Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101.com

View topic - Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Best way to learn kanji for beginners

The test - experiences, questions or comments

Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby James_dean » Fri 05.05.2006 9:52 am

I have been learning japanese for 3 and half years now in Japan. You can learn kanji but you can forget them, get them mixed up with each other, even kanji which look even slightly similar you get mixed up in. Chinese learn japanese faster than us because they have a strong base from which to learn from "Kanji". I recommend a series of books called "Remembering the kanji". The first book makes you learn the english meaning for about 2000 characters. The way to learn is attaching a story to each kanji so you can draw it. You learn the story not the kanji stroke order or whatever. The second book then lets you learn the readings for the kanji you learned. I wish someone would have told me about that book when i started learning japanese.......it really is ingenious especially if you are starting to learn.........but be prepared.....the book gives you a story for the first 275 kanji which you can learn in a weekend(i am not joking or being unrealistic)....after that he gives you plots for the stories up till about 500 mark and then just words and u make up your own story after that.....thats the difficult part....can be tough to relate a story to the kanji....but i have not seen a better way to this day of learning kanji.......there is a sample of the book online in pdf format....the pdf sample is at the bottom of this website......just click on downloadhttp://www.nanzan-u.ac.jp/SHUBUNKEN/publications/miscPublications/Remembering_the_Kanji_1.htm
James_dean
 
Posts: 64
Joined: Wed 04.19.2006 8:42 am

RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby hungryhotei » Fri 05.05.2006 5:43 pm

Are you being paid to advertise Heisig?

I think its important to learn Kanji in context, with at least one reading. Kanji normally used in compounds should be learned together with those words. whats the point in learning 電 if you can't read 電車, 電気 or 電池. If you don't even know the reading of 電 you can't even easily look it up. Even if you complete heisig 1, you may be able to recognise 2000 Kanji, but you would still be completely illiterate.
Last edited by hungryhotei on Fri 05.05.2006 5:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
hungryhotei
 
Posts: 1067
Joined: Wed 04.12.2006 5:06 am
Location: Germany
Native language: English

RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby kotori » Fri 05.05.2006 5:48 pm

I agree with hotei-san.

Heisig makes you feel like you're making fast progress ("Hey, I know 1000 kanji in 2 weeks!") But you still don't really know anything. Not to mention, you're trained to think of kanji as english equivalents, which means that instead of actually starting to think in japanese, you have doomed yourself to a frustrating career of constantly trying to translate japanese to english.

You might think that's a good thing, except that the ultimate goal is to not have to translate to understand, isn't it? Use Heisig's method, fine, for words that you're having problems remembering. But it shouldn't be your sole resource.
kotori
 
Posts: 158
Joined: Wed 04.05.2006 10:46 am

RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby Christian_ » Fri 05.05.2006 8:19 pm

I wouldn't want to bother learning all these Kanji and then not being able to use them, know their readings etc., That's why I don't like Heisig's method. However I do agree with Kotori saying it might be fine to use the method for a few words, although you would need to buy all the books. As far as adding on this thread, maybe a admin should move this thread to the "How do YOU study Kanji?" thread, it is very simmillar.
Goals:
1) Have decent proficiency in Japanese, enough to get around/talk/read/write.
2) Visit Japan for a week or so one summer.
Christian_
 
Posts: 399
Joined: Tue 06.21.2005 10:35 pm

RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby Machina Maw » Fri 05.05.2006 9:09 pm

Well, whatever floats your boat I guess. I personally wouldn't waste (in my opinion) my time learning only the English equivalent of 2000 kanji. You're not really learning Japanese that way, and only creating a shaky foundation on which to start. And once you start actually learning the kanji readings, you'll most likely forget them and just revert right back to the English meaning.

And, until you've learned all the readings for the kanji, you will probably read a sentence and think "Today wa, store ni went. Flower ya coffee ya book o bought." you really haven't learned a single speck of helpful Japanese and sure, you may be able to read but unless you know the Japanese words for Japanese kanji you won't be able to use those words in conversation.

I may or may not be right, but there's my opinion on the matter.
Machina Maw
 
Posts: 480
Joined: Sat 01.28.2006 9:39 pm

RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby James_dean » Fri 05.05.2006 10:47 pm

i have to make a comment. I recommend this as a base to start from. Dont do one book and just learn one english meaning to a kanji. The second book should be done also to make you learn the important readings for all the kanji. This of course will not make you literate after you have done the 2 books but it will help you pick up vocabulary and words quicker and easier than you would have before. But most of all it helps you write the kanji..if you can write kanji then reading them is much easier........the point is when you start learning kanji after that, instead of trying to remember a completely new and horrible looking kanji.you can say oh i remember that kanji it was the one i learned before.....therefore a hideous task has been made much easier. You will not know what 電気 is but you will know 電 and 気 and their corresponding readings....so learning that word becomes easier. Its not easy of course but my experience of learning kanji was one of frustration and constantly forgetting, not recognizing and getting kanji mixed up......even japanese people have the same problem...they need their keitai when writing any letters and can write only basic kanji. Finally i want to say that yes you need to learn kanji from context but it helps knowing something about the kanji before you begin doing that.........you might say thats alot of effort just to know something about the kanji but in this case i believe "The long way round is the short way home". I use a book called "Intermediate kanji" that makes you learn kanji in context and that is really helpful too. Its a combination of a few good methods that may make learning kanji a less dificult task than it is thought to be.....i do believe that this method is one of the "good" methods just like learning from context is a "good" method.
James_dean
 
Posts: 64
Joined: Wed 04.19.2006 8:42 am

RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby James_dean » Fri 05.05.2006 11:02 pm

I giess everybody has their own best way to learn kanji but i dont think this method should be ruled out thats all i am saying. Has anyone ever tried it here?.
James_dean
 
Posts: 64
Joined: Wed 04.19.2006 8:42 am

RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby irairashiteiru » Fri 05.05.2006 11:31 pm

Keep in mind what you want to do with Kanji.. do you want to master the language and take level one prof. test.. or do you just want to get by...

getting by is easy. but learn them in context

If you want to master the language it helps to learn what each of the fragments mean. many (not all) kanji derive from their original chinese meanings, ie they are essentially an abstract picture of something. learn the pieces of the picture and how they form to make meaning.. (btw this is how kanji dictionaries work)

Other kanji where taken from chinese to match the "sounds" of the Japanese language. You will see how Japanese can easily sound out a new character, even if it is the first time they have seen it... this is because many kanji with similar pieces (as above) form the same sound.. makes life easier..
irairashiteiru
 
Posts: 23
Joined: Fri 05.05.2006 9:27 pm

RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby Qbe » Sat 05.06.2006 5:45 pm

In two years of learning Japanese, I've noticed that almost everyone who pooh-poohs the Heisig method doesn't really understand the method or what/why/how it attempts to do what it does. And in the spirit of offending everyone, I've also noticed that those who love the Heisig method frequently promote it with an almost religious fervor. This manages to alienate further those who don't understand or believe the claims it makes. I'd like to clear up a few inaccuracies I've seen in the posts here.

First, I'm a Heisig follower. I got the first volume late in 2004 and am on my third attempt at completing it; the first attempt was sabotaged by my own laziness and the second by the ridiculous load of schoolwork I took on myself last fall. This week I hit the 675 mark and am really getting into the swing of things.

However, I also realize that the method isn't going to work for everyone or appeal to everyone. I've done my time with rote memorization; I spent many evenings in college memorizing page after page of irregular verbs in German, Latin and Greek. Since I have a full time job, a side business, a wife and 2 kids, I don't have that kind of time anymore. I needed a quicker way to cram 2000 kanji in my head.

It started with the kana. I've frequently read the common suggestion just to start writing the kana over and over, and after a few weeks you'll know them. I didn't want to spend several weeks, so I got Heisig's kana book. On Saturday morning I started the hiragana, the next morning the katakana, and by that evening I was wandering around Dobuita (in Shenmue) reading the shop signs which had been gibberish just 2 days before. Wow. I took a look at the free PDF of Heisig's kanji book and ordered it right away.

The Heisig method (I'm talking about kanji from here on out) is not, to be pedantic, about associating kanji with English words, nor is it about learning kanji out of context. In fact, associating kanji with English words is a quick way to forget them. Instead, the Heisig method is about associating kanji with mental images, using kanji primitives as an "alphabet" of images for building "stories" with more complex kanji. By making these associations one can learn the basic meaning of a lot of kanji quickly.

In the introduction to his book (and it's interesting reading whether you believe in the method or not) Heisig points out that Chinese people who seek to learn Japanese already know the meaning of the kanji; they just don't know how to pronounce them. The method seeks to give adults who don't have a kanji background that same advantage, and seeks to do it more quickly than rote memorization using the mind's ability to imagine, visualize and abstract.

kotori says, "Heisig makes you feel like you're making fast progress ("Hey, I know 1000 kanji in 2 weeks!") But you still don't really know anything." On the contrary. You know the basic meaning of 1000 kanji. What this gives you is the ability to look at Japanese text and recognize make far more sense of it than you could with only 100 kanji. And guess what? When you hit those words in a textbook or in real life, it's far, far easier to associate the readings with the kanji, because you already know the kanji. For example, this week I ran across 雑誌 in my textbook. From my Heisig work I knew the basic meaning of the kanji, from the furigana I learned the readings, and it only took a few seconds. I learned the readings in context, just separate from learning the meanings. If you're doing any Japanese study at all, you can't help picking up readings for kanji you've studied, even though volume 1 doesn't provide them.

kotori also says, "Use Heisig's method, fine, for words that you're having problems remembering." Actually, it doesn't work that way. Heisig's method builds systematically on kanji you've already learn. Attempting to pull out a few meanings at random is worthless.

Machina Maw says, "And once you start actually learning the kanji readings, you'll most likely forget them and just revert right back to the English meaning." Not at all: in fact, it's quite possibly easier to remember the Japanese readings because you don't have to learn the kanji along with them: you already know the kanji and simply need to associate the readings with them.

Machina Maw also says, "And, until you've learned all the readings for the kanji, you will probably read a sentence and think "Today wa, store ni went. Flower ya coffee ya book o bought." That's actually somewhat true: you do end up substituting for kanji for which you don't know the readings, but on the other hand you're able to read much larger pieces of text, so you could end up reading
"Today wa, kuruma de mise-ni went. Flour ya coffee ya hon wo bought"

instead of

"Kyou wa, {something} de {Rats, I don't know that one} ni ikimashita. {I don't know that one either} ya {something} {something} {oh, I give up}."

The Heisig method, by giving you a lot of kanji meanings quickly, enables you to start reading a lot of text relatively soon in your study career, and that provides a great opportunity to learn the meanings in context, not just in volume 2.

However, the Heisig method is no magic bullet and does require a lot of study. A lot of Heisig zealots fizzle out somewhere in volume 1. It takes a lot of dedication and hard work to get through the first volume to build that kanji base, but those who do complete that work almost universally agree that learning readings is very fast once they have that foundation, even while working through the Heisig method. That's been my experience so far.

There are several different methods of learning kanji. Rote memorization works for some. Heisig works for others. The common denominator is hard work and persistence.
Qbe
 
Posts: 100
Joined: Tue 02.15.2005 4:03 pm

RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby hungryhotei » Sat 05.06.2006 6:30 pm

Qbe wrote:
I needed a quicker way to cram 2000 kanji in my head.


I know, this is going off here and not adressing any points raised so far but...

Everyone would be doing themselves a favour if they just forgot this number of 2000 Kanji that you supposedly need to know. I metion it partly because some people seem to put Kanji targets in their signature. Trust me, its nonsense. It's not the number you need before you can be set loose on Japanese texts, the number needed to read comfortably, or enough that you would know every Kanji commonly used.

In the first place, putting it in a number like that seems to give equal weight to each Kanji. The vast majority of Kanji don't need to be written by hand, only recognised - even Japanese people need to look them up. 'recognise from context' requires a completely different level of knowledge from 'write swiftly by hand'.

Now it also suggests that if you know 2000 Kanji then you are done. This number probably comes from rounding up the jouyou kanji, so lets take that list, and for fun even add the 285 characters used in names to give all of those in the 'Kanji learners dictionary'. Well, I come across Kanji that aren't in that dictioanry just about everyday. Some really common like 捉 and 訊. Because some used coffee in that example eariler (perhaps forgetting its a katakana word?) the Kanji for coffee aren't in that list either, but the book I read the other day used them (with no furigana), 珈琲. Other examples include kanji for kitune, tanuki and sushi. We all just have to accept that this 2000 is just some random number, not any kind of target.

Now, the last reason I ask everyone to give up on 2000 is that it is far too high. I would suggest that the number for "Kanji you need to learn" is closer to 1000. At about this number its possible to begin reading, especially if an appropriate text is chosen. It is also at about this point that you know enough Kanji to be able to learn to recognise new Kanji much more easily. You don't need to sit down and study any more, you can beign to pick them up as you go along. And trust me, once you pass 1000 you aren't going to be counting Kanji anymore.

The real point is that the number of Kanji you need to know depends on what you want to read. The naruto manga for example would need a much smaller knowledge of Kanji and of different Kanji from say the asahi shinbun. And a novel would be somewhere in the middle.

So forget about 2000, its just a random number. If you want a target just take 1000, it seems much easier to reach too.
hungryhotei
 
Posts: 1067
Joined: Wed 04.12.2006 5:06 am
Location: Germany
Native language: English

RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby adam » Sat 05.06.2006 8:53 pm

hungryhotei wrote:

Everyone would be doing themselves a favour if they just forgot this number of 2000 Kanji that you supposedly need to know. I metion it partly because some people seem to put Kanji targets in their signature. Trust me, its nonsense.



Amen to that. Also anyone whose kanji level is fairly decent realizes they couldn't put a count on how many kanji they know because there is no point in keeping track.
adam
 
Posts: 213
Joined: Thu 01.26.2006 12:50 pm

RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby Qbe » Sat 05.06.2006 9:43 pm

adam wrote:
hungryhotei wrote:

Everyone would be doing themselves a favour if they just forgot this number of 2000 Kanji that you supposedly need to know. I metion it partly because some people seem to put Kanji targets in their signature. Trust me, its nonsense.



Amen to that. Also anyone whose kanji level is fairly decent realizes they couldn't put a count on how many kanji they know because there is no point in keeping track.


I think that anyone with half a brain discovers that learning kanji is going to be a lifelong pursuit (or at least, for the lifetime of their Japanese interest). However, having a quantifiable goal can be very helpful. If I want to learn X kanji in a year, then I can divide it out and figure how many I need to learn per month, week, day, etc.

Plus when I complete the quantifiable goal of 2042 kanji via Heisig's first 2 volumes, I can look forward to another 958 in volume 3 :)
Qbe
 
Posts: 100
Joined: Tue 02.15.2005 4:03 pm

RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby hungryhotei » Sun 05.07.2006 4:37 pm

Qbe wrote:
However, having a quantifiable goal can be very helpful. If I want to learn X kanji in a year, then I can divide it out and figure how many I need to learn per month, week, day, etc.


But thats why I sugested 1000 as a target. As I said once a learner comes past this point you don't learn Kanji in the same way as before. You don't have to chart out how many per week you need to learn. In fact, you could say that you don't learn Kanji at all anymore, you just learn words.

And whats the point in having a goal that you don't reach? Once you pass 1000 you both lose track of how far you are to the goal, and realize that the goal wasn't a goal at all.
Last edited by hungryhotei on Sun 05.07.2006 4:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
hungryhotei
 
Posts: 1067
Joined: Wed 04.12.2006 5:06 am
Location: Germany
Native language: English

RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby Qbe » Sun 05.07.2006 7:37 pm

hungryhotei wrote:
Qbe wrote:
However, having a quantifiable goal can be very helpful. If I want to learn X kanji in a year, then I can divide it out and figure how many I need to learn per month, week, day, etc.


But thats why I sugested 1000 as a target. As I said once a learner comes past this point you don't learn Kanji in the same way as before. You don't have to chart out how many per week you need to learn. In fact, you could say that you don't learn Kanji at all anymore, you just learn words.


This may be how it works in non-Heisig systems, but in the Heisig system you DO learn kanji in the same way until you reach the last frame: you look at the kanji, compose a mental image/story based on the primitive elements, write the kanji and move to the next. Once you've mastered the meaning and writing of 2042 kanji, you go back and attach readings to them in groups based on "signal" primitive elements. It's somewhat similar to the grouping done in "Essential Kanji", but that book combines meanings and readings.


And whats the point in having a goal that you don't reach? Once you pass 1000 you both lose track of how far you are to the goal, and realize that the goal wasn't a goal at all.


I'd suggest that you might take a look at the introduction to Heisig's book (it's free) to gain a better understanding of how the system works.

Why set a goal of 2000 instead of 1000? First of all, the Heisig system was designed that way. You don't use the system piecemeal; it's a full commitment. However, the introduction to his book can give you a more full explanation. In short, in the Heisig system you don't learn kanji by frequency but by groups based on kanji "primitives", so (and I don't know this personally) it's very likely that you may not learn some frequently used kanji until you hit the 1500 mark or higher. And you don't lose track of the goal, because you always have an exact count of just what you know.

Personally, I'm not setting a goal of 2000 but 3000, the number covered by all 3 volumes of the Heisig system. I want to be as literate as possible, and to me that means being able to read extended lengths of text without having to resort to a dictionary several times per sentence. A Heisig "graduate" at Japan Today forum has commented several times (here,
here and here, for example) on the difference in reading ability between knowing 1000 and 2000 kanji. I know for a fact that I'd rather push to reach the quantifiable goal of learning 2000 and then 3000.

Please, take a look at the introduction in the PDF linked above. It explains a lot of these things. And no, I'm not being paid to promote Heisig either. I'm just a satisfied customer.
Qbe
 
Posts: 100
Joined: Tue 02.15.2005 4:03 pm

RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby hungryhotei » Sun 05.07.2006 8:37 pm

Qbe wrote:
. I want to be as literate as possible, and to me that means being able to read extended lengths of text without having to resort to a dictionary several times per sentence.


But just learning the Kanji won't help you do that. If you learn Kanji as and as part of words your vocabulary would be much, much higher than just connecting Kanji to an English meaning. You will find that just because you know the meanings of Kanji in a word, doesn't mean that you know the meaning of that word. Face it, when you start reading you are going to resort to using a dictioanry several times a sentance, using heisig or not. Many words aren't even written using Kanji.

I disagree with much of what your 'graduate' has to say. You can, should and will read with less than 2000 Kanji. Comparing knowing 1000 Kanji to knowing the alphabet only to T, seems to suggest only that they don't have a clue what they are talking about.

Making 3000 your goal is the exact opposite of what I'm trying to say. Before you are anywhere close to 3000 you won't care at all how many Kanji you know. And I'm sure you won't care long before you reach 2000 either. 3000 is just another random number, and even less relevant than 2000.

What you will care about though, is whether you can or can't read a certain text. And for that vocabulary and grammar not Kanji is important. To take this faulty alphabet example, learning Kanji out of context is like learning spelling and pronounciation rules without learning the words they are used in.
hungryhotei
 
Posts: 1067
Joined: Wed 04.12.2006 5:06 am
Location: Germany
Native language: English

Next

Return to Japanese Language Proficiency Test

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests