Howdy ho ajatteers! This is tom from Taiwan gonna give you my two cents on The One Method To Rule Them All(tm) for learning characters.
I’ve currently got 2910 active cards in my Kanji deck, which I started making in November 2008, and I can proudly say that I pwn the heck out of chinese characters, which is just to say that I’m speaking from experience. I’ve gone through a number of different formats for kanji cards, including a several month stint with LazyKanji, and I’d like to share with you the results of my tweaking:
When I did Heisig originally I pretty much stuck to what he says in the book religiously, despite running into many of the frustrating problems people are experiencing here. Any tweaks I made in formatting or in my SRS habits didn’t seem to help, and I was always worried that something I would do would make the whole method obsolete, or worse, that “Heisig’s method doesn’t working for me.” Though Heisig and supporters’ talk of his method “cementing characters firmly in your mind” is motivating, please ignore such bold and preachy statements. Heisig’s method is not perfect, nor are you. You will forget characters, you will confuse them. Your memory is a fickle friend, and if there’s one real lesson that Heisig can teach you, it’s not about characters, but about how your mind works.
Anyway, I was doing this originally
Keyword => Character+Story [aka VanillaHeisig]
The problem with this method is:
-Despite being straight from the man himself, I feel that the story here is treated more like an afterthought, where reviewing the story was necessary insofar as you don’t remember how to write the character without it. While you obviously don’t need to memorize the story, per se, I have found that reviewing in this manner is not the best way to use the story.
– As kokage mentioned, also I found it was extremely difficult to recall the keyword when I saw the character in the real word. Intuitively, this is obviously a huge problem, but Heisig dismisses it, and since Heisig was all about going against your intuition I though ok, just do as he says. In other words, I blamed this problem on my own perceived inadequacies rather than accepting that the method was imperfect.
-This has been mentioned before, but when you’re getting into the 3000 range of characters you will definitely need to reuse some keywords, and VanillaHeisig doesn’t accommodate this well.
So there were a few tweaks I used here and there, in card formatting, story creation protocols, using japanese readings, but nothing really took me from feeling like “this isn’t working that well” to the point of “this works like a charm” that everyone else seemed to be feeling. At some point long after I finished Heisig, Khatz mentioned using LazyKanji, and though I had toyed with this idea in my head I didn’t dare go against what Heisig says. At that point I figured, if Khatz is doing it, it must be ok, so I reformatted my cards and gave it a whirl. Lo and behold… still no “ah ha” moment.
I was using this method:
Character => Keyword + story [VanillaLazyKanji]
But didn’t like it because:
-Passivity. I think this is fundamentally the main problem with the Lazy Kanji method, as well as the KendoMod. Yes, its fun and easy like popping bubble wrap but because it doesn’t require much thought, to me it became more like rote memorization than really reinforcing the connections between the character, it’s parts, and the keyword.
-Difficult to grade, since most of the time I’d give a synonym for the keyword rather than the exact keyword, and so the question became “how close is close enough?” Or, from having seen the character in real usage I would know the meaning well, but if this differed from the keyword I just say “oh I know that one” and move on.
-As the cards matured, my ability to remember keywords, or even a synonym, was definitely less than it ought to have been, especially for characters that I would rarely see in regular Japanese. I was forgetting a large number of characters that I once knew, but it was hard to tell whether I had truly forgotten these or if I just had a very fuzzy understanding of their meaning.
With this method, I decided to put the story with a keyword cloze on the front to help with a few of the more difficult cards that I had in my deck, thus making them like the Kendo Mod described above. Then, lightning struck and I came up with a new method, which seems to solve all the above problems in a roundabout way, [Though I have to admit that it is still far from “working like a charm”]
Story [Keyword Cloze] => Character + Keyword
Basically this is the same “KendoMod” that is discussed here with one important tweak: neither the character nor the keyword is displayed in the question. This is a radical departure from what Heisig recommends as well. Nevertheless, I find that it is much easier to both recognize characters and give a meaning when I see them in “real life,” and also easy to recall specific characters when I need to write them.
-Easy/fast/fun to do like LazyKanjiKendoMod, because just reading the story will give you the clues to writing the character properly (i.e. the names of the primitive in the story) while also requiring that you produce the character entirely from memory. I actually find that the small added challenge that makes this more fun and less passive without being too difficult to do.
-Easy to grade, because with a cloze you are less likely to give a synonym. You know easily whether you remembered the keyword properly, as well as whether you wrote the character properly.
-also no problem with having the same keyword for multiple characters
So… to illustrate this I give you a sample card
a […] is a piece of clothing that displays a pattern to wear around your neck
a scarf is a piece of clothing that displays a pattern to wear around your neck
-In the “story” fields, I use bold to indicate the keyword in the story and italics to indicate the primitives.
-Writing the primitives at the top is not really necessary but I find it helpful to type them out when I make the card, especially for ones that are not in Heisig.
-Of course, I also occasionally put pictures on the front.
-After I started learning the readings of characters, I started to add them to the front of the card to help remember the character. I.e. if i was reviewing Kanji and I happened upon one that I knew the reading I would often the card and add the reading. However, to reiterate what I said above, do not bother to do this when you first make the cards. Judge for yourself whether this strategy is helpful or not.
Here’s another one for the road:
[image of the "assassin's creed" guy... wearing a hood with only his mouth showing]
monks walk with their hoods low, they all look the […] and the one part of your body you can see is their mouth
monks walk with their hoods low, they all look the same and the one part of your body you can see is their mouth
This is actually an imperfect card because it uses the concept “part of the body” a phrase normally reserved for characters with the 月 primitive. These Japanese readings were added after, AFTER I completed Heisig. After I had them in my sentence cards, and I knew the reading.
Finally, I’ve found there are a few basic characters which are easier to remember just as shapes, or pictographs, than it is to break them down and make a story out of. For these characters I have the same card format, but I don’t have a cloze story. These basically work like this: Story or description => Keyword + Character
Pictograph of a window with lattices
Normally this would reduce to something like drop+boxed in+wolverine=window, but this too much when its so obviously just a friggin’ pictograph. Zhongwen.com is good at pointing these out.
Thinking about how this relates to the general “principles of flash carding,” keep in mind that what you need to remember is what is on the back of the card: The answer to the question. On the front of the card are the passive pieces of memory that remind you of what you want to actively recall on the back. In my experience, the only way something in the front of the card gets remembered is by sheer exposure: rote memorization. Sure, SRS will give you that exposure, but in order to really strengthen your memory you need reinforce the links between memories as well.
The tricky thing with Kanji is that there are actually two pieces of information that you need to remember for the same character: the keyword and the writing of the character. One way to handle this fact was by having two cards for the same character, one Keyword=>Kanji, one Kanji=>Keyword, although Heisig dismissed this, saying something to the effect if “its a waste of time” and “if you can do it one way you can do it the other way.” For myself, this was partly true, although I wasn’t satisfied with my ability to concretely remember the keywords out of context. Honestly, my current method has not solved this problem completely, though it is an improvement. I would also stress that in practice, needing to recall the exact keyword of a character is rarely necessary. Having a familiarity with a character, being “in the ballpark” or “having a feel for” its meaning is more than good enough 95% of the time. I often feel that I know more clearly what a character *does not* mean more than I know *exactly* what it does mean, yet if I see a new character, I know at an instant if I am not yet familiar with it.
This principle applies to sentence cards too: we aren’t trying to remember what’s on the front of the card i.e. the sentence itself, but we are trying to remember the meaning of the words, the meaning of the sentence, and the pronunciation of the words. Being able to say that sentence or a similar one is less a matter of having seen the sentence several times, but of having remembered the principles behind how its component parts go together.
Coming out the other side of AJATT , the number one piece of advice I could give anyone and everyone here, despite our lust for the speed and efficiency of AJATT– ABSOLUTELY DO NOT RUSH THROUGH HEISIG. Make stories for every character, make them well, make your cards beautiful. You will thank yourself later if you do; you will kick yourself later if you do not.
Your cards do not need to have the Japanese readings on them.
Your cards do not need to have any more complex definitions than the one or two word phrase that Heisig gives. Think of these not as definitions to give you the meaning of the character but are more like a “clue” to get you in the ballpark. You will learn the “real” meaning of them later. Keep in mind that at this stage of AJATT, you are not learning Japanese, you are preparing yourself to learn Japanese. This is a hard reality to take.
I, too, questioned the necessity of this preparation the entire time I was doing Heisig, and it was extremely frustrating. So, I know how y’all feel. When I started Heisig I thought “I would be one of those guys who does Heisig in a month” while in reality, it took me nearly six months. Now, there is no doubt in my mind that learning characters first is absolutely essential, and even when friends, professors, administrators and other manifestations of knowledge-power at my university here want me to study chinese “the right way,” I tell them “No, thank you. I will do things my own way,” knowing that my conscious postponement of speaking will only magnify my pwnage later.
How to learn Japanese kanji easily? ›
- Rote Memorization. The best way to learn any language is through repetition. ...
- Mnemonics. ...
- Learn 常用漢字 (Jouyou Kanji) ...
- Study the Kanji of Words that You Most Commonly Use. ...
- Learn Radicals. ...
- Learn the Kanji of Words on Your Vocabulary List. ...
- Read Japanese Reading Material. ...
- Use a Dictionary.
Then Khatzumoto-sempai came up with something that sounded like just the thing for me, Lazy Kanji, which turns the process of memorizing kanji into something more like repeatedly dialing a telephone number until it's memorized.Can Japanese people read kanji? ›
Yes. Except for special situations such as mental or physical illness, or those having been brought up abroad, all Japanese citizens as well as most foreigners brought up in Japan can read Kanji as well as write. The school system teaches about 2100 kanji.Can you learn 2000 kanji 3 months? ›
Realistic: Learning 2,000 kanji in one week is stretching it, but 3 months is a very doable timeframe if you are consistent.How many kanji per day? ›
As such, it is recommended to start by learning no more than 5 Kanji a day and slowly increase that number over time. In addition, it is best to practice your newly learned characters daily in order to ensure that they stick with you.What is the hardest kanji word? ›
What is the hardest kanji in Japanese? たいと(taito) is the most difficult Japanese Kanji on the record with a total of 84 strokes. It is formed by combining 3 雲 (くもkumo) with 3 龍 (りゅうRyuu). 雲 means cloud and 龍 means dragon in English.Is kanji impossible? ›
Even kanji, the boogeyman of the Japanese language, is actually pretty easy. Technology has not only made it a lot easier to learn kanji (through spaced repetition systems), but a lot easier to read and write kanji too. You no longer have to memorize the stroke order of each kanji; now, you can just type it in!What is the easiest kanji? ›
- 森 – the kanji for forest is three trees (木) put together.
- 父 – imagine a man holding two sticks over his head.
- 雨 – looks like rain hitting a window.
- 川 – three lines show the flow of a river.
- 東 – is made out of two kanji 日 (the sun) and 木 (trees).
Basically, people in Japan (and China) are using computers, phones, and other electronic devices so much that they're forgetting how to write their kanji. Thanks to these things, there's almost no reason to write something using your hands. Think about it, when's the last time you hand wrote anything?Do Japanese people write hiragana if they forget kanji? ›
Hiragana is used mainly for grammatical purposes. We will see this as we learn about particles. Words with extremely difficult or rare Kanji, colloquial expressions, and onomatopoeias are also written in Hiragana. It's also often used for beginning Japanese students and children in place of Kanji they don't know.
At what age is kanji taught? ›
During their six years in elementary school, Japanese children learn over 1,000 kanji. In this time, they greatly increase their reading sophistication, moving from picture books to short novels and simple biographies.What is longest kanji reading? ›
承る uketamawaru, 志 kokorozashi, and 詔 mikotonori have five syllables represented by a single kanji, the longest readings in the jōyō character set.Does it take 1 year to learn Japanese? ›
In fact, Japanese is one of the most difficult languages to learn for a native English speaker. If you want to speak enough Japanese to make friends in Japan and carry on simple conversations, you can master casual Japanese in under a year, especially if you are skipping over hiragana and katakana.How long does it take to be fluent in kanji? ›
Approximately it will take 88 weeks, or 2200 hours of studying, to become fluent. But this article shows tips and tools to expedite and make the process easier. This article is a part of our extensive series of articles on Self-studying Japanese.Is knowing 1000 kanji enough? ›
A minimum of about 1,000 to 1,200 kanji is usually considered necessary for fluency, and most Japanese people know at least that many. However, some people may know several thousand if they have studied additional kanji or if they have had experience with specialized vocabulary.What percentage of Japanese can write kanji? ›
|Characters||Types||Proportion of corpus (%)|
|Punctuation and symbols||99||13.09|
'Sei' also has 64 strokes meaning it ranks highly on the list of Japanese characters with many strokes. This next Kanji is special to us for a reason we'll explain in just a moment. This kanji is another rigiji character which is made up of three kanji. The kanji in question is 龍 which means 'dragon.How do you say 3 in kanji? ›
When counting up (0 to 10)
- いち (ichi)
- に (ni)
- さん (san)
- し (shi)
- ご (go)
- ろく (roku)
- しち (shichi)
- はち (hachi)
Using the Kanji Character Ai
Writing love in Japanese is represented as the kanji symbol 愛 which means love and affection. It takes 13 strokes to create the kanji for love. The radical is kokoro.
Both Chinese and Japanese have a fierce reputation to be the hardest languages to learn. But, for English native speakers, that's not accurate. The truth is, there's no such thing as an easy or hard language. But, whichever you choose will require a commitment from you if you want to reach fluency.
Which is harder Japanese or Korean? ›
However, considering the larger number of sounds and the different particles in Korean, Japanese is definitely the easier language to start in. If you're not good at distinguishing new sounds and pronunciations, you're definitely going to have a hard time with Korean.Why is kanji so hard? ›
Kanji characters are based on Chinese characters and are often almost identical to their partner words in Chinese. This writing system is one of the most difficult parts of Japanese to learn, as there are over 2,000 different characters to learn and many kanji have several different readings.How many kanji for N1? ›
As previously mentioned, the JLPT N1 Exam covers around 2000 kanji (see the list of kanji by JLPT Sensei here) and 10000 vocabulary terms.What is the smallest kanji? ›
Bushu (部首) are the smallest units (we call them "radicals"). They are like letters of the alphabet, but there's over 200 of them.What Japanese character is 3 lines? ›
It can be fun and intellectually stimulating to learn a system of writing where symbols represent meaning instead of sound alone. For example, a single horizontal line (一) is the kanji for “one.” The kanji for “two” is two lines (二) and the kanji for “three” is three lines (三).Is learning kanji a waste of time? ›
Learn all the readings – Waste of time
To put it bluntly, learning all the readings of a Kanji is a complete waste of time. Yes, as a general rule of thumb, Kanji compounds use the on-reading while single characters use the kun-reading.
Dyslexic people can often get sounds and kanji compounds mixed up. So instead of reading 経験 as “keiken” (experience), they might accidentally say “kenkei” without even realizing it.Is learning kanji good for the brain? ›
Learning Kanji can literally help you improve your memory. Think of it as a workout for your mind. As you progress within your learning, you'll improve your brain functionality and find yourself able to concentrate better.What language did Jesus speak? ›
Most religious scholars and historians agree with Pope Francis that the historical Jesus principally spoke a Galilean dialect of Aramaic. Through trade, invasions and conquest, the Aramaic language had spread far afield by the 7th century B.C., and would become the lingua franca in much of the Middle East.What is the 2 hardest language? ›
2. Arabic. Arabic is the queen of poetic languages, the 6th official language of the UN and second on our list of toughest languages to learn.
Can you speak fluent Japanese without kanji? ›
You don't need kanji to speak Japanese, but I would suggest that not learning kanji would make learning the vocabulary harder. You don't strictly need to know kanji to write understandable Japanese. However, if you do write entirely in kana it will make your writing incredibly difficult for other people to read.Is Duolingo good to learn Japanese? ›
Duolingo is an excellent free resource for learning languages, especially if you consider yourself a beginner who is looking to immerse yourself quickly in Japanese.Do Japanese speakers know all kanji? ›
Native speakers don't know all the kanji that exist. There are estimated to be over 50,000 in existence but if you know the Jouyou list you will be able to read and write 95% of the kanji you are likely to see. Even native speakers need to look up the meanings, readings and how to write rare kanji.How long does it take to learn 1 kanji? ›
To learn the essential kanji that makes up most Japanese words it takes up to 3 years by most standards but Actual Fluency calculates that 'if you learn 25 kanji a day, and have no prior experience with Japanese, you should be able to read kanji within three months'.Is kanji hard to learn Japanese? ›
Kanji characters are based on Chinese characters and are often almost identical to their partner words in Chinese. This writing system is one of the most difficult parts of Japanese to learn, as there are over 2,000 different characters to learn and many kanji have several different readings.Can you learn kanji by yourself? ›
Mastering the skills involved with learning kanji takes consistent practice over a long time but everything you need to start learning now is available on the internet for free. Two techniques for teaching yourself kanji are writing exercises and mnemonics.How long does it take to learn kanji in Japanese? ›
Based on their research, you need over 88 weeks of learning or 2200 hours of studying to reach level B2 (according to the CEFR). However, if you are planning to study kanji to read manga, or maybe find a Japanese pen-pal, then we think you'll need under half of the time that US Department of State recommends.What do Japanese call Japan? ›
Historians say the Japanese called their country Yamato in its early history, and they began using Nippon around the seventh century. Nippon and Nihon are used interchangeably as the country's name.Can I learn Japanese in 1 month? ›
Let's get one thing clear: You won't become fluent in a month. (Unless you're some foreign language genius.) But you can absolutely learn what you need to get by with a month of studying. It's all about finding what resources are best for you.Can I learn Japanese in 3 months? ›
If you want to reach an advanced level of Japanese, you'd also have to learn kanji. If you only focused on kanji, and learned about 30 a day, you could learn all 2200 jouyou kanji (the “essential” kanji that Japanese kids learn throughout grade school) in about 3 months, too… With the right methods.
How many kanji do you need to be fluent? ›
A minimum of about 1,000 to 1,200 kanji is usually considered necessary for fluency, and most Japanese people know at least that many. However, some people may know several thousand if they have studied additional kanji or if they have had experience with specialized vocabulary.How many hours a day should I study Japanese? ›
In general, it is recommended that learners spend 2 hours per day studying Japanese. This rate of study will enable a learner to achieve general professional proficiency in Japanese in a time frame of 6.2 years. Increasing or decreasing study hours will shorten or extend the time frame respectively.How many Japanese kanji do you need to know? ›
There are approximately 2,000 kanji you have to learn no matter what, so you might as well put them in an order that makes a lot more sense. By starting simply and moving your way up, you are able to build one kanji upon another.