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Which method for Kanji

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

Re: Which method for Kanji

Postby furrykef » Fri 10.31.2008 7:32 pm

AJBryant wrote:(That, and the fact that things were so ambivalent -- do we learn and use traditional or simplified script? -- that I spent so much time agonizing over that that I never really internalized *anything*.)


This is the problem I'm having with Japanese right now: constantly faced with "What approach should I take?" and finding that I spend a lot more time vacillating than actually doing anything. At least with languages like Spanish and Italian, it's easy enough to just get out there and do it.

I guess Japanese is only hard if you make it hard (don't get me wrong, I'm well aware it's never a piece of cake), but it's not so easy to make it easy, either...

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Re: Which method for Kanji

Postby arbalest71 » Fri 10.31.2008 9:20 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:The program I'm learning Chinese from does not start characters until about week 7 of the first quarter and we're still using pinyin in the speaking portion of the course now (in second year).


Well, 7 weeks isn't that long. At that point you're still learning the basic words for life- eat, sleep, drink, welcome, thanks, etc. And pronunciation which is in my experience the hardest thing about Chinese for Westerners. It's not easy in Japanese, but if you have a funny accent in Japanese you'll still probably be pretty comprehensible. I've met people who had studied a couple of years of Chinese who really had a hard time being understood by Chinese people, so if holding off on kanji for 7 weeks helps with that, it doesn't seem to me that it would be bad thing. If I were in that program I think I would study characters on my own art least a bit though- at 20 characters a week you'd have 140 in 7 weeks, and you can learn to write 20 characters a week in 10-15 minutes a day. Unless you really have very little time I don't see the harm in that (as long as you're careful to get stroke order, etc., right)- but I can understand not wanting to use class time on it.

In fact I wish I had done a lot more "shadowing" at the beginning in Chinese when I studied it, and I'm making an effort to do more of it in Japanese. I find it pretty boring though, and I don't tolerate boredom well.

But I do think that there's a point where it can be really helpful to start reading, and that a lot of Japanese students aren't able to read characters when they get to that point, and are too intimidated to just jump in and learn to read them on the fly. I'd say that if you can't read a reasonable amount by the time you can understand most day to day conversation you have a bit of a problem- but unless you're like that guy got brain damage and as a result never forgets anything, that's going to take a lot longer than 7 weeks.

Yudan Taiteki wrote:Not when the best learning resources are still paper textbooks.


Ah, well I meant paper that you get blank and _use_. I have a lot of books about Japanese (and Japan), and written in Japanese- well over 100 pounds worth, I think. What I'm really getting at though is that computers can be really useful in learning a language, and I think it's wise to make the best use of them you can. I actually think it would be really nice if textbooks came with a CD that had the electronic text for the book on it. I've been moving pretty big chunks of text from some reference books into my computer by hand, and while typing it out has some value, I think it's not enough to justify the time spent on it compared to just copying and pasting.

In particular I think Heisig's method could be greatly improved if it used the system I suggested, where you could just ask a program to "target" a particular character you wanted to learn, and it would introduce the correct intermediate characters for you, and handle reviewing them like an SRS.That would let you use Heisig as just a tool for remembering how to write characters while studying in a more traditional way.
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Re: Which method for Kanji

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Fri 10.31.2008 10:23 pm

arbalest71 wrote:
Yudan Taiteki wrote:The program I'm learning Chinese from does not start characters until about week 7 of the first quarter and we're still using pinyin in the speaking portion of the course now (in second year).


Well, 7 weeks isn't that long. At that point you're still learning the basic words for life- eat, sleep, drink, welcome, thanks, etc. And pronunciation which is in my experience the hardest thing about Chinese for Westerners.


Yeah. I think a big advantage of pinyin in the beginning is that it shows the tone marks, which really aids in memorizing the tones (of course in addition to listening and repeating after audio).

Unless you really have very little time I don't see the harm in that (as long as you're careful to get stroke order, etc., right)- but I can understand not wanting to use class time on it.


The book includes every vocabulary item in characters in the glossary so anyone who wants to can study the characters in addition to the rest of class work if they find that they have enough time (most people don't, though).
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Re: Which method for Kanji

Postby arbalest71 » Sat 11.01.2008 8:05 am

Yudan Taiteki wrote:Yeah. I think a big advantage of pinyin in the beginning is that it shows the tone marks, which really aids in memorizing the tones (of course in addition to listening and repeating after audio).


Yeah, I do have to admit that I think that the audio component does seem more important to me at the beginning. One thing I've been doing that I think really helps is to listen to very short snippets and then back up and say them along with the speaker, rather than repeating after them. I have better auditory recall than is the norm, I think (I would hope so, as I've done a lot of ear-training) but I find that I'm still not able to really accurately compare how I sound to how what I just heard sounds if I repeat. But if I say it along with the speaker, I can really hear the differences. I can profitably spend an hour on a few minutes of audio, but... as I said, I find it pretty tedious. I've also come to think that it's important to do this with a speaker of your gender or, more importantly, to avoid doing it with a speaker of the opposite gender.

I think this kind of thing is particularly important for Chinese as speakers of non-tonal languages are likely missing some basic wiring that Mandarin speakers naturally have. I read some interesting research recently- it seems that a really high percentage of native Mandarin speakers entering good conservatories have "perfect" pitch (which is kind of vague, but I think in this case they defined it as accuracy to within a semi-tone.) Something like 10 times as many as comparable music students who spoke English natively.

As for the Pinyin- the compromise that was used by the texts I used in school was to start with parallel characters and Pinyin, then switch to tone markers over the characters, and finally do away with them entirely. I don't have a strong opinion about this either way though.

Yudan Taiteki wrote:The book includes every vocabulary item in characters in the glossary so anyone who wants to can study the characters in addition to the rest of class work if they find that they have enough time (most people don't, though).


The reason I would do it has to do with marginal benefits based on time spent studying. I find that I have diminishing returns when it comes to studying any one thing at a time. The first 10 or 15 minutes gives a better return than the second, and it's not usually impossible to find an extra 10-15 minutes in your day even if you're pretty busy. I kind of suspect that you'll have better long-term recall of characters you learn while you're only learning a 3 a day, so I would want to do so while I had the luxury of doing so.
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