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'Remembering the kanji' question...

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

RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby morph » Sat 12.08.2007 12:50 am

Look, if everyone who used Heisig used it as part of a balanced, carefully-planned long-term Japanese study program, that would be great.

The problem is that while 3-6 months may not be a very long time when compared to the many years it will take to master Japanese, it's still an extremely long time for a beginning student to spend on a task with no immediate benefits -- a task which is completely divorced from the ultimate goal of actually reading Japanese. That time could be much better spent getting started internalizing Japanese grammar and sentence structure, which is just as much (if not more) of an obstacle to mastering the language as kanji.

Heisig pretty much comes out and says, "Hey, the biggest obstacle to learning Japanese is kanji. Learning the kanji -- all of them! -- is _so_ important that you should devote months and months of your time to systematically learning the kanji -- and only the kanji -- before you even think about doing anything else. And learning the kanji is _so_ difficult that you should focus on just learning the characters themselves and a single English keyword for each of them before we even talk about how they're used in the Japanese language."

I just think this (all of it) is false and misleading to learners -- it's really that simple.




1) I'm beginnig to see why this debate goes round in circles, everyone has a death grip on their assumptions.

Hesig is not just for beginners. So a statement like: "it's still an extremely long time for a beginning student to spend on a task with no immediate benefits" is true in as much as it relates soley to beginning students. Period.

Not every student who picks up Heisig's book is a beginning student.
Not every student who finishes Heisig's book is a beginning student.

Are you saying that the posters in this thread, who have explained in some detail how Heisig has helped them, were complete beginners when they started? Are they the exception to this mysterious "law" that every Heisig user is a rank beginner? That every Heisig user must be protected from themselves? Just asking.

2) Love the straw man arguments!! There are always so helpful.

For example:
**************
Heisig pretty much comes out and says, "[Hey I'll make up my own interpretation of what he says and pass it off as his own words in quotations, too!!!! emphasis all his, or mine, or whatever, Dooder!!!]"

I just think this (all of it) is false and misleading to learners
***********
" -- it's really that simple."

Indeed.
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sat 12.08.2007 1:06 am

You haven't offered any explanation why thinking of kanji as ideographs is such a bad thing.


Because they're not ideographs.
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby morph » Sat 12.08.2007 1:07 am

See, this is exactly what I don't get about Heisig. Why are kanji "crazy"? Why does learning kanji have to involve "making sense of craziness?" As far as I'm concerned, Heisig _encourages_ this view of kanji as wacky hieroglyphs.


"See, this is exactly what I don't get about Heisig. "

Let me help fix it for you: Kanji are "rational." Learning kanji with Heisig involves "making sense of the rational." As far as I'm concerned, Heisig encourages this view of kanji as systematic and rational.

From the introduction, as found in the free sample (his words, not my interpretations):
"To begin with, the writing of the kanji is the most completely rational part of the language."
and
"Having learned to write the kanji in this way『hich, I repeat, is the most logical and rational part of the study of Japanese..."

Hope that helps clarify a bit.
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby HarakoMeshi » Sat 12.08.2007 1:48 am

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
You haven't offered any explanation why thinking of kanji as ideographs is such a bad thing.


Because they're not ideographs.


Right, they are logographs. They are more than just ideographs, in that they carry more than just ideas, they relate to words and morphemes directly.

What I'm asking, is why ignore the "ideas" part of kanji? Why is it bad that Heisig is teaching us some ideas/meanings (keywords if you prefer)?

I mean, one of the examples the poster gave is 新聞. I have to say, I learned this by "new+hear" long before I heard about RTK. It was helpful to remember this word quickly until it internalized. What's so bad about that?

Please tell us how to think of kanji in your view, in a practical sense?
Last edited by HarakoMeshi on Sat 12.08.2007 2:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby nukemarine » Sat 12.08.2007 1:53 am

HarakoMeshi wrote:
Yudan Taiteki wrote:
Yes, good post.

3-6 months is a very ambitious prediction, as I said. You cannot keep using "3-6 months" as if this is some absolute figure, that nobody will ever need beyond 6 months to finish it. Just looking over on the RTK forums, I've seen people mentioning 9-10 months, 9 months, 2 years, 1.5 years, etc. There are some 3-6 month people, but they seem to be half or less.


There are people with varied commitment and time to spend on the book. There are some who were on vacation and spent most of their time studying RTK and finished in 25 days.

Speaking only for myself, I don't usually have time for more than 1 to 2 hours on RTK every day, but that's enough to finish RTK1 in about 3 months.

If one only has 2 hours a week... it will take years to finish.


That's why I try to be fair in my description of what RTK is and the time it takes to study.

I think 5-10 minutes is a fair average on the amount of time you'll eventually have to dedicate to get a benefit from RTK1. Even then, as has been fairly stated, you'll still be illiterate in Japanese (and Chinese). So, after those 200 to 300 hours learning RTK, you still need 6 hours to learn the Kana and another, oh, 10000 hours to get the fluency in Japanese (listening, reading, speaking and writing). Yeah, most of that time is Passive (listening and reading), but it's still a god awful large amount of time. Seems that 200 to 300 hours is a small investment for a more efficient use of the 10,000 hours that follows.

So what if you took 100 to 150 hours getting the recognition down for the JLPT 2 list, 6 hours for the Kana and then got about 2000 hours into Japanese input and practice. Perhaps then you'll want to add another 100 to 150 hours of Kanji (JLPT 1), and another 3000 hours of input and practice. Finally the you took another 150 hours for the RTK3 list (or variant), then added yet another 5000 hours for Japanese input and practice.

Now, how one should approach the input and practice is a whole other kettle of fish. I personally favored a pseudo-structured approach. Some probably go completely structured (college courses), while some go completely unstructured (full immersion). Beyond the scope of this thread I think.
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby HarakoMeshi » Sat 12.08.2007 2:40 am

Nukemarine, I think I averaged about 5 minutes per kanji so far, maybe a bit less. About half of that is time spent reviewing. It goes up over time with extra reviews ofcourse.

I use quite a lot of shared stories though. It takes significantly longer if you write your own.

Note that JLPT guideline is 900 hours to pass JLPT1.

I'm not sure if that means 900 hours of instruction, or 900 hours study altogether. Anyone care to chime in?
Last edited by HarakoMeshi on Sat 12.08.2007 3:14 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby yukamina » Sat 12.08.2007 3:44 am

Anti-RTK posters are saying " RTK is bad for beginners!"
RTK-supporters are saying "You should learn some Japanese before using RTK" Yet the argument goes on as if we disagree on this point.

RTK(and similar methods) is helpful and worth the time for some people and not for others. As long as the learner knows the pros and cons before using RTK, I don't see the problem.

Most Japanese learning resources present kanji as lists of information to be learned outside of context... I don't see anyone harping on that.
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby HarakoMeshi » Sat 12.08.2007 4:12 am

hungryhotei wrote:
HarakoMeshi wrote:
I have asked several times for people here to tell us how long they studied Japanese before they got to an advanced reading level, but nobody has yet given any answer to this question.


I'll tell you my story. I think I'm one example of the benefits of context based systems of study.

Like many (all?) of the posters here with a level of literacy at or above JLPT1 level, I learned Japanese through a variety of non-Heisig methods including intensive flashcard study (from maybe 500 kanji to 1000 kanji) and reading normal Japanese (1000+). I was familiar with kanji components (or primitves/radicals whatever) from the book Kanji ABC. I have never been to Japan, and until very recently I have never been to a class anywhere near appropriate for my level, neither did I have any background in East Asian langages. The study of Japanese I describe below took place in my spare time and holidays while I was studying for my undergraduate degree here in the UK.

After around 6 months of study with a grammar knowledge around JLPT3, and after that intensive flashcard study (which included learning readings and words using the kanji) I started reading manga. After 12 months of study, around the time I started reading books for children like Harry Potter, I passed JLPT2. Around 18 months, when I was reading books by authors like Murakami Haruki and Yoshimoto Banana I was passing JLPT 1 past papers. It's probably safe to say that by then I could read somewhere around 2000 kanji, although I hadn't really done any kanji study apart from reading and JLPT practice. After 24 months of study I was reading more difficult books like those by Soseki, and easily passed JLPT1 and Kanken 5.


Thanks hungryhotei for sharing your story. Its always encouraging to read about others' success. How many hours did you study?

A question. You said you learned in context right? But you said that you also learned kanji components from Kanji ABC and that you drilled 500 to 1000 kanji with flashcards. Those are not learning in context right?

But I guess that the prep work with Kanji ABC and some out of context drilling was instrumental in your ultimate learning, until you had enough foundation to let reading take over.
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby nukemarine » Sat 12.08.2007 4:34 am

yukamina wrote:
Anti-RTK posters are saying " RTK is bad for beginners!"
RTK-supporters are saying "You should learn some Japanese before using RTK" Yet the argument goes on as if we disagree on this point.

RTK(and similar methods) is helpful and worth the time for some people and not for others. As long as the learner knows the pros and cons before using RTK, I don't see the problem.

Most Japanese learning resources present kanji as lists of information to be learned outside of context... I don't see anyone harping on that.


I'm pretty sure RTK supporters are saying it works for those that had Japanese before or those with no Japanese or at the beginning of their studies. In addition, Anti-RTK posters are saying its bad, not just for beginners but bad altogether (with some reasonable points).

To do it at the beginning of your studies, oof, hard to say when it'll be a good decision. I had the benefit of being in Japan, so every Kanji I "learned" could be put to use now and again. For someone not in that environment, it becomes draining to put in all that effort with no visible reward. It just goes with what you wrote: There's no cookie cutter formula for RTK or Kanji. Fortunately, we now have the ability to present any manner of tools for learning Japanese (the internet, amazon, this forum, etc.) where any type of person can get what works best for him.
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby hungryhotei » Sat 12.08.2007 5:00 am

HarakoMeshi wrote:

Thanks hungryhotei for sharing your story. Its always encouraging to read about others' success. How many hours did you study?

A question. You said you learned in context right? But you said that you also learned kanji components from Kanji ABC and that you drilled 500 to 1000 kanji with flashcards. Those are not learning in context right?

But I guess that the prep work with Kanji ABC and some out of context drilling was instrumental in your ultimate learning, until you had enough foundation to let reading take over.


I have no idea how many hours I studied. For one I wasn't actually counting, but also when working with flashcards I would often do them in any spare moment like on the bus or waiting for the kettle to boil, rather than as a planned programme of study. I think when I was using flashcards it would average out at maybe 3 minutes per kanji before I was satisfied and moved onto the next set. That was quite a while ago now though.

Yes you are right. You could say 'learned' kanji 500-1000 without using contextual sources. (These numbers are only rough guides, I used the tuttle kanji cards that went up to 1000, but I was already familiar with many from contextual studies with my textbooks and I was getting kanji intake from various other sources I was reading at the same time) But even here I was learning (or reviewing or in some cases reading) about 5 words for each kanji so they were not actually seperated from the language. I think this intesive flash card and kanji component study, over 2 or at most 3 months, was valuable in boosting my vocab (including kanji) enough for me to get good benefits from the other reading that I was doing at the time and moved into straight after, such as passages in my intermediate textbook and manga.
Last edited by hungryhotei on Sat 12.08.2007 5:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby Shirasagi » Sat 12.08.2007 9:43 am

hungryhotei, when you looked at a flashcard, what were you trying to remember (IOW, what was on the other side)? A "core meaning" in English? An on-yomi or kun-yomi?
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby hungryhotei » Sat 12.08.2007 9:57 am

I'm not sure if you are familiar with the tuttle kanji cards. One one side you have the kanji plus four compounds, and on the other the on reading, several key words, kun reading and meaning of the word and the readings and meanings of the compounds. You can see an example for 学 here:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0804833974/ref=sib_dp_pt/102-1817915-9936124#reader-link

I think the primary focus of my work with the flashcards was to be able to remember the readings and meanings of the words given (including the kun yomi word(s)) when I looked at the Japanese side. I remember also doing work correctly reproducing the kanji from the English side too, I must have been covering up the stroke order at the bottom or something.
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby Shirasagi » Sat 12.08.2007 2:48 pm

I guess my question should be, okay, you pulled 学 from your flashcard pile. What did you then vocalize/sub-vocalize to test yourself? Manabu, gaku, and/or the included compounds? All of the above and an English meaning like "study, learn"?

I ask this only because IMO if you made yourself remember the verb and/or compounds for each kanji in your flashcard stock, I wouldn't call that "non-contextual". If you just recited an English meaning and/or an on-yomi, then I'd say that's non-contextual.
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby yukamina » Sat 12.08.2007 2:59 pm

Oh, I don't care anymore. People can study however they like, whether it's drilling 1000 kanji cards or using RTK or just reading. I don't care if you guys don't think RTK works, just don't leave those naive beginners stranded after you tell them not to use it. And I'll stick to what works for me.
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RE: 'Remembering the kanji' question...

Postby hungryhotei » Sat 12.08.2007 3:30 pm

Shirasagi wrote:
I guess my question should be, okay, you pulled 学 from your flashcard pile. What did you then vocalize/sub-vocalize to test yourself? Manabu, gaku, and/or the included compounds? All of the above and an English meaning like "study, learn"?

I ask this only because IMO if you made yourself remember the verb and/or compounds for each kanji in your flashcard stock, I wouldn't call that "non-contextual". If you just recited an English meaning and/or an on-yomi, then I'd say that's non-contextual.


I think if I pulled up 学, I would have typically read 学 - mana(bu) to learn, 学生 − gakusei, student, 学校 - gakkou, school 入学, nyuugaku admission into a school, 見学 kengaku watch, tour, study by observation.

I think if/once I knew the words I wouldn't have tested myself by repeating the English translation when I came back to revise the cards, just the Japanese reading.

I don't think I was particularly worried about testing myself on either the on readings or the key words for the kanji as I was picking these up and revising them from the compounds and words.

I guess the question is of how much context you need for it to be contextual learning. I may have learned manabu here, but I didn't learn how to use it differently from narau or benkyou. And I may have learnt the meaning of nyuugaku, but I wouldn't have had a clue how to use it in the way that I would of if my kanji study had been based around a passage on a topic like high school admission or exams. Or even if I'd had an example sentence.
Last edited by hungryhotei on Sat 12.08.2007 3:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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