If someone wanted to learn English, would you tell them to get a dictionary and start from A? Probably not, so why do people recommend things like this for Japanese?

By the way, I own all of these books and they're the most helpful to me, the ones who are complaining about the Heisig book are, oddly enough, the people who have not even read it yet.


I can assure you that I am well familiar with all three books of the Heisig series.

Oh, and by the way, the whole point of the book, like I said, is to teach you everything about the INDIVIDUAL KANJI as an introduction for further study of compounds, which will be that much easier because of it.


Why is this a good thing to do? The purpose of learning kanji is to read Japanese. Compounds and reading sentences/passages should not be "further study", they should be *the* study.

There seems to be a differentiation between learning individual characters and reading them in a sentence that I don't understand.

Of course I can't use them in a sentence yet but if I don't study their individual meaning and on/kun reading... how could I learn to read them as part of a compound in a sentence at all???


"Individual meaning" is a phantom; an invention of dictionary compilers and textbook writers. No such thing exists in real Japanese. You will never, NEVER EVER learn to read Japanese by focusing on "individual meanings". What you are doing here is going directly from a shape to English, bypassing the Japanese language completely. When Japanese people think of kanji meanings, they are thinking in terms of compound words that are written with that kanji.

If you can read the sentence 木曜日に授業があります; that is a test of whether you know the five kanji in that sentence. If you can tell me that 木 means "wood" or "tree", and is read "moku" and "ki", that is irrelevant if you cannot read the kanji when you see it in a sentence.
Last edited by Yudan Taiteki on Thu 06.28.2007 5:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Good Kanji learning book......

Postby jrivera » Thu 06.28.2007 7:52 pm

So you're saying to not study the on and kun readings
instead just memorize compounds?

I'm just thinking in terms of how it might be useful to know a character by itself...
Like if I know 2 characters individually but have just come across the 2 as a compound for the first time, I have a good chance of knowing how to pronounce it anyway (unless it's one of those kanji with a million readings).

If it's a vocabulary word that I've already studied in class (in hiragana), I've learned the compound without "learning the compound".

I would think this would be similar to pronouncing words you've heard before but never seen written in English...
You can sound it out based on general rules and the preceding syllable.

Also I'm so used to being exposed to new vocabulary in class written in hiragana it feels like an extra step to have to memorize it again in kanji. For me, it's much easier to memorize the pronunciation and read it hiragana than to memorize a new compound at that instant.

For sake of wanting to learn a lot of vocabulary quickly, it's much faster to read the hiragana.
Once I go from 'freshly learning' it to 'knowing' it, I think I'd be ready to learn the kanji for it.
Am I the only one that thinks this way? It seems like I'm in the minority but I'm just a beginner so maybe I haven't gotten far enough to appreciate why you dislike this method.
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RE: Good Kanji learning book......

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Thu 06.28.2007 8:14 pm

jrivera wrote:
So you're saying to not study the on and kun readings
instead just memorize compounds?


Just make sure you're doing both.

I'm just thinking in terms of how it might be useful to know a character by itself...
Like if I know 2 characters individually but have just come across the 2 as a compound for the first time, I have a good chance of knowing how to pronounce it anyway (unless it's one of those kanji with a million readings).


The more compounds you know, the more likely you are to be able to remember the reading of a kanji, because you have more concrete information to connect it to.

Also I'm so used to being exposed to new vocabulary in class written in hiragana it feels like an extra step to have to memorize it again in kanji. For me, it's much easier to memorize the pronunciation and read it hiragana than to memorize a new compound at that instant.

For sake of wanting to learn a lot of vocabulary quickly, it's much faster to read the hiragana.
Once I go from 'freshly learning' it to 'knowing' it, I think I'd be ready to learn the kanji for it.
Am I the only one that thinks this way? It seems like I'm in the minority but I'm just a beginner so maybe I haven't gotten far enough to appreciate why you dislike this method.


No, I fully support this. I've voiced the opinion before that I think in general, people start trying to learn kanji way too early. I don't think there's any problem with building your vocabulary through hiragana (or even romaji (gasp!)) and focusing on grammar, and then later learning kanji. If you already know a lot of words before you start studying the kanji, you can make the connections between symbol and word much more quickly than someone who is having to learn it all at once, and you can jump right into reading practice more quickly. And there's absolutely no reason to fear that if you don't start learning kanji early enough, that you will suffer some permanent harm to your Japanese, or that you will always be behind. The more Japanese you know when you start studying kanji, the quicker you can pick them up.

I think it's instructive to think of the way Japanese schoolchildren learn the kanji. It takes them 6 years to learn 1000 kanji, and they start fluent in the spoken language, plus they have constant reinforcement of the kanji in their other subject textbooks, plus they see them in their daily life. Now, obviously you have certain advantages over a 6-year old kid. But it's a mistake to think you can shortcut the process too much.
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RE: Good Kanji learning book......

Postby Daiki » Fri 06.29.2007 12:48 am

http://shrinkster.com/qfb

(Of course there's a few bad reviews [a lot of them are complaining about the lack of the readings and compounds, which are actually in the second book that they're too ignorant to even check out], but the majority of them are pretty good.)


And what about this book? :

http://www.thejapanshop.com/product.php?productid=16265&cat=63&page=1
Last edited by Daiki on Fri 06.29.2007 1:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Good Kanji learning book......

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Fri 06.29.2007 8:43 am

The fact that readings are in the second book doesn't make the complaint invalid. Heisig still wants you to learn how to write 2000 kanji before you even learn the reading of a single one.
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RE: Good Kanji learning book......

Postby Pork Chop » Fri 06.29.2007 4:11 pm

Yudan Taiteki

I think I finally get where you're coming from. I still think had I started studying kanji intensively a long time ago, I'd be a lot further along in my Japanese. September will be 14 years for me. Learned around 100 kanji by my second year of sudying japanese in high school. Learned another 100~150 during the 4 semesters I took in college and then just kinda let it go, focusing more on conversational in self-study. I was in the exact same situation Dehitay's been in and if I'd done what he's been doing, starting back when I graduated high school in 95, I'd be a lot better off for it.

Daiki

That's the Kanji Mnemonics book i was talking about in my post. No breakdown on drawing each kanji, only a general overview on stroke order at the beginning of the book. Tons of kanji, a good number of combinations, on & kun readings, and short mnemonics. No practice squares.

I've basically decided to do my own version of the periodic repetition flashcard system. It involves:

going through kanji-a-day calendar, volumes 1 & 2
-repeating new or difficult kanji, 1 per page, in the 84 square kanji notebook
-repeating all kanji in 1 row (20 squares), in the 200 square notebook

going through Kanji & Kana from hadamitzky & spahn, volumes 1&2- photocopying each page to fill out the practice squares
-repeat new/difficult kanji in 84 square book
-each & every kanji in 1 row in the 200 square book

once i finish the first kanji-a-day calendar, my plan's to go through the Decoding the Kanji book (and all the exercises).

once i finish the second kanji-a-day calendar, i'd like to start the Kanji In Context Series.

once i finish the first kanji & kana book I'd like to start reading through either the Henshall book or Kanji Mnemonics, which ever i feel like reading at the time, going through the other one as soon as i'm finished.
-giving a page in a 200 square notebook to any kanji i find particularly difficult to remember.

I'm averaging around 25 kanji a week right now, of course I'm going through a lot of kanji I already know and it'll slow down later but I'd like to get to 常用漢字 as quick as i can.
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RE: Good Kanji learning book......

Postby morph » Thu 12.13.2007 1:52 am

Interesting. Explains some...:
Yudan Taiteki wrote:
The problem is that a lot of Heisig's meanings aren't real meanings of kanji -- i.e. 大 is given the meaning of "great dane" (and yes, I meant 大; that was not a typo for 犬).


The meaning is clearly given as large (remember, one kanji = one keyword) - it's easy to see: "large" is printed in large bold type in the upper right corner of the frame. I would have thought it was impossible to miss the association. This is easily verified by looking at the downloadable sample. Frame 107, page 59 (61 of 126) in my version of Adobe Reader.

I'm not sure where you picked up "great dane" part from, perhaps an earlier edition from mine?

However, a meaning of a "large dog" or "St. Bernard dog" (perhaps your Great Dane?) can be applied to that character when it functions as a primative within other characters. It's simple to remember a story with a "large dog" in it rather than a story with a "large" in it, it's part of, like, the method. It's easy and it works like a charm. But you knew that. Didn't you?

When one does get to the character "犬" ... "dog" , (remember, one kanji = one keyword) the story will take care of itself simply and easily.

A child could understand it.

Indeed, an NHK children's show doesn't seem to have much of an issue with turning a "small dog" into a "large dog."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9aUn3w7fxU&feature=related

Note: approx. the 2:30 mark, watch the puppy magically transform. Kanji can be fun!!
[I thought it was kinda cute how they managed to deal with the "little drop."]

Did ya take some time to work through and understand Heisig's method before ya brought out the pitchforks and torches?

Like this nugget:
Yudan Taiteki wrote:
I have no doubt that Heisig's method worked for him. According to his introductions, he lived in Japan while he was using it, and he had a high proficiency in the spoken language (and some reading proficiency) when he developed it.


Really, care to quote from it? I can't find that part in my introduction. In the introduction I have access to he states: "I began my study of the kanji one month after coming to Japan with absolutely no previous knowledge of the language." One month = high proficiency in the spoken language? He is a genius!!

Of course, none of this matters. Details? Bwah! It's like playing a game of whack-a-mole, ain't it? Don't matter none if the mole ever has a point - just gotta whack it! Another one will be poppin' up soon enough! :D
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RE: Good Kanji learning book......

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Thu 12.13.2007 10:23 am

I refuse to respond to a 6-month necropost, especially of yet another RTK thread. I do not want this forum to turn into 10 different RTK debates going at the same time.
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