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how do japanese school children learn kanji?

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how do japanese school children learn kanji?

Postby sushi4ever » Fri 12.28.2007 8:20 am

this might be a rather stupid question but i was really wondering.

are they being taught with mnemonics or do the kids just have to copy the kanji and repeat them till they're stuck?

i've been reading around the past few days (again) and this HUGE discussion on how to learn kanji the best sparked a few questions in my lazy brain, lol

my guess would be:
1. copy kanji from blackboard / book
2. practice writing the kanji
3. put it to use in compounds with already known ones

is that somehow correct?
and how do they learn the readings?

so, my main idea is: why not learn kanji the japanese way? ^^
(the only downside would be that japanese schoolkids already have a vast vocabulary and grammar knowledge, dang XD)
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RE: how do japanese school children learn kanji?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Fri 12.28.2007 9:13 am

This is what you would have to do to learn them the way Japanese kids do:

1. Master the spoken language
2. Live in Japan
3. Write the kanji over and over again, connecting them to words you already know
4. Use them in your daily life, including in all your other school subjects

For most foreigners this method is less than ideal.
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RE: how do japanese school children learn kanji?

Postby sushi4ever » Fri 12.28.2007 10:18 am

yeah, that's what i thought as well but it still really interests me HOW they actually learn them.

i don't need to learn my kanji like japanese school children, i'll just learn them as they come with my vocabulary.

so, does anyone here know how they're being taught throughout the japanese school system?
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RE: how do japanese school children learn kanji?

Postby Harisenbon » Fri 12.28.2007 10:59 am

Each of the kids has a little workbook (you can usually pick some up off ebay if you want to try them) called Kanji-drills. The kids learn a set number of them every week, depending on what level they are. At first they practice simple ones to get the stroke order and the way to write kanji correctly down, and then as they get older they are more adept at writing so they can learn more and more complicated kanji much more quickly.

The workbooks themselves are copy-practice like you had when you were learning to write the alphabet, (genki uses a similar method, I seem to remember) and then they have a number of quizes where you have to practice putting them into words that you know. All of this is homework, and then the teacher will correct your penmanship/correctness.

Formal kanji learning like this goes on from 1-6 grade.
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RE: how do japanese school children learn kanji?

Postby two_heads_talking » Fri 12.28.2007 12:06 pm

I have a few of those books Harisenbon. Not sure if the ones you get at the Honya are the same as the ones they have at school. but basically they are picture driven with kanji(and furigana) to help the kids with kanji they may not recognize. There is usually a wizard or other pious person that is explaining how the kanjji can be read and shows some of the words that it can be used in.
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RE: how do japanese school children learn kanji?

Postby HarakoMeshi » Fri 12.28.2007 12:12 pm

I think Japanese kids mostly learn kanji by writing them repeatedly, and then by using them at school and daily life frequently.

In a few cases they may be taught some etymologycal stories that are interesting and may help remember the writing, but not often from what I've been told.

In later grades more emphasis is placed on learning radicals, so they can look up kanji by radicals in dictionaries, and get used to breaking up kanji into recurring parts.

As others mentioned, this is probably not the ideal method to learn since the conditions are likely to be very different from J kids, i.e. J kids already know Japanese and they spend many years progressively learning this stuff through lots of practice and exposure.

I am trying to follow the "Remembering The Kanji" route, and I recently finished RTK volume 1. This gives a foundation where I can write and recognize 2000 common use kanji with pretty good accuracy, and now I'm focusing on building up readings for words and compounds on this foundation.

(RTK1 took me a little over 3 months, studying+reviewing between one and two hours most days over that period. It was quite easy to learn but tough for me to stick to it and dedicate study time every day over this period of time.)
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RE: how do japanese school children learn kanji?

Postby Shirasagi » Fri 12.28.2007 1:32 pm

I work in Japanese elementary schools, and I've been talking to some of the teachers about how they teach kanji, as well as looking at the drill books they use. This is how works in Aichi Prefecture.

In the first grade, they learn the very simple kanji that are basic ideograms as well as being components of the more advanced characters. With this base, they go on to learn to "spell" more complicated kanji as they go through elementary school. Sometimes simple mnemonics are taught, but on the whole many kanji are taught drawing comparisons to kanji previously taught, and utilizing the phonetic components in the on-yomi.

For example, early on they learn 青, blue, with an on-yomi of "sei". Thus it's very easy for them to remember how to write 清、精、晴、錆、情、請 and 靖, all of which contain simple radicals they learn in 1st or 2nd grade. (Incidently, when Japanese people "misspell" kanji, it's often this kind of mistake they make - remembering the phonetic part of the kanji, but using the wrong radical).

They do repetitively write out the kanji over and over again, but the degree to which they do this is often overstated. In the old days, they might have written a particular kanji out 30 times at a shot, but these days it rarely goes over 10. Rather, the kanji drill workbooks (with themes like Mickey Mouse, Anpan-man, and Doreaemon) have the children trace the kanji, write them twice for practice, and then fill in the blanks to complete sentences. These days a lot of the repetition comes out in exercises using sentences.

Starting in the third grade, they start "shuuji" - writing characters using brush and ink. This further helps them master stroke order and balance. It's fascinating to watch the progress. In the third grade most of the shuuji sheets look pretty bad, except for the few kids who've been taking classes outside of school. But by the sixth grade, they all look pretty decent, except for the foreign students who've recently transferred to the school.

They also do a lot of reading, and the books in the libraries have lots of furigana. So they can often read a kanji before they learn to write it. This, of course, makes it a lot easier to learn how to write a kanji, since they already know the basic shape and meaning, it's just a matter of familiarizing their hands with the spelling of the kanji. And of course, they often learn how to write their names before those kanji are officially taught in the curriculum.
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RE: how do japanese school children learn kanji?

Postby keatonatron » Fri 12.28.2007 2:07 pm

sushi4ever wrote:
it still really interests me HOW they actually learn them.


How did you learn the alphabet?
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RE: how do japanese school children learn kanji?

Postby sushi4ever » Fri 12.28.2007 2:49 pm

keatonatron wrote:
sushi4ever wrote:
it still really interests me HOW they actually learn them.


How did you learn the alphabet?


lol, okay, rephrase: HOW are they being taught? ;)
(the alphabet was just "mere" copying of around 30 (german umlauts included) characters and i wondered if there's more behind learning kanji and obviously there is, according to the posts above ^^)

and wow, thank you guys for those thorough answers!! :D

i've seen the kanji drill books before on ebay and was thinking about buying them but i won't bother till i have at least completed genki II...
Last edited by sushi4ever on Fri 12.28.2007 2:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: how do japanese school children learn kanji?

Postby keatonatron » Sun 12.30.2007 11:23 am

sushi4ever wrote:
lol, okay, rephrase: HOW are they being taught? ;)


Again... How were you taught?

It's not simple copying... For example, if you wrote your capital E's by starting with the three horizontal lines and drawing the left-hand vertical line last, the letter would be readable but probably not be very pretty. If your teacher noticed you writing it that way, s/he would correct you, right?

Japanese children are the same. They watch their teacher write the characters, and imitate. If they write them in the wrong order, the characters will be readable but look a little strange, and the child will be corrected.

They start with very simple kanji (休,王,金,etc.) which include the base elements; when it comes time to learn more difficult kanji, they already understand the flow of how kanji are written, and all they have to do is remember what radicals make up the character-- just as western children only have to learn spelling once they've mastered the alphabet.
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RE: how do japanese school children learn kanji?

Postby sushi4ever » Sun 12.30.2007 11:37 am

hmm, good point but i count "imitating the teacher's stroke order" into "copying" as well.

they see, they copy. that's what i wanted to know ^^

i was just wondering if they're actually teaching mnemonics or the like together with the kanji...

but they don't, or so it seems ;)
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RE: how do japanese school children learn kanji?

Postby Kamwah » Thu 01.10.2008 12:36 pm

First of all, my first language is Chinese.

When I was a child, I spent a lot of time to read and write the Chinese characters (kanji?) again and again. Then I remembered it.

There is no special way to learn the kanji, just spend a lot of time in practice.
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RE: how do japanese school children learn kanji?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Thu 01.10.2008 2:18 pm

Actually I think they do a lot of mnemonics and such -- there are a large number of books and children's dictionaries you can buy that help the kids learn kanji with mnemonics, pictures, and so on.
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