Monday, April 04, 2005

Learning Japanese

I'm changing the way I study Japanese. No more half-efforts. I found this pdf of the first section of the first book in James W. Heisig's "Remembering the Kanji" trilogy. In the introduction, he talks about all the wrong ways to study, the mistakes most people make, and what frustrations they will encounter. It was like he was spying on me! I was doing everything he said, and having all the problems he mentioned.

So, I thought I would give his method a try. It wouldn't cost me anything but time, and I've tried so many study methods, what was one more?

The one more was the RIGHT one. It's what makes writing Petition (a 19-stroke kanji) into writing Meadow+Head (10 and 9 strokes, respectively), and Meadow is Cliff+Spring (2+8), and Spring is White+Water (5+3), and White is Drop+Sun (1+4), while Head (actually, Page) is One+Drop+Shellfish (1+1+7), and Shellfish is Eye+Animal Legs (5+2). So, Petition is Cliff+Drop+Sun+Water+One+Drop+Eye+Animal Legs (2+1+4+3+1+1+5+2), and the 19-strokes is broken down into elements 5 strokes or less.

Of course, I don't think "Cliff+Drop+Sun+Water+One+Drop+Eye+Animal Legs" when writing Petition, I think "Meadow+Head", and if I get confused on Meadow, I think "Cliff+Spring", etc. I think as needed, when I don't remember, but I usually remember.

If this doesn't make sense, download the file and read it yourself. It really really makes it stick. That doesn't mean that it's EASY (it's really really not), but it is EFFECTIVE.

I started on Thursday of last week, and I studied Thursday, Friday, and Monday, and I'm up to 172 kanji. I should have 3000 kanji (University level) memorized by the end of this year (reading+writing+meaning). My goal is to pass the Japanese Language Proficiency Test Level 1 (the hardest) by the end of next year. This seems like a reasonable, attainable goal.


  1. Cliff+Drop+Sun+Water+One+Drop+Eye+WTF?

    When I write petition, I write, "petition".

    Those nutty Japanese. -)

  2. That's right. The book you've mentioned ( is a fun, but practically speaking you need to remember words written with kanji. And that's a huge problem: dictionaries list TOO MANY words, but you need to remember only most frequently used.
    I started a site ( to help students of Japanese to choose the most important words for each of 1,000 kanji. Please keep in mind it's just a beta version of the site, so there are (unfortunately!) some missprints. If you see any, please, let me know. However, I hope my site can help. Good luck!

  3. I find that knowing the kanji with one keyword helps me remember other words. For example, postage is 切手 (cut+hand), so I can think of cutting my hand on a stamp, or cutting stamps out by hand, or whatever. The key, for me, is doing the Heisig first.