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Heisig, RTK Experiment

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Heisig, RTK Experiment

Postby Dustin » Tue 11.11.2008 6:31 pm

Well as many of us know on these boards, there are many people that love the Heisig method, and many that hate it, not a lot of middle ground it seems.

I have gone through some old threads using the search feature, but it's tough to tell from them whether this method works for me.

I have decided to start out with section one, which is available as a sample of the book online, while I wait for my order to come in for the book itself. Worst case scenario I waste some some, and a few dollars, but I've wasted far worse in my lifetime so that's ok. Best case scenario I am able to properly recall Kanji, and be able to reproduce it easily based on the primitive elements of the Kanji and stories that go along with them.

I have always been a fan of mnemonics and these have helped me learn material in the past, first to get it to stick, until it was really stuck in there.

I will try to keep track of my progress in here, along with any notes of what I think of the system as I go, and anyone that has input on their thoughts of the system, or others that are currently using, or did use it to put their input in as well.

If the method works then it will have one more fan, if it does not, I will be a little disappointed, but I know that is a possibility in any experiment.
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Re: Heisig, RTK Experiment

Postby Infidel » Tue 11.11.2008 7:07 pm

If you want to experiment with it, that's good. But you should establish your baseline. How many kanji do you know already. How long have you been studying already. Approximately how large is your vocabulary now?

I think the main problem with RTK isn't that it doesn't work, but rather that the results are misrepresented. RTK teaches a student to recognize and differentiate kanji, an important part of the learning process. But people go about claiming they "know" kanji that they really only can recognize. Which i think is the real reason RTK gets so much flak.

I'm no different than anyone else, I will be better able to learn a kanji reading for a kanji I recognize already than one that is completely new to me. But the natural learning process is usually:
Student sees a kanji enough times that it is recognized. Student wonders what the heck it means. Student guesses what it means. Student looks it up or asks someone to verify.
The artificial learning process is.
Student sees new vocabulary list. Student attempts to memorize vocabulary list.

The natural process has the advantage of being much easier to learn things. But it has the disadvantage of requiring the most time, especially at the front end. Artificial learning attempts to reduce the time requirement but forces the brain to work primarily as data storage rather than pattern recognition.

RTK seems designed for students emphasizing natural learning by combining step one for all the kanji into a one time shot. In a way, we could probably say that it artificially attempts to enhance the natural learning process rather than actually teaching. Doing it this way should theoretically take less time done all-at-once than in bits and pieces as you go along.

Unfortunately, I think the only real way to test if the all-in-front approach is best would be to test four groups of students separately and concurrently. One using traditional methods. Another using an immersion approach, another using RTK then immersion, and another using RTK then traditional methods.
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Re: Heisig, RTK Experiment

Postby Dustin » Wed 11.12.2008 3:54 am

Day 1 is finished and I am pleased with my results so far.
I have reached 126 Kanji ( End of lesson 7 ) and can write them all from memory from the keyword.

Some of these were kanji that I already knew, or at least had seen before so I recognized them, but a good portion were new to me, and many i did recognize I may not have been able to reproduce.

Infidel wrote:If you want to experiment with it, that's good. But you should establish your baseline. How many kanji do you know already. How long have you been studying already. Approximately how large is your vocabulary now?


I attempted studying a few years back, but being too busy to really put the time into it, plus doing the whole, get married, have kids, I lost my free time for language study.
Granted, I did not get extremely far, I was able to quickly pick the basics back up.

As far as Kanji That I already know goes, I did not know many at all before this, I could tell you the english equivalent of all the JLPT 4 Kanji and about 1/3 of the JLPT 3 Kanji, but in actual use only a couple dozen.
I am quite young in my Kanji learning career.
Vocab probably isn't much better.

Infidel wrote:I think the main problem with RTK isn't that it doesn't work, but rather that the results are misrepresented. RTK teaches a student to recognize and differentiate kanji, an important part of the learning process. But people go about claiming they "know" kanji that they really only can recognize. Which i think is the real reason RTK gets so much flak.

Of course I know that I won't "know" the Kanji unless I am able to use it in my Japanese writing, but being able to recall how it looks and reproduce it is the BIGGEST obstacle for me, attaching vocab is easy with a bit of drilling, reading and writing practice.

So far this seems like a great tool as far as remembering how to WRITE the characters is concerned. The meanings of course, many so far are accurate but I have also heard that some keywords have nothing to do with an actual meaning, or some of the meanings are somewhat rare compared to many other meanings a Kanji can have. I forgive this simply for the sake of remembering how to visualize and write the Kanji goes. As I said before, attaching meanings and readings comes later.

I am also tracking my progress and using an online flashcard tool on a site that labels itself as Reviewing the Kanji, a play on the name of the book. I primarily use my paper flashcards at the moment, but will track myself on this site to see what it has to offer.

I also have found some background images for my computer each featuring about 130 of the Kanji in order with the frame number, if anyone is interested I will send a link.
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Re: Heisig, RTK Experiment

Postby Sairana » Wed 11.12.2008 6:52 am

Dustin_Calgary wrote:Of course I know that I won't "know" the Kanji unless I am able to use it in my Japanese writing, but being able to recall how it looks and reproduce it is the BIGGEST obstacle for me, attaching vocab is easy with a bit of drilling, reading and writing practice.


In all fairness, Infidel wasn't implying that -you- think that way. RTK gets a poor reaction from people (including me) because MOST people who use it are inflated with the idea that they "Know" nearly 2000 kanji. It's a serious DOH or /facepalm moment, because you just KNOW that 90% of these "kanji prodigies" think that the hardest part is behind them. Are there some people with a more realistic view? Sure, but they're in the minority.

People refer me to the "reviewing the kanji" forum all the time to see all the people who are having success with RTK. Most of the time what I see there are people who have hit around the 500 kanji mark, look at native text, recognize some of the kanji that they "know" and are pretty sure that by the time they finish the book, they will be reading Japanese like a pro.

Just to reiterate, not that we think you're of that mentality, but just explaining the viewpoint from a "to recommend RTK to a newbie or not" perspective.
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Re: Heisig, RTK Experiment

Postby furrykef » Wed 11.12.2008 12:11 pm

Sairana wrote:RTK gets a poor reaction from people (including me) because MOST people who use it are inflated with the idea that they "Know" nearly 2000 kanji. It's a serious DOH or /facepalm moment, because you just KNOW that 90% of these "kanji prodigies" think that the hardest part is behind them.


I almost agree with you here: obviously, finishing RTK1 won't make reading Japanese a snap. (I should know, I've done it. :P) But I do think once you hit that point, the hardest part is behind you. Not in the sense that you're almost to the end of studying kanji, but in the sense that kanji no longer becomes a severe struggle. The "fish out of water" feeling goes away, and that is worth a lot.

I can only speculate, but I suspect you also avoid or at least significantly reduce the typical barriers when learning kanji where you hit 500 or 1000 or whatever (in the sense of using characters in context, not in isolation) and can't seem to make any further progress. You should be able to just keep on going. The real value of RTK1, other than being able to write kanji, is to create a sort of 'index' of kanji in your mind, and I suspect having such an index reduces that particular problem.

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Re: Heisig, RTK Experiment

Postby Dustin » Wed 11.12.2008 12:19 pm

Sairana wrote:
Dustin_Calgary wrote:Of course I know that I won't "know" the Kanji unless I am able to use it in my Japanese writing, but being able to recall how it looks and reproduce it is the BIGGEST obstacle for me, attaching vocab is easy with a bit of drilling, reading and writing practice.


In all fairness, Infidel wasn't implying that -you- think that way. RTK gets a poor reaction from people (including me) because MOST people who use it are inflated with the idea that they "Know" nearly 2000 kanji. It's a serious DOH or /facepalm moment, because you just KNOW that 90% of these "kanji prodigies" think that the hardest part is behind them. Are there some people with a more realistic view? Sure, but they're in the minority.

People refer me to the "reviewing the kanji" forum all the time to see all the people who are having success with RTK. Most of the time what I see there are people who have hit around the 500 kanji mark, look at native text, recognize some of the kanji that they "know" and are pretty sure that by the time they finish the book, they will be reading Japanese like a pro.

Just to reiterate, not that we think you're of that mentality, but just explaining the viewpoint from a "to recommend RTK to a newbie or not" perspective.


Oh, I absolutely understand. I know it is a very common misunderstanding, and I just wanted to make sure that everyone that was keeping up with this knew that I understand completely. So far I think that RTK can be a great tool, but just as it was said, and it says inside the book, that you are still completely illiterate, and don't "know" any Kanji yet.

I have agreed with many of the doubts about the book, but I also cannot argue with "some" of the results I have seen. This is why I decided to pursue this project/experiment. For the time being I am trying to be as objective as possible while giving the book a real shot, and see where it takes me. My guide from Henshall, may come in handy working alongside this book too it seems.

I am happy for any input, and think that RTK to a total "newbie" may be a little too early to start unless they really do understand what the book does have to offer, no less, no more.

Hope that clears things up a bit.

*edited for spelling typo
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Re: Heisig, RTK Experiment

Postby nukemarine » Wed 11.12.2008 12:39 pm

You may want to look into a Anki file that has a list of Japanese keywords. There's no rule saying you have to use the Heisig keywords, it's just useful if you know little to nothing about Japanese to learn kanji in your native language.

If you can't visualize a story for a difficult kanji, then use the English keyword. Since it's about being able to write out a kanji correctly (stroke order, direction) given a word that represents the concept, no reason Japanese can't be used for that concept. Granted, due to the large number of words that sound alike, the Anki file mentioned above has a sample sentence for the Japanese keyword to remove ambiguity.

To tack on what Furry says, yeah, RTK removed a big barrier in my opinion. That movie method looks to remove another (the onyomi pronunciation for kanji). You're not learning Japanese when you learned to recognize and write those kanji, but it makes learning Japanese vocabulary easier. Same with the kanji's onyomi is not learning Japanese, but it makes learning vocabulary go SO MUCH smoother. Hell, it's like learning grammar rules. You don't know Japanese with the rules, but it makes learning Japanese much easier in context. So yeah, kanji, onyomi and grammar are structured approaches removing barriers to Japanese.
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Re: Heisig, RTK Experiment

Postby Dustin » Thu 11.13.2008 5:35 am

Today I did not have as much time to invest in my project, but I added 68 and I am now up to 194 Kanji that I can write out from memory using the Heisig keywords. *edited the numbers, I couldn't sleep so i stayed up longer

This seems like a quick running start in the system, but the beginning is always the easiest, coming across some kanji I already know, and they are the simplest and everything is laid out in the book. As the book progresses the Kanji get more complex, and you have to come up with your own stories rather than relying on the book, which helps to carry the system to kanji you find outside of the book as well.

I am using the flashcard program on the "reviewing the kanji" site which seems to work well so far, but I am hearing about Anki and Mnemosyne from a few friends as superior programs, but I am still making the good old fashioned paper flashcards too :D, even though I have the entire WRP Kanji flashcard set.

The real struggle is going to be retaining the information, likely through spaced repetition flashcard stuff, which gets pretty tedious once there are many kanji to review. This will add to the process much more than any element, but I feel it is absolutely necessary in order to keep them in memory for the long haul.

Until next time..

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Re: Heisig, RTK Experiment

Postby furrykef » Thu 11.13.2008 11:27 am

Dustin_Calgary wrote:I am using the flashcard program on the "reviewing the kanji" site which seems to work well so far, but I am hearing about Anki and Mnemosyne from a few friends as superior programs


Reviewing the Kanji was actually what allowed me to finish Heisig. I was using SuperMemo (Note: do not ever use SuperMemo; its user interface is horrible and it costs money to boot) and had gotten past the 1800 mark -- 1827, if I recall correctly -- when I decided to just give up. My motivation was just completely shot even though I had so little to go compared to what I'd already done. But a little while later I had a look at RTK and I found that they had a ton of kanji stories on the site, and I could always find one that fit the bill or could at least be adapted. I'd have completed RTK1 a lot sooner if I had been using that site from the beginning -- probably in half the time.

I suppose using other people's stories instead of my own doesn't prepare me as well for learning additional kanji, but I don't think it's too big a problem. For instance, I quickly learned 蜂 (in order to learn the word 蜂蜜) without trouble, though if you use the same primitives that Heisig does, it's admittedly a pretty easy kanji to make a story for -- something like "The insect that stings your walking legs as you walk through the bushes is a bee."

Dustin Calgary wrote:likely through spaced repetition flashcard stuff, which gets pretty tedious once there are many kanji to review.


SRS systems only get tedious if you add a bunch of stuff at once. Since there are 2042 cards to make for RTK1, though, it's understandable to want to get through the whole thing fast, so you'll be in for a bit of tedium. But when things calm down you'll often have to do only 25-50 reps a day. Currently I'm doing only about 25 reps a day even though I'd added a whopping 1827 cards on my first day at Reviewing the Kanji months ago. (Until things calmed down, though, I often had to do 200+ a day.)

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Re: Heisig, RTK Experiment

Postby Dustin » Thu 11.13.2008 12:52 pm

furrykef wrote:SRS systems only get tedious if you add a bunch of stuff at once. Since there are 2042 cards to make for RTK1, though, it's understandable to want to get through the whole thing fast, so you'll be in for a bit of tedium. But when things calm down you'll often have to do only 25-50 reps a day. Currently I'm doing only about 25 reps a day even though I'd added a whopping 1827 cards on my first day at Reviewing the Kanji months ago. (Until things calmed down, though, I often had to do 200+ a day.)
- Kef


Well I am glad things will calm down in the long haul, whenever I attack something like this, I tend to go full force at it even at risk of burnout. I am pretty sure I have undiagnosed adult attention deficit disorder so I need to really motivate myself and then attack full force to get the results I want, and posting somewhere like here keeps me honest too.

I'm glad the site worked well for you, especially with the stories other users use being available to see, not very useful for me yet of course since I am still in the first section which babies you through it all, but I am almost finished with that.

I hope to be done this section within a day or two, and get to section 2, where it starts to ween you off of it, and get that finished in only a few days as well.
I also have to admit with my paper flashcards I am reviewing more often than the website's SRS suggests right now, but with the number of new Kanji I am doing I think I need to, to retain all the info, over time I will move over more to the SRS and let it do it's thing for the Kanji that seems to be really locked in there.

I can't wait til I am done and then can tackle learning to READ with Kanji rather than just write and know a keyword :D

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Re: Heisig, RTK Experiment

Postby Dustin » Fri 11.14.2008 2:47 am

In my time zone it is quarter to 12, and I just hit my first Heisig milestone, the 276 Kanji mark.
This signifies the end of section #1 which does most of the "storytelling" for you.

Section 2, gives you what they call plots, as well as the keywork, making you finish off the story to make it fot for you. This brings you to 508
Section 3 gives you the keyword and just a little hint for possible stories, and by this point you are expected to be able to figure them out yourself. By the end you are at 2042, big number

All in all I am making decent progress quickly, not bad for 3 days in my spare time.
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Re: Heisig, RTK Experiment

Postby furrykef » Fri 11.14.2008 3:07 am

Dustin_Calgary wrote:Section 2, gives you what they call plots, as well as the keywork, making you finish off the story to make it fot for you. This brings you to 508


I found that the plots worked just fine without modification. I found the full stories in section 1 to be overblown.
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Re: Heisig, RTK Experiment

Postby Dustin » Fri 11.14.2008 4:00 am

furrykef wrote:I found that the plots worked just fine without modification. I found the full stories in section 1 to be overblown.


I just completed the first lesson in "Plots" and have to say I agree with you here so far.
The plots are just enough that I think about it and it makes sense, if I am adding to the story it's minor details that I do not think about and would only be visual anyways.

The full blown stories, some of them had detail in it that I did not care about and pretty well skiped over or had slightly altered to fit my own imagination.

My only complaint right now is the words I never use, some of which I never even heard of being used as keywords!

299 an haven't slowed down yet, though I am being warned that the spaced Repetition will really fall on me for starting too quickly, but that's ok with me :D just a little more time spent now to learn them quickly.
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Re: Heisig, RTK Experiment

Postby nukemarine » Fri 11.14.2008 11:19 am

Well, a few of his full stories seem odd at times. "Badge" which he used "Stand" and "Early" could have been "Sound" and "Needle". Some of his stories also are religious in nature, which can be harder to visualize.

Here's where a little failing on Heisig's part shows through (in my opinion). The keyword concept works as it allows the use of flashcards (and the gift of gods that we call the SRS), but Heisig fails in giving the true flavor of each kanji. Sometimes, using his book alone, you're left with only a ambiguous (in English) keyword to know what that kanji means.

Anyway, if you're using FireFox, there's some GreaseMonkey scripts available via the koohii forums. One that's pretty useful allows you to modify the Keyword displayed during the reviews. So you can change words like "Oneself" to "Oneself (not 己、僕、私、俺)" or "Unusual" to "Unusual (but usually means Change)". Hell, you can even change them to Japanese keywords such as "Car" to "くるま".

As always, it's about remembering how to write and recognize Kanji. It's not about being a thesaurus of various English keywords.
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Re: Heisig, RTK Experiment

Postby Dustin » Tue 11.18.2008 6:31 am

A few of these stories make little to no sense and require a LOT of imagination to picture.

I still dislike coming across English keywords that I have TO LOOK UP.

That being said, I now have about 439 Kanji into my SRS Flashcard program, and since I am going at such a quick pace, my initial reviews are less than "ideal" as far as % remembered goes. However, after I have seen it once or twice and reviewed it, it IS starting to stick fairly well, 435 Kanji within a week is nothing to cough at, that is almost 1/4 of the joyou list!!

I also took a 2 day break before tonight from adding flashcards since my reviews were so high from my first couple of days putting so many in!!!!

All in all, sure I can bicker about some points of it, but the system is working for it's intended purpose, to remember a meaning ( most of the time, and only 1 ) of the Kanji and how to WRITE it :D

Next stop 508 Kanji, will ne nice to break the 500 mark ^^
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