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Best way to learn kanji for beginners

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RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby punkgrl326 » Sun 05.07.2006 11:52 pm

hungryhotei wrote:
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.

Actually, the reason I placed a kanji target in my sig was not to push myself to learn the required kanji as quickly as possible, but it was to remind myself of how far I've gotten since I started learning japanese. For me, learning kanji is no easy task and when I am finally able to recognize and learn a certain kanji it feels good to be able to know that I am actually getting somewhere and that I'm slowly advancing in my japanese studies. That's why I feel proud to add another kanji to my list because it reminds me of how far I've gotten, not how little I've done. Plus, I like adding comments to it too, just for the fun of it, you know ;)
Last edited by punkgrl326 on Sun 05.07.2006 11:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby Mukade » Mon 05.08.2006 1:06 am

hungryhotei wrote:
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.


One quick point.

Many people seem to make the assumption that once Book I is finished, Heisig's method is over. But that's not the case at all. Heisig's system is designed to teach you the readings, as well as a number of sample vocabulary words. He just chooses to separate the approach to kanji study in more easily digestible chunks.
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RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby hungryhotei » Mon 05.08.2006 4:53 am

punkgrl326 wrote:

Actually, the reason I placed a kanji target in my sig was not to push myself to learn the required kanji as quickly as possible, but it was to remind myself of how far I've gotten since I started learning japanese. For me, learning kanji is no easy task and when I am finally able to recognize and learn a certain kanji it feels good to be able to know that I am actually getting somewhere and that I'm slowly advancing in my japanese studies. That's why I feel proud to add another kanji to my list because it reminds me of how far I've gotten, not how little I've done. Plus, I like adding comments to it too, just for the fun of it, you know ;)


All good, but given what I have said I would ask why you have chosen to take the target as the jouyou kanji, rather than the kyouiku kanji. A more reachable target would surely be more motivational. Or perhaps just give the number of Kanji you know - focusing even more on how far you have come.

Anyway thats all just my opinions. I don't want to force anyone to do anything, or make them stop using Heisig if it works for them.
Last edited by hungryhotei on Mon 05.08.2006 8:15 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby Qbe » Mon 05.08.2006 2:13 pm

hungryhotei wrote:
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. 


Of course not.


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.


Again, to be pedantic, the Heisig method is not about connecting kanji with English meaning. In volume 1 the method is about connecting kanji with word meaning, period. In volume 2 the method connects Japanese readings to the kanji.


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.


Of course.


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.


The point is simply that it's better to know more kanji than fewer. The more data (kanji forms, definitions, grammar, vocabulary, whatever) you have in your head, the less you'll need to get from a dictionary. I'd think that that's intuitively obvious.


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.


Have you taken a look at Heisig's introductions in the PDF linked above? His method does not work the same way as other methods. The PDF would explain that and show why Heisig people DO care about setting numbers: because the method is constructed to connect 2042 kanji to meanings in volume 1 in a programmed sequence, then connect those 2042 kanji to Japanese readings in volume 2; volume 3 does both those for another 958 kanji. Those who commit to the method commit to learning meanings for 2042 kanji, then readings for those kanji.


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.


This is moving out of scope. My original intent was simply to correct a few misconceptions about the Heisig method which had been expressed in this thread.
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RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby hungryhotei » Mon 05.08.2006 3:58 pm

Qbe wrote:
The point is simply that it's better to know more kanji than fewer. The more data (kanji forms, definitions, grammar, vocabulary, whatever) you have in your head, the less you'll need to get from a dictionary. I'd think that that's intuitively obvious.


I didn't think we were discussing whether or not its better to know more Kanji or not, thats fairly obvious. What we have been discussing is whether its best to learn Kanji as and together with words, or to learn 2000 Kanji first before relearning them as and together with words. And which of these methods brings literacy fastest and easiest.

Back when I was studying my first 1000 Kanji, I think I was studying about 5 words with each Kanji. If I already knew some of those words it only made learning the Kanji easier - and I could better understand its meaning. And if I didn't already know those words, they also made learning the Kanji easier and were a significant boost to my vocabulary.

Because of this boost of vocabulary and training of how Kanji form words, just this 1000 Kanji gave me enough base to be able to start reading. Yet is seems by fairthfully folowing the Heisig method you don't come close to this level of literacy until some way through the second book. Being able to read is fun, and encourages you to study more Japanese so its best to get to a level where you can start to read as soon as possible. And I don't think follwing the heisig, putting of learning readings and compounds, helps you to do that.

I didn't start posting here with the intent to get into such a discussion on Heisig either, I was just pointing about the irrelevance of 2000. I would be happy to leave the discussion here, agreeing to disagree.
Last edited by hungryhotei on Mon 05.08.2006 4:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby punkgrl326 » Mon 05.08.2006 10:32 pm

hungryhotei wrote:
punkgrl326 wrote:

Actually, the reason I placed a kanji target in my sig was not to push myself to learn the required kanji as quickly as possible, but it was to remind myself of how far I've gotten since I started learning japanese. For me, learning kanji is no easy task and when I am finally able to recognize and learn a certain kanji it feels good to be able to know that I am actually getting somewhere and that I'm slowly advancing in my japanese studies. That's why I feel proud to add another kanji to my list because it reminds me of how far I've gotten, not how little I've done. Plus, I like adding comments to it too, just for the fun of it, you know ;)


All good, but given what I have said I would ask why you have chosen to take the target as the jouyou kanji, rather than the kyouiku kanji. A more reachable target would surely be more motivational. Or perhaps just give the number of Kanji you know - focusing even more on how far you have come.

Anyway thats all just my opinions. I don't want to force anyone to do anything, or make them stop using Heisig if it works for them.


I am studying kyuu kanji. Right know I'm tackling 3 kyuu. I just put 1945 there cuz well, um..come to think of it, I'm not really sure. I personally tried Heisig's method and for me it worked, but I prefer learning kanji in a more natural way. Well, to each their own, I guess ;)
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RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby hungryhotei » Mon 05.08.2006 10:36 pm

kyuu kanji? Is that the JLPT levels?
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RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby Qbe » Tue 05.09.2006 3:30 pm

hungryhotei wrote:
Back when I was studying my first 1000 Kanji, I think I was studying about 5 words with each Kanji. If I already knew some of those words it only made learning the Kanji easier - and I could better understand its meaning. And if I didn't already know those words, they also made learning the Kanji easier and were a significant boost to my vocabulary.

Because of this boost of vocabulary and training of how Kanji form words, just this 1000 Kanji gave me enough base to be able to start reading. Yet is seems by fairthfully folowing the Heisig method you don't come close to this level of literacy until some way through the second book. Being able to read is fun, and encourages you to study more Japanese so its best to get to a level where you can start to read as soon as possible. And I don't think follwing the heisig, putting of learning readings and compounds, helps you to do that.


I agree with you completely that being able to read Japanese is both fun and encourages more progress; it's one of the main reasons that I'm learning the language. I will also admit that it's somewhat frustrating not to be able to read Japanese after almost 2 years of study. However, I'm more inclined to blame my illiteracy on myself rather than the Heisig method.

I'm coming to the conclusion that the Heisig method works well for those who can move through it quickly. That's how it was originally developed, after all. If you have the time and dedication to get through volume 1 in, say, 6 months or less, you'll have 2000 kanji meanings and can start attaching readings to them fairly soon. That kind of rapid progress would have to be pretty encouraging--fairly decent literacy in a year or so would be great.

In my own experience, moving through the first volume at a much slower pace has been somewhat discouraging. My own experience has been that I'd follow the method closely for a while, attaching good images to the kanji and learning them well. Encouraged and wanting to make faster progress, I'd simply start trying to attach English words to kanji by rote memorization, and those kanji would be lost. I'd slow down, stop for a while, and then have to review massively before making new progress.

I've also been tempted to try the "regular" memorization method: I have "Essential Kanji" and it looks very useful. How long did you spend on your first 1000 kanji? And what type of material were you able to start reading? I'm not planning to give up the Heisig method, but might try the standard method for a bit in conjunction with it.
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RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby hungryhotei » Tue 05.09.2006 4:56 pm

What I recommend most with Kanji is moving fast. Even if your retention rate drops I recommend studying less on more Kanji.

What I did was carry (the tuttle) flashcards with me all the time. Anytime that I had time to kill, I used them - on the bus to campus, waiting for lectures, waiting for pasta to boil etc.. Making use of all of these little bits of time makes massive improvement.

Bear in mind that i was working all the time on these but i reached the end of the tuttle card flash cards (the end of the kyouiku) after about 6 months, about the same time I finished JFBP 3. I could read relatively simple manga (naruto and things) with a dictioanry at a pace fast enough to enjoy them. (or maybe I got naruto a month or so after that - my memories all fuzzy). I'd been reading those mukasi banasi up on that englsih website with those translations before that though. edit: this one: http://www.nis.atr.jp/~ray/stories/
Last edited by hungryhotei on Tue 05.09.2006 5:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby kotori » Tue 05.09.2006 6:03 pm

I've read Heisig's free PDF before, so telling me to read it is pointless. I know what he's going for, and it's worthless.

He gives you all the kanji, and attaches them to an english keyword. He may give you a story, too, but the whole idea is the 'keyword' thing. It puts you into a rut of thinking of them in terms of english, not mental imagery.

He then proceeds to teach you the readings, but you're not going to know which reading to use in which word until you look it up in a dictionary anyway. People who complete Heisig's books are looking to be literate after completing them, but they're going to end up learning word-by-word, building vocabulary anyway. And that's AFTER they've already spent what.. at best 18 months on the first two books? That's assuming an extremely avid student with a knack for picking things up quickly.

Save yourself the time and effort and learn vocabulary instead of 'learning kanji'. Kanji should be the side effect of vocab study, not the other way around.
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RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby James_dean » Thu 05.11.2006 3:12 am

I can see that both points of view for and against have some valid arguments.....i personally just got to 1000 kanji with heisig and found i was getting mixed up with kanji i already learned so i stopped using it rather than getting totally mixed up with what i had already learned so thats why i thought i would be more suitable for beginners starting off learning kanji in their first year......but maybe i was mistaken and maybe the only way is to learn kanji is from context and seeing many times......its hard to know what is a good method for learning kanji but repeatedly forgetting and having to learn again is the most frustrating thing about kanji.....i can see hungryhoitei point about learning 1000 kanji as quickly as possible and then trying to read....the problem i had i wanted to learn them really well so i kept repeatedly learning the kanji and did not move on until i thought i had learned the previously learned kanji completely......this probably held back my learning and stopped me making progress as much as i wanted to....anyway its something to think about......
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RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby Schattenjedi » Thu 05.11.2006 9:30 am

How many beginners do you think have the willpower, tools, and time needed to invest in Heisig's method? I don't think there are many. Heisig doesn't become attractive for people until they have 1. set the goal that they are going to learn all the jouyou kanji (which has correctly been pointed out as a faulty goal) and 2. they have tried learning kanji the textbook way...got to maybe 100 or 200 and realized they are forgetting a lot of them and that there is still a longgggg way to go. If you do not fall into one or both of those categories then there's no point in try Heisig's method. On a side note I think Heisig's method has too many negatives to be an adequate and respected learning aide. USE WITH CAUTION!
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RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby skyborg007 » Sun 01.06.2008 2:17 pm

Hi Guys,
I have studied Japanese for 3 years (2 years in Japan while working), and am fluent in Japanese, but not so great vocab. I can sight read a huge amount of Kanji, but the writing side of things was really hard for me. Even writing the same Kanji words / compounds every day a few times just didn't help. Small mistakes would creep in and I'd confuse parts of the Kanji with the others. I think this was largely due to trying to remember each Kanji as a singular block when writing them out. I have recently started Heisig's and have found it to be a boon. Not only am I able to read those Kanji as before but also able to write them accurately. I could always see that two Kanji side by side were different, but now I can say... 穴 冗 the second one here is used in "joke" quite confidently. There are probably methods which use the bushu and build up from them. I know the names of almost all of them, but trying to remember exactly which bushu is in which spot using the Japanese names for them just seems alien to me.

つまりHeisig ftw!
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RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby everdream » Sun 01.06.2008 2:26 pm

Wow, first post and it's a necro post.
Congratulations.
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RE: Best way to learn kanji for beginners

Postby NocturnalOcean » Sun 01.06.2008 3:56 pm

skyborg007wrote:
Hi Guys,
I have studied Japanese for 3 years (2 years in Japan while working), and am fluent in Japanese, but not so great vocab. I can sight read a huge amount of Kanji, but the writing side of things was really hard for me. Even writing the same Kanji words / compounds every day a few times just didn't help. Small mistakes would creep in and I'd confuse parts of the Kanji with the others. I think this was largely due to trying to remember each Kanji as a singular block when writing them out. I have recently started Heisig's and have found it to be a boon. Not only am I able to read those Kanji as before but also able to write them accurately. I could always see that two Kanji side by side were different, but now I can say... 穴 冗 the second one here is used in "joke" quite confidently. There are probably methods which use the bushu and build up from them. I know the names of almost all of them, but trying to remember exactly which bushu is in which spot using the Japanese names for them just seems alien to me.

つまりHeisig ftw!


Reading your post, I would hardly say you are fluent in Japanese.
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