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'Remembering the kanji' question...

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'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby grumbler » Mon 10.29.2007 10:43 am

So I've been seeing a lot about this book on different 'learn Japanese' sites and I have a question: how useful is it really if it doesn't have anything about the readings or usage? Unless I've overlooked something... Knowing what the character 'means' is great and all but it's the context that kinda matters eh?

In any event, if I'm wrong please, by all means let me know. I'm looking into purchasing a copy but am wondering if there are better resources out there.

*grumblegrumble*


as a sidenote, I do have several other kanji resources and have been studying Japanese for about 15 years(to varying degrees ;)) so I'm concerned about long-term usefulness.
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby hungryhotei » Mon 10.29.2007 12:18 pm

The Heisig method isn't really all that popular round these parts.
Last edited by hungryhotei on Mon 10.29.2007 12:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby yukamina » Mon 10.29.2007 2:50 pm

The point of Remembering the Kanji volume 1 is to teach the meanings and writing of the kanji. You learn the readings and usage after that. People always seem to ignore the fact that volume 2 teaches the readings(though, I don't think it's a good way to learn kun-readings, it helped me greatly with on-readings)

RTK can be very good, but not everyone likes learning this way. I think kanji is a pretty big barrier to being able to read Japanese. Most traditional courses teach up to about 300, which won't get you very far. Many people also seem to have trouble learning more than 300 through traditional methods.
黒い柳を濃く薄く、遠近とかいて、寒むそうな漁夫が笠を傾けて土手の上を通る This sentence has several less common kanji, but someone who finished RTK would know what they all mean. I think they'd understand the sentence a lot better than someone who only knew 100-1000 kanji.
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby Gundaetiapo » Mon 10.29.2007 8:11 pm

RTK can be very good, but not everyone likes learning this way. I think kanji is a pretty big barrier to being able to read Japanese. Most traditional courses teach up to about 300, which won't get you very far. Many people also seem to have trouble learning more than 300 through traditional methods.
黒い柳を濃く薄く、遠近とかいて、寒むそうな漁夫が笠を傾けて土手の上を通る This sentence has several less common kanji, but someone who finished RTK would know what they all mean. I think they'd understand the sentence a lot better than someone who only knew 100-1000 kanji.


You should learn above 300 through reading. Text with furigana makes the going smoother. If you can't read text for younger audiences, you don't have much business learning more than 300. Getting through for example Nakama 1 and 2 will prepare you for reading such texts.

Think about how you learned to spell words in your native language.
Last edited by Gundaetiapo on Mon 10.29.2007 8:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby yukamina » Wed 10.31.2007 1:23 pm

I don't really consider 300 enough of a basis to be reading real Japanese. What sort of texts other than manga use furigana?
I suppose one could children's stories to work on grammar and vocabulary(you'd have to read A LOT though). But the difference in kanji usage between children's stories and everything else is huge...

I just find it a lot easier to learn and retain vocabulary when I know the meanings of each kanji used in the words.

I learned my native language through years of exposure from infancy. I can hardly do this with Japanese. The best substitute is living in Japan, but not everyone can do that.
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby saraLynne » Wed 10.31.2007 3:54 pm

yukamina wrote:
I learned my native language through years of exposure from infancy. I can hardly do this with Japanese. The best substitute is living in Japan, but not everyone can do that.


You have the advantage of being an adult now, have higher level thought processes and already understand a lot of life concepts. Not saying that you can learn Japanese through just exposure, but a good portion of it can be after a certain amount of study.

Heisig lived in Japan, already had a decent knowledge of Japanese when he developed his RTK system. I don't think you're in that position, either.

I will agree that RTK can be very useful for people who need mnemonics to distinguish look-alike kanji and to recall lesser-used characters. If someone is new to Japanese, learning an english keyword for each kanji creates the -illusion- of progress. I have yet to meet anyone who used RTK to learn Kanji from the ground up.

The only person to ever post on this board who had used RTK with success had already taken college courses in Japanese and knew a lot of Kanji, and used RTK to refine his knowledge and improve retention after the fact.

I just hate to see people who get so puffed up about how many kanji they "know" due to RTK and who disappear and give up later when they realize it didn't make it easier to learn Japanese in the end.
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby yukamina » Thu 11.01.2007 12:57 pm

saraLynne wrote:

The only person to ever post on this board who had used RTK with success had already taken college courses in Japanese and knew a lot of Kanji, and used RTK to refine his knowledge and improve retention after the fact.

I just hate to see people who get so puffed up about how many kanji they "know" due to RTK and who disappear and give up later when they realize it didn't make it easier to learn Japanese in the end.

I'm not one of those people. I finished learning the meanings of the joyo kanji and now know the readings and usage of over 1000. RTK-style learning really did help my Japanese/ability to learn kanji. I'm not going to disappear or give up...
I think if a dedicated person gave 2-3 months to learn the meanings of the kanji via RTK or something similar, it would really help in the long run. If you aren't dedicated...you won't be able to finish, but you won't be able to learn Japanese through other methods either. I don't see what the big deal is against RTK.

There's not many people using RTK on these forums. If you're really interested, you could check out the Reviewing the Kanji forums and see if you can find the people who've started from scratch. I don't know the background of each user...
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby NocturnalOcean » Thu 11.01.2007 6:19 pm

Learning Heisig's keywords is not the same as learning the "meaning" of a kanji.
Also I would argue that learning an artificially labeled meaning in English will not bring you as far as you believe.
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby Rinifett » Thu 11.01.2007 7:36 pm

NocturnalOcean wrote:
Learning Heisig's keywords is not the same as learning the "meaning" of a kanji.
Also I would argue that learning an artificially labeled meaning in English will not bring you as far as you believe.


This is my first post...I am a long time lurker of this board but I felt compelled to post. If you read yukamina's post again I think you will understand what was said better. My impression is that yukamina already finished RTK1 and in addition has actually learned the readings of 1000 of those kanji with other study methods. So if she is saying that learning the "English keywords" helped for a foundation into deeper study then more power to her. I just don't understand the quickness to attack people who use RTK as a tool of study. You are not being kicked every time someone opens RTK. What's the big deal?

NocturnalOcean, If I find out that I was wrong about yukamina's post then I am sorry for butting in. ;p
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby yukamina » Thu 11.01.2007 9:31 pm

Thanks Rinifett^^
When I was using RTK, I looked up information on each kanji to verify the meaning.

NocturnalOcean, how should one learn kanji without seeing what the characters mean in English(or the learner's native language)? I can only really see using Japanese definitions if the learner is very advanced but doesn't know kanji(which I would find odd).
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Thu 11.01.2007 9:46 pm

I personally don't see any reason to learn English meanings at all. English meanings are constructions of dictionary makers and textbook writers -- they look at how the kanji are used in words, and then try to invent a meaning for the kanji.

But why not just learn the words yourself, and come up with your own meaning? If you do that you're taking the same steps as the dictionary compilers.

And in the end, meanings of kanji are deceptive. It's pretty unreliable to try to guess words based on kanji meanings. It is impossible to learn to read Japanese by relying on English meanings, and not taking the time to learn the words themselves.

Why do people think it's important to learn a "meaning" of a kanji?
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby Gundaetiapo » Thu 11.01.2007 11:20 pm

I don't really consider 300 enough of a basis to be reading real Japanese.


300 kanji, grammar knowledge equivalent to the two Nakama textbooks, and some listening practice makes a good basis for reading real Japanese. If you know 1000 kanji, you probably know more than me, so surely you can start reading real Japanese too if Heisig is indeed serving you well.

Reading material.
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby AJBryant » Fri 11.02.2007 2:22 am

I think that learning an "English meaning" to any kanji actually puts an additional step in the learning process -- one that actually slows down the eventual absorption of kanji. When one sees a kanji, one should think the Japanese word, not an English one, and then think of what the Japanese word for that English word is.

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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby yukamina » Fri 11.02.2007 12:38 pm

But if you don't know the Japanese word, how does that help? Unless you're okay with finding out what the words mean, which is essentially the same thing.

Here's an example of how the meaning of a kanji helps me. Say I come across the word 屈する and there's the furigana くっする with it. I've never seen or heard that word before, but I know what it means because I know what that kanji means. くっする in itself doesn't give me any meaning, that sound is just another sound to me.
I don't see how you can read Japanese with so few kanji, and by association, vocabulary. I'm always coming across new words, and non-joyo kanji.
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Fri 11.02.2007 1:27 pm

I've never seen or heard that word before, but I know what it means because I know what that kanji means.


No, in this case you have made a guess, and your guess happens to be correct. This is *extremely* unreliable, though. Sure, maybe you could guess 屈する, but what about 退屈 or 窮屈 or 理屈? None of those three words have much to do with "yield", "bend", "flinch", or "submit" (the 4 meaning given by EDICT).

You will find a lot of cases where you can use the English meanings to remember the kanji used to write a word, but guessing the meaning of an unknown word is not reliable.

Unless you're okay with finding out what the words mean, which is essentially the same thing.


You should be okay with finding out what the words mean, because that's all that matters in the end. An English meaning is *at best* a learning crutch that should be eventually discarded. At worst it's a blindfold that makes you think you're learning Japanese when in fact you're not learning much at all.

In my opinion, the "wrong" way to use English meanings is to learn them in the belief that they will directly aid you in reading -- that you will be able to use the meanings to figure out the meaning of the words you encounter. The "right" way to use them is simply as a guide to memorizing vocabulary and to keep the kanji straight in your mind.

(Heisig actually represents a third approach, that of using the English meanings as an aid to remembering how to write the characters. I disagree with Heisig's approach but I've had that discussion too many times on this forum to bother anymore. The archives are there.)
Last edited by Yudan Taiteki on Fri 11.02.2007 1:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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