Friday, March 30, 2007

Remembering the Kanji: Vol. 1 + Reviewing the Kanji (Review)

I started this book in Oct of last year and finally got through it. But it was worth every second. The system introduced is a bit unorthodox in that it introduces a method that will allow you to write and know the meaning of 2042 Chinese characters ( Specifically, the Japanese government's list of regular use kanji and some change), but not the pronounciations. The nickel tour of the method is to introduce common elements found throughout the wide world of Kanji, assign some meaning, and use your imagination to create stories using those elements to get to the meaning. For example, the meaning of 器 is utensil. When you break it down, you see four 口's (element meaning mouth) and one 大 (element given the meaning of st. bernard). Put it all together and the story you might come up with is a st. bernard tied down to a dinner table with four hungry mouths at each corner holding their UTENSILs and getting ready to eat the poor st. bernard. Ridiculous story, isn't it? But that is exactly why you will remember it. The book will give you the stories in the beginning, but eventually, they will only give the elements and the stories will be up to you. It sure beats writing characters over and over and over again until you think you have it mastered. This really does cut down the time it takes to learn the characters.

The book has its critics, mostly for not teaching in the same order as regular Japanese students need to learn and also for not teaching the pronounciation. According to the author, as adult non-Japanese learners, it would be a mistake to learn as Japanese children when it would be far more effective to learn in the order that best accommodates us. As far as the pronounciation, there is a second volume that attacks the Kanji with a whole other sequence. The author basically stipulates that breaking everything down and tackling it one at a time is far more effective than trying to learn everything about one character at the same time. While it is frustrating to know a character but not know how to write it, in the grand scheme of things, I'm thinking the author is correct.

Reviewing the Kanji is a website designed to help students using this book. It is a Godsend. It really burns the Kanji in the mind by using timed intervals that best help with memory retention. Just input the characters you have studied and you will be quizzed by having the meaning of the word up for you to write the corresponding Kanji. If you get it right, it goes to the next column for which you will be quizzed at a later date. If you get it wrong, you start from the beginning. The more you get it right, the less you are quizzed, etc. And the site is always updating its features. You can input and share your stories, there is a very friendly forum for help and support, you can track your progress, etc. All in all, good stuff. The book claims that a hardcore learner who spends the majority of the day studying and using its method can learn all 2042 kanji in a month. With this site, I believe it. So buy the book and check out the website here.

2 comments:

Julia said...

You need to start writing about something other than learning language. GET OUT OF YOUR APARTMENT!! and btw, I'm pretty decent at learning languages but I really suck at Math. I think i'm the one Korean person who can't do math...

kate said...

well thankyou for this post.. my father just ordered me the first 2 books of this series.. i have some learning disabilities so kanji have been extremely difficult for me.. im hoping to be able to learn all 2000 in the next 2 years with this method (and others).. ive got a couple of ok books already that teach the different readings.. right now im especially interested in 'read japanese today'.. i hope that once the RTK books arrive they will help me.. i know their method works because i saw the pdf sample section.. sadly most people dont finish the first book.. thats why i had dad get both at once.. that way ill feel pressured to finish it so that i can start the second one...


wow a person can learn them all in a month! no way.. cant be done.. not unless you are a robot or just some sort of mad genius.. you would have to be mad about japanese to study all day long.. wow..

thanks for mentioning that site.. i hadnt heard of it before.. ill be sure to check it out