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Which method for Kanji

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Which method for Kanji

Postby rouge03 » Thu 06.07.2007 9:12 pm

Hello everyone! げんき?

I just wanted to ask if there are some folks here who've tried the Heisig method for Kanji? I found it to be quite easy enough to adapt. Although I'm still just at 200 characters..
I was also able to download a pdf of Read Japanese today. It has 300 of the most commonly used kanji. Heisig's book has a little over 2000 I think. Both books use almost the same method in that it makes it easy to remember the kanji characters, mnemonics.

However, Heisig's book does not cover how the characters are read until you've finished volume I. In volume I you get to know what the characters mean, in english. This would take at least 2 months depending on how much time you can alot for studying japanese. It would probably take much longer for me because of my work. After that is volume 2 which covers how they are read. I can onlyl guess how much longer this one would take..

The other book, I think I can manage in about 2 months also (at most) but then i'd only have 300 kanji.

I like Heisig's method but then again studying can only take you so far whereas if you're able to practice it ... like reading manga.

Your inputs are very much appreciated. Thanks!
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby b4d0m3n » Thu 06.07.2007 10:39 pm

I would recommend Heisig's method. This way, if you are vigilant, you can learn all the kanji in three to four months and then spend your time focusing on reading them. It is also the method used by Khatzumoto at http://www.alljapaneseallthetime.com. Give it a read.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Thu 06.07.2007 10:59 pm

I do not recommend Heisig, in the strongest possible terms. I think Heisig is a huckster and his book is one of the cruelest frauds perpetuated on hopeful Japanese learners that I've seen. It's very rare to see a recommendation of Heisig from someone who has actually attained a high level reading proficiency in Japanese.

Other than that, some people seem to like it, so if you take to the system you might find that it helps you out. You can get some of the pages for free on the Internet, so see what you think.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby Infidel » Thu 06.07.2007 11:03 pm

the first 300 are generally easy whatever system you use, 300-600 are the hardest, after that it gets progressively easier again.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby rouge03 » Thu 06.07.2007 11:59 pm

Studying kanji for 3 to 4 months and still barely equipped enough to do practice reading is very... hmm... daunting? depressing? If only the author (Dr. Heisig) put in how to read the characters.. it would be a no brainer decision for me.

I was thinking of going through those 300 characters and then go with Heisig so at least I could still do practice reading and then add a little more characters to my "kanji bank". But then Heisig has this sort of principle that it's either his way or the highway.. i think. That is, it would be hard to go through Heisig's method if you've already adapted yourself to doing it another way. for one thing, the two sources i mentioned use different mnemonics.

Anybody else here tried doing both techniques?

Thanks for the input so far.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby b4d0m3n » Fri 06.08.2007 12:26 am

The thing is, kanji are hard. No amount of 'methods' is going to take away the difficulty of remembering a bunch of squiggles. On the other hand, Heisig eases a person into it. In my experience, the first 500 are alright, the next five hundred are haaaard (because the ideas and pictures begin rolling into one another). After that, it starts to get easy again. And it will take a few months to learn the kanji. Language learning is about commitment.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby AJBryant » Fri 06.08.2007 1:04 am

I, too, fall into the "Heisig is full of crap" school.


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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby spin13 » Fri 06.08.2007 1:09 am

I find the approach of 日本語迫ヘ試験・漢字単語ドリル by Craig Dibble to be accessable. I saw this book at both the 1 and 2kyuu level, but did not see kanji specific books at lower levels.

What I find useful about Dibble's approach is breaking various kanji down by shared (on-yomi) phonetic component. 青 静 精 清 晴 all share a common element and the on-yomi pronunciation せい. I find this much more applicable than study of radicals.

In addition, English is minimized to a (often single) generic definition leaving a more exact meaning to be determined through use of example sentences. A transparent red plate allows one to hide the furigana which otherwise allows use of not yet covered kanji. I verified the naturalness of the examples with a native speaker, which makes sense as there are two Japanese names next to Dibble's on the cover which I am just too lazy to IME-handwrite in.

Some of the book, however, is lacking; a good portion of the book is merely a jukugo list sorted by on-yomi and kanji (albeit, with example sentences). The book is likely not designed to be used alone, though I have no experience with any of the other books in the series/by Dibble. Other (short) sections include homonyms, both single character and jukugo.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Fri 06.08.2007 9:12 am

IMO, any kanji learning system that does not include reading practice will not serve you well in the long run. You cannot hope to isolate kanji from the rest of the language, learn them in bulk, and then immediately jump into reading.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby izokon » Fri 06.08.2007 12:43 pm

b4d0m3n wrote:
I would recommend Heisig's method. This way, if you are vigilant, you can learn all the kanji in three to four months and then spend your time focusing on reading them. It is also the method used by Khatzumoto at http://www.alljapaneseallthetime.com. Give it a read.

(This post in not directed at b4d0m3n only, I just though I'd quote you since you linked to AllJapaneseAllTheTime (AJATT).)

I've been using the method described on AJATT for a couple of months now. (Unstructured self-studying for about 2 years before that.) And im learning faster than ever.

But I haven't gone through Heisig's book.

I've seen from my own experience that it is easier for me to learn things when they are connected to something else (might not be the same for everyone else though). By using Heisig's method, you connect each kanji with a mnemonic and an english meaning. Which results in using most of your time inventing useless stories which, in itself, doesn't improve your japanese abilities.

Learning to read kanji can be done by just reading sentences. AJATT's sentence method works great for this.

The method I'm currently using to learn how to write kanji is by inputting kanji that I'm able to read into an application which utilizes a spaced repetition system. Same as the method for example sentences described on AJATT, but with one kanji per "card". Since I already know one or more words which uses the kanji, there is no need to have an explanation in english (or norwegian) accompanying it. Instead I input a japanese word in the question box, and the same word written with kanji and stroke order in the answer box.

I don't post often on this board, but I've been reading on it a little. And it doesn't seem that a lot of people are aware of spaced repetition systems, which is in my opinion one of the best methods for retaining knowledge. (And it's a great way to structure your learning if you're self-studying.)
Last edited by izokon on Fri 06.08.2007 12:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby arbalest71 » Sat 06.09.2007 9:46 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote: I think Heisig is a huckster and his book is one of the cruelest frauds perpetuated on hopeful Japanese learners that I've seen. It's very rare to see a recommendation of Heisig from someone who has actually attained a high level reading proficiency in Japanese.


Without endorsing Heisig, I think Yudan goes a bit far here. At any rate, the point, IMHO, is that learning to read kanji and learning to write them are separate issues. Heisig is not useful for learning to read them, and that is what you should concentrate on at first- being able to write them stroke by stroke is not as important in the modern world as being able to read them. I was taught to write every character I learned to read when learning Chinese, but back then computer interfaces for typing Chinese were new- even so I think it introduced an artificial bottleneck in learning to read.

I do think you should start learning to write kanji at the beginning of studying Japanese, but it should not be your concentration unless you are particularly interested in the characters. If you learn to write 3-5 characters a week at first you are doing fine.

On the other hand, I am a bit leery of methods that do not require reading kanji (past the total beginner stage, of course). It is much easier to learn to read kanji than to learn to write them. I would suggest learning to read the kanji for all of your new vocabulary, unless that vocab is rarely written in kanji. I would also suggest that you not try to learn the readings of characters independent of vocabulary. The best way to spend your time is by learning new words, and how they are written.

As a matter of disclosure I should note that I have lately been a programmer on a software project meant for students of Japanese. It is mostly in line with what I write here, so I may be biased.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby yukamina » Sun 06.10.2007 12:07 am

I was/am using the Heisig method... I got up to around 1600 before I forgot half of them from not studying(had to focus on other things) -_-;
I was feeling discouraged because if I finished the book, I wouldn't know all the readings and would have to go over each character for on and kun readings separately.
So I decided to learn the kun readings along with the meaning and then I'll use use the KanjiTown method with the second Heisig book for on readings. I've heard the Kanjitown method works really well and fast too...
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby Gundaetiapo » Sun 06.10.2007 3:28 am

Knowing 2000 kanji without knowing readings let alone ability to use in a sentence seems like insanity to me. Are the 2000 stories of the Heisig method at least useful around the campfire?
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby Pork Chop » Mon 06.11.2007 9:45 am

Anybody got any opinions on the Henshall method?
It's mnemonics are closer in line with the authentic origins of each character than Heisig, and it gives readings; though I think it might be weaker in the combinations of kanji.
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RE: Which method for Kanji

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Mon 06.11.2007 12:02 pm

It's an interesting book if you like etymology, and might be useful as a supplement, but I will never recommend any kanji book that does not contain reading practice as a primary textbook.

Learning kanji doesn't take gimmicks or secret methods, it just takes years and years of practice. If people spent half as much time studying and reading Japanese as they did looking for shortcuts, they might make more progress.
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