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Success with Heisig?

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Success with Heisig?

Postby Cyborg Ninja » Fri 07.09.2010 11:24 pm

I'd like to know how successful you have been with Heisig's kanji learning method. I'm particularly interested in hearing from those who are at least at an intermediate level of Japanese and have studied for several years. I've heard many glowing reviews from people who have only studied for a short time, and I think it's too difficult to really gauge the usefulness of the method on that.
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Re: Success with Heisig?

Postby AJBryant » Fri 07.09.2010 11:46 pm

Cyborg Ninja wrote:I'd like to know how successful you have been with Heisig's kanji learning method. I'm particularly interested in hearing from those who are at least at an intermediate level of Japanese and have studied for several years. I've heard many glowing reviews from people who have only studied for a short time, and I think it's too difficult to really gauge the usefulness of the method on that.


Heisig is a very divisive subject. Some love him. Some hate him.

I abhor, loathe, detest and abominate him and his process. I think it's snake oil in a paperback binding.
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Re: Success with Heisig?

Postby leonl » Sat 07.10.2010 12:40 am

Cyborg Ninja wrote:I'd like to know how successful you have been with Heisig's kanji learning method. I'm particularly interested in hearing from those who are at least at an intermediate level of Japanese and have studied for several years. I've heard many glowing reviews from people who have only studied for a short time, and I think it's too difficult to really gauge the usefulness of the method on that.

What would be success to you? In theory completing book 1 would be success, but you still can't read actual Japanese, unless you've studied Japanese before. What I'm trying to say success is in this case is highly subjective. You're likely to get few if any straight answers, instead lots of people will tell you how they believe they will be one day successful with it, quote the number of kanji they know, attack you for asking the question, or in a very rare case actually give you an answer.
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Re: Success with Heisig?

Postby Cyborg Ninja » Sat 07.10.2010 2:52 pm

That's why I'm specifically asking for those who are at an intermediate level with their Japanese and have studied for at least a couple of years, Leon. I'd define intermediate around a JLPT 3 level.
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Re: Success with Heisig?

Postby furrykef » Sat 07.10.2010 3:32 pm

I'm qualified. :) I found Heisig very helpful. My Japanese is still inadequate to use native materials comfortably, but this is gradually improving. I do think I would be able to pass JLPT3, but not 2. (I'm using the old scale here. I don't know if I could pass N3 on the new scale.)

AJBryant wrote:I abhor, loathe, detest and abominate him and his process. I think it's snake oil in a paperback binding.

Hey, if snake oil helps, even as a placebo, I'll take some. :mrgreen: I seriously doubt I'd ever have found the courage and drive to keep going if it weren't for Heisig. I think it's easy not to appreciate Heisig if you didn't "need" it, but I did.

Besides, I loathe your method of learning Japanese as much as you loathe mine. :P
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Re: Success with Heisig?

Postby phreadom » Sat 07.10.2010 5:31 pm

What is Tony's method? :think:
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Re: Success with Heisig?

Postby furrykef » Sat 07.10.2010 6:46 pm

The "learn kanji from context" method. I'll let him elaborate on it if he wants.
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Re: Success with Heisig?

Postby hyperconjugated » Sat 07.10.2010 7:20 pm

Ahh, the goold old Heisig vs the world battle getting ready to unleash once again,
Déjà vu moment ;D

traditionalists vs. progressives
loyalists vs. monarchists
good vs. evil
defeat vs. victory
butter vs. i can't believe it's not butter

Too bad TJP forums have been quite silent lately, wonder if there's gonna be much debate over this.
Where is Mike Cash and those witty retorts. Yudan has moved to the dark side (Heisig forums) :D Just kidding Chris, great comments, i've read most of them u know your stuff!
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Re: Success with Heisig?

Postby AJBryant » Sat 07.10.2010 10:02 pm

furrykef wrote:The "learn kanji from context" method. I'll let him elaborate on it if he wants.


LOL!

That's basically it.

The thing is, people keep saying "learn kanji" as if it's somehow separate and distinct from the process of "learning Japanese." It's not. When you learn a word, learn how to spell it right -- that means, learn the KANJI. Eventually, you'll find that you know a buttload of them, and can start figuring out new compounds when you see them.

But the thing is, don't learn "kanji." Learn "words."


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Re: Success with Heisig?

Postby leonl » Sat 07.10.2010 10:55 pm

Perhaps I should have elaborated more. People who are successful with heisig are usually only successful because they come from traditional methods which they seem to detest soo much. I believe most people who have heisig as their intro to Japanese quickly give up, usually due to the fact that people tell them to do ajatt with them and that usually leads to disaster, but back on topic. Like I said success will be hard to come by, because most people wont have had heisig as thier foundation so any success they have can't be truly attributed to just heisig.

Take me for example I'm currently working my way through an N3 grammar book. The only reason I can do this is because I've just come off of two years of college Japanese so I have a foundation in the language. If I had tried to start from scratch with a beginners book I would be totally lost. People IMHO really take for granted how well the traditional methods work, especially having teachers who will beat the basics into you day after day until you have them down.
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Re: Success with Heisig?

Postby furrykef » Sun 07.11.2010 1:15 am

AJBryant wrote:The thing is, people keep saying "learn kanji" as if it's somehow separate and distinct from the process of "learning Japanese." It's not. When you learn a word, learn how to spell it right -- that means, learn the KANJI. Eventually, you'll find that you know a buttload of them, and can start figuring out new compounds when you see them.

But the thing is, don't learn "kanji." Learn "words."


The problem I have with this -- and I realize that this is getting on the brink of a typical Heisig holy war, if not diving headfirst into one -- is that learning a new word together with a new kanji is too much information to digest. Take a kanji like 感. I remember the very first time I saw that kanji years ago, before I'd done Heisig. Y'know why I remember it? Because it was a big fat pile of illogical scribbles! I was studying kanji in isolation without Heisig, which was indeed a mistake, but there's nothing that context could provide that would make it easier to remember, or distinguishable from other, similar kanji.

New information is easier to digest when it's in bite-sized chunks. There is research to support this, for example, the research that went into SuperMemo. (I hate the program SuperMemo itself, but I think the principles it's based on are sound; I use Anki religiously and it's a spiritual successor to SuperMemo.) Now, I don't know if the SuperMemo research is peer-reviewed or anything, so I'm not going to treat it as Word of God, but it's better than no research at all and it does seem to make sense. By contrast, I've yet to hear of any research that would suggest that learning kanji together with words is superior. Can you name any? (Maybe Yudan can, if there is any; he seems to be the guy around here who's the most keen on linguistic research...)

"Learning kanji from context" violates the bite-sized chunks principle in just about every way. Learning how to write a kanji along with how to read the word it represents violates the principle already. This is especially bad if the word is a big one like 郵便局 and you don't know any of the constituent kanji. ゆうびんきょく is hard enough to memorize; now you want the poor student to remember a bunch of squiggles to go with it? It's a lot easier to digest when you already know how to write all three kanji and the problem just becomes one of which three kanji to write.

The next problem is the decomposition of the individual kanji. Heisig breaks the kanji down into simple parts and it makes sure to give you the simple parts before constructing monsters like 感 out of them. Learning the kanji from context doesn't facilitate this very well, because very common words will tend to come up before uncommon words with simpler kanji. I had this happening time and time again when I first studied kanji; again, this would still have been the case if I studied kanji "in context". It's also not always clear how to break up a kanji into constituent parts because, when you're a beginner, you're not necessarily clear on what the constituent parts actually are. When you are already familiar with the constituent parts, it's simpler, just as it's easier to understand how a machine works when you already understand gears and whatever else it's made of.

Finally, I will provide a page from my own experience. I have completed volume 1 of Remembering the Kanji but have not tried volume 2 or any comparable method. Despite having completed RTK1 back in the middle of 2008 -- two years ago! -- and studying just "Japanese" since then, I have trouble memorizing new words. Not how to write them in kanji, which presents relatively few difficulties, just the words. This is despite learning complete sentences -- surely that is "in context" enough -- rather than individual words in isolation. (I've tried individual words in isolation, too. It's just as bad.) I've long held the feeling -- and I may soon act on it -- that if I had a better grasp of the onyomi of kanji, I would at least learn new onyomi words much more easily. It's all about bite-sized chunks.

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Re: Success with Heisig?

Postby yukamina » Sat 07.17.2010 1:13 pm

I can only speak for my personal experience, so...
I consider myself upper intermediate and I think Heisig's method helped me a lot. I find there is a "kanji barrier" that makes it hard to get farther than JLPT3, and that Heisig's method is good for getting past this barrier. I don't study for JLPT, but I can pass at least level 2 and can read about 1600 kanji. I used to be able to read more kanji, but I've forgotten the ones that I don't use (kanji that don't really show up in fiction). I can read light novels for leisure without having to look up words.
I don't think I used any textbook like materials other than grammar guides since JLPT3 level, just self study and reading/listening.

furrykef wrote: I've long held the feeling -- and I may soon act on it -- that if I had a better grasp of the onyomi of kanji, I would at least learn new onyomi words much more easily. It's all about bite-sized chunks.

This is where RTK2 helped me. It involves learning words in isolation, but I can stand doing that for while before I burn out(I didn't even use the whole book). I had a lot of trouble remembering jukugo readings before RTK2 broke them up into phonetic groups.
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Re: Success with Heisig?

Postby Riza » Tue 07.20.2010 3:44 am

Before doing RTK I would memorize a word in one day, and after 2 or 3 days I would have forgotten the kanji. I was getting more and more frustrated with this and decided to spend my summer (past summer) studying RTK. And I'm so glad I did it. It's so much easier to memorize the kanji in the words. Sometimes when I forget the sound I remember the kanji (that happened a few times on tests I had).

Now I'm studying the rest. I'm on Minna no nihongo's lesson 30 and on genki's lesson 15. Intend to finish both books by Spetember at one lesson per day. I study the vocabulary of each lesson first (but don't memorize it all) and then make sentences with grammar I know and that vocabulary, that way I'm reviewing everything.
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Re: Success with Heisig?

Postby nukemarine » Mon 07.26.2010 11:15 am

This is probably a question better asked on the RevTK forums as many there have finished book 1 and have continued to study Japanese.

Basic answer: RTK the book is not that great. You're limited to stories he creates (when he creates them), his order, his meanings and his number of kanji (2042). For two decades a small group finished that back, but it took a lot of effort. Personally, using paper flashcards and his book I got up to about 400 or 500 kanji meanings and writing. Yeah, there's that rush at the first 100 or so (especially for me as I lived in Japan and benefited immediately), but it's an enormous amount of effort to just use the book.

Thing is, with a useful website (RevTK), shared stories, modified lists (RTK Lite and RTK Ultralite), modified methods (movie method), SRS tools, stroke order fonts, more elaborate meanings, etc, etc, you find that the Heisig method is useful to a much larger audience. With that site and the tools you find on there I was able to finish RTK and go on to learning Japanese to a decent level. You got enough advise and material available to take you from beginner on up to advanced and beyond. That's there whether you do RTK or not.

Be wary of anyone that offers extreme opinions on this matter. I might find college classes a waste of time and money due to gambling on whether you get a good teacher that knows what they're doing. However, I'm also aware some just do not do self studying at a degree to be useful for learning hence a class or a tutor would be great for them. I would not refer to college teachers as snake oil salesmen looking to justify their paycheck without giving actual results. There are some good teachers out there, some good textbooks, and some good students that'll benefit from it. I just took another route and espouse that as a reasonable option.
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Re: Success with Heisig?

Postby leosmith » Sun 08.01.2010 12:38 pm

Let me just summarize the age old debate for the young learners.

You can divide Japanese learners into 2 groups if you want: heisig users and non-users. Both have to perform much of the same type of studying, which I'll call traditional methods for brevity, to become fluent. In other words:
users use traditional methods + heisig
non-users use traditional methods

Educated users use heisig because either
1) they believe it will make their other studies so much easier that they will actually become fluent faster than non-users, or
2) they can't learn kanji by using traditional methods alone

Uneducated users use heisig for many reasons, and sometimes make statements that annoy non-users. For example "I learned 100 kanji today" "nobody ever learned anything from a teacher or in a classroom" "textbooks are for losers" "it's impossible to learn Japanese without using Heisig" etc.

Educated non-users who oppose heisig don't use it because they believe the additional work required to do heisig will cause them to spend more time to become fluent.

Uneducated non-users oppose heisig for many reasons, and sometimes make statements that annoy users. For example "learn words, not kanji" "heisig doesn't work" "you won't be fluent after finishing heisig" "using heisig will make you quit" "using heisig will mess up your memory and keep you from learning japanese" "I understand how it works, I just disagree with you"
AJBryant wrote:I abhor, loathe, detest and abominate him and his process. I think it's snake oil in a paperback binding.
etc.

Please don't find yourselves in either of the uneducated groups; it hurts the eyes.

Now to answer the OPs question. I finished RTK1 in 2005. Because of time constraints, I haven't been able to put enough time into Japanese to become fluent, but I suppose I'm somewhere between the old JLPT2 and JLPT3. I was unable to get traditional methods to work for me without using RTK, so it has helped tremendously.
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