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Studying The Kanji

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RE: Studying The Kanji

Postby InsanityRanch » Sun 10.23.2005 11:25 pm

rizzo wrote:
Learning to recognize kanji and their meanings goes a long way towards letting you read the language. After that the next important thing would be to learn the meanings of compounds. But as for pronunciation... it's never absolutely necessary for 'reading'. Think of scholars who can read and write ancient Hebrew and Egyptian.


Well, but it is difficult, sometimes nearly impossible, to look up a jukugo you cannot pronounce. Yes, SOMETIMES you can track it down in the kanji dictionary, but the kanji dictionary doesn't have nearly as many words as the kokugo, so many compounds are simply not listed. That leaves the J-E or the kokugo, and both are keyed to pronunciation.

Of course, if you are reading online, you can cut and paste and thus look up a compound without being able to pronounce it. But if you are sitting with a novel and a dictionary, being able to guess a new jukugo's pronunciation (as efficiently as possible) is a vital skill.

That's my experience anyway!

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RE: Studying The Kanji

Postby Harisenbon » Sun 10.23.2005 11:33 pm

Rizzo,

I do agree that it is not necessary to learn the readings of Kanji to be able to read the language, but to be able to speak the langauge, it is fairly important. The meanings and pronunciations are so tied together, that it's better to just learn both at once, I think. Especially since if you decide to take any of the Japanese Proficiency tests, you will need to know the pronunciations, not just the meanings.
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RE: Studying The Kanji

Postby Infidel » Sun 10.23.2005 11:40 pm

RWP wrote:
What is your prefered method? Do you write them and their readings and then just write endless compounds? do you just write them and their readings over and over again, so that when you see compounds you have a slight chance of remembering the correct reading? I'm teaching myself and I'm finding it very difficult to actually start the learning process!


I cannot emphasize this enough.

All those "Learn Kanji" books that emphasize readings are bad news for most Japanese students.


It is as inefficent as having using 20 people to change a light bulb. Sure it isn't a complete waste, but it is extremely wasteful of time and resources. Yes that is how they are studied in Japan; but, people keep forgetting that the children learning kanji like this already have a large vocabulary and the readings are a memnonic for them. For people without a large Japanese vocabulary the readings aren't a memnonic, they are the exact opposite. They make it harder to learn the kanji, not easier.

If you're the average Japanese student with a small vocabulary, learn vocabulary and incorporate kanji into your vocabulary learning. That's all you have to do and the most effective, efficient means--Hands down.

THEN you'll learn like the Japanese do. You will link kanji to words not "readings" because that is easier to remember and more practical. They will think, in this WORD x kanji is READ x, but in WORD z the same kanji is read m, but in WORD q the kanji is read p. This is your memnonic. But you need vocabulary for it to work. Japanese already have a good vocabulary, so they can look at a kanji with readings and immediatly think of associations. All the average student is going to see is a kanji and some associated noises.

In general, just learn one "reading" at a time unless you have 2 vocabulary words that both incorporate the same kanji but with different meanings, then again, just learn the words. Associate the reading with the word and let it go. This is much more efficient and more natural.

On the other hand, If you already boast a 2000+ word vocabulary, then by all means use a learn kanji book. Because with a large vocabulary, the kanji books do become efficient.

As for my study method.
1. At the beginning of my study session I write all my vocabulary in kanji if known, once per word going backwards until I already know all then stop.
2. Writing practice. I spend some time working on my penji using a couple of penji sites.
3. Re-read the chapter dialogue
4. Do exercises.
5. Add any new vocabulary to my pocket notebook. Add About.com's phrase of the day to my pocket notebook.

1 is always first, the others can vary in order.
Last edited by Infidel on Sun 10.23.2005 11:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Studying The Kanji

Postby Infidel » Sun 10.23.2005 11:51 pm

skrhgh3b wrote:
Harisenbon wrote:
(Note: my opinion comes from limited experience with the Hesig method)

I actually wasn't too impressed with the heisig method, personally. My friends were all addicted to it, and knew the meanings and how to write a TON of kanji. Blew me away. But they had no idea how to pronounce anything, which is the one issue I have with his system.


hahah. doesn't that just totally sidestep the whole purpose of learning kanji? to be able to read? oh, man. if only learning a foreign language were so simple. on the other hand, i often find myself reading chinese in english when i go to chinese restaurants because i also know the meaning of kanji in english and still think in english too much.... so, i'll say to someone, "i have no idea how to read that in chinese, but it means such and such."


I found the "meaning" approach to be a near complete waste. If you only know the "meaning" but not how to use it, then you don't really know anything. It doesn't matter if you know the 'meanings" of 2000 kanji if you don't know how to read. All you are is a monkey.
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RE: Studying The Kanji

Postby Mukade » Tue 10.25.2005 3:03 am

ishnar wrote:
I found the "meaning" approach to be a near complete waste. If you only know the "meaning" but not how to use it, then you don't really know anything. It doesn't matter if you know the 'meanings" of 2000 kanji if you don't know how to read. All you are is a monkey.


I think that's going a bit far. Knowing the meanings of 2000 characters is nothing to scoff at. I have yet to see a monkey accomplish the same thing. Yes, it is only half of the goal, but half is a lot when your talking about this much knowledge.

Besides, there are plenty of times when I sit down here at work with the Japanese newspaper and read through entire articles, grasping everything that's said, even if I can't tell you the reading of every character. What saves me from total incomprehension is the fact that I know the meaning of the characters whose reading eludes me.

You say you don't know anything if you don't know the readings...well, I know what those articles said.

The reason Heisig (whose system, I'll admit, isn't for everyone - everyone, after all, has a different learning style) separates meaning from reading is that he wants you to focus on one semantic piece of the puzzle at a time. I mean, think about it - tackling each character requires:

1- becoming familiar with the shape
2- learning the stroke order
3- learning the meaning
4- learning the on-reading(s)
5- learning the kun-reading(s)
6- learning the okurigana, if any
7- learning at least one sample word or jukugo where it's used
and, if you're ultra-geeky, like me,
8- learning the etymology of the character

That's a lot to absorb at once. Heisig has you narrow it down to the shape, stroke order and meaning, and once you've got those figured out, to attach the on- and kun-readings, the okurigana and a sample word or two. I agree that the second half of his system is far from perfect. The first half, however, is very effective at what it does. Using this system, it is possible to acquire the meanings of all the joyo kanji in a very short period of time (some have claimed as short as a few months...impressive, if true).

I managed to learn the meanings of all the joyo kanji in about eight months. That means that in less than a year, I made it halfway to comprehending and pronouncing nearly anything you might lay in front of me.

I must be a monkey's uncle. :|
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RE: Studying The Kanji

Postby Infidel » Tue 10.25.2005 8:16 am

Sorry, I doubt that. If you know the meaning of the individual kanji but not the words, then all you have is a vague impression what the articles are about, you don't KNOW what they are talking about.

front-wa-Heseig-no-horse-deer-yo.
:P
time-(funny repeat symbol you probably never saw before)-only, say-(leaf,plane,lobe,spear,needle,fragment...)o-study-birth-wa-different-nai

All it does is build false confidence. It might give a vague impression of meaning, but you are not reading a newspaper with a clue if all you know is the meaning of a kanji. Leaf,etc, was a kanji with several meanings so I just threw them all together like they could confuse a meaning reader.
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RE: Studying The Kanji

Postby InsanityRanch » Tue 10.25.2005 8:50 am

ishnar wrote:
Sorry, I doubt that. If you know the meaning of the individual kanji but not the words, then all you have is a vague impression what the articles are about, you don't KNOW what they are talking about.


Actually, very often you CAN figure out the meaning just from knowing the individual kanji, PLUS knowing the context of the sentence, the words that tell you how the author wants you to react to the sentence, etc., etc. Just like English.

In order for that to work you have to have done a certain amount of reading already, of course, so you catch the cues the writer is throwing you.

Which brings up what I wanted to say to the beginners here and have been thinking about for the last couple of days:

READ.

If you know only the first grade kanji, or the JLPT 4 kanji, you can begin to read.

Don't tell youreself that you don't know enough kanji to read. Get started.

Read recipes. (Nice, restricted vocab, and the form tells you what sort of thing you're reading, so you can start developing the knack of guessing new words.) Heck if recipes are too hard, read weather reports.

Read stuff that has no English translation, at least part of the time. If you don't understand something, ask questions. Here or in class or wherever.

Read online at first, because one of the most annoying hurdles of reading is dealing with unfamiliar kanji. Online it's easy -- just cut and paste.

Begin making notes of interesting vocabulary you come across. Let your reading show you what kanji are in frequent use, too. Remember that words come in phrases, and whenever possible, learn your vocabulary in its proper context.

Just read.

Shira
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RE: Studying The Kanji

Postby Mukade » Wed 10.26.2005 1:08 am

ishnar wrote:
It might give a vague impression of meaning, but you are not reading a newspaper with a clue if all you know is the meaning of a kanji.


Clearly I did not make myself clear enough in my last post.

First, when I am reading newspaper articles these days, the meaning of each kanji is not the only thing I know. I did not say that I would get total comprehension from an article based on character meaning alone.

My point was that when I do run across a kanji whose reading I don't know (a total of about two or three individual characters per article, these days) I can quite easily understand what's being said because I at least know the meaning.

Second, neither I nor Heisig ever said that you should stop at meaning. Clearly, anyone who studies kanji - you, me, even Heisig - understand that meaning is not enough alone. But what you seem to propose is tackling all the related info at once, while what Heisig proposes is breaking all the info apart into pieces, and studying it a piece at a time.

Whereas you may argue that your system immediately gives more practical, useable knowledge of each kanji studied, I think that Heisig's system is streamlined such that you can acquire knowledge of the kanji in a shorter period of time (my one caveat being that his second volume is not as helpful as his first).

Just to illustrate - during my first two years of Japanese study, I was learning kanji in a manner similar to yours. We were told to study the character's meaning, its on- and kun-readings, as well as several sample words (usually words we were already studying at the time, so the knowledge was immediately relevant). We were also expected to write the characters about fifty times or so, each.

After that first two years, my knowledge of kanji might have been in the range of a couple hundred.

During my third year, I came to do a study abroad in Japan, and in that time discovered Heisig. Using his book, I managed to cram the meanings of all the joyo kanji into my head in the span of about 8 months.

In other words, in eight months I was able to knock a tremendous amount of material off my list of "things to study." Was it the end of my kanji study? Of course not! Did I think I could read anything I saw based on reading alone? Don't be ridiculous! I knew that there were plenty of times when the meaning alone made no sense of what I was looking at. But that doesn't change the fact that Heisig's system helped me whiz through material that might otherwise have taken me a much longer time to acquire.

Which system to use is entirely dependant upon what your learning style is. But the point is that the more systematic it is, the more effective it will be. And that is the strength to Heisig's (first volume).
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RE: Studying The Kanji

Postby Mukade » Wed 10.26.2005 1:36 am

InsanityRanch wrote:
Just READ.

Don't tell youreself that you don't know enough kanji to read. Get started.


I agree. It also helps to try and write out an English translation of what you've read. It forces you to look more closely at what, exactly, the grammar is doing. I can say that (as far as written Japanese goes) nothing has helped me acquire more vocabulary and grammar knowledge than reading. Reading is also great exercise for kanji recognition. It doesn't help much with being able to write the kanji from memory, though.

How you do that really depends on your learning style. The aforementioned Heisig developed a system where you recall the character mnemonically. He does this by assigning a fixed meaning to each radical (even if he has to change the actual meaning of that radical - something purists often object to) that is ultimately connected to the character's overall meaning.

Kenneth Henshall's "A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters" gives mnemonics, as well. Unlike Heisig's system though, Henshall's is based on the character's actual etymology - by looking at the etymology, you can create a little story for each character that helps you remember them. A character's etymology can often be quite obscure, however (such as the "kan" from "kanji," ironically enough), and you are occasionally left with little more that a few scholarly guesses as to what the character actually meant, originally.

Something that never worked for me, but that several of my friends swear by, is continual writing and rewriting of the characters. Although this approach certainly helped 1) my penmanship and 2) making writing the kanji a little more automatic (adhere it to my "muscle memory," as it were), it didn't help me remember those difficult-to-recall characters.

Seeing, recognizing and being able to read the kanji is no small matter, but recalling them from memory and being able to write them properly is a far more difficult task. The Japanese themselves often struggle with this side of the equation, so don't feel bad if it feels a little overwhelming at first.
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RE: Studying The Kanji

Postby InsanityRanch » Wed 10.26.2005 6:29 pm

I'm with the crew who swear by writing them out. I also think if you're gonna memorize a meaning, you might as well also memorize the main kun-reading, which is the *Japanese* word for that meaning. (Hey, it's a vocabulary word, why not. And besides, now when I want to use the component search feature of my electronic kanji dictionary, I gotta know the Japanese name of the component kanji.)

Personally, I started learning kanji from day one. (I already knew hiragana from having done a little word processing for a Japanese immersion preschool down the street. No knowledge of Japanese at the time, just the ability to figure out how to get Word for Windows to spit out kana for their classroom signs.) I started from approximately nothing, learned the first and second grade kanji, bought a sentence pattern book and began trying to read. In the first year I learned (by writing while saying the kun reading) 1200 kanji.

I had to drop the rapid kanji study at that point in order to practice speaking. (I managed to find a conversation partner!) But I never quit reading.

In my experience, it took about 300 pages to get the point where I was no longer decoding but actually reading. Not that I still don't have to look up words. But I can guess from context at least half the time. And I have an increasing sense of catching the cues -- the direction in which the author is hinting that the text (the sentence, the paragraph, the chapter, whatever) is going to go. THAT business of picking up cues is what I mean by reading rather than decoding.

I actually distinctly remember noticing the same thing about reading in English... one day in fourth grade, as I recall. I put down a short story called "The Gold Bug" by Poe and realized I'd been inside the story instead of outside trying to make sense of it.

It's very satisfying now to read in Japanese...
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