Hi, I was wondering if there were other ways to obtain Japanese language fluency(reading, writing, speaking etc.) more efficiently, other than RTK??
In my case, I have done study abroad to Japan while in High school. I have taken a university placement test and got placed into the 3rd year level (the highest allowed). I am better at speaking/listening than reading and writing Japanese. I quite frequently use Japanese in my day-to-day life. I can watch any generic Japanese drama without subtitles and understand nearly everything. I can read, understand, and pronounce approximately 500 kanji.
At this point, I'm somewhat at a lost at how to improve the best way. It seems that RTK is most efficient for the beginner and that I might be somewhat retarding my progress by doing RTK -- and that's the last thing I'd want to do considering the immense amount of work doing RTK must be. Any Opinions or Advice would be greatly appreciate. Thank you
RTK gives nothing to speaking really. Its a tools for recalling how to write kanji. The secondary feature is you gain a keyword associated for each kanji. Telling us that you placed in "3rd year level" doesn't really provide an arbitrary indicator of your skill. From what you just said I would still place you upper-beginner to low-intermediate.
You may be able to speak and read 500 kanji (whatever that really means). But can you write them?
In short, do RTK.
The good thing about RTK is the ordering (simple to complex), learning the meaning of the radicals, and learning the stroke order. The rest is optional. You don't need the keywords and you don't need stories. Just learn vocabulary using each kanji and do some small amount of sensible revision such that you retain most of the information. If you remember like 90% you should be good to go and start reading, refining and filling gaps in your knowledge as you learn more vocabulary.
I am using RTK as someone coming back to Japanese study after a long break and finding it very helpful, although in my case, kanji knowledge was probably one of my weaker points previously. When I get to the kanji I already know really well in RTK I just skip them.
You don't have to do RTK at full speed.
If you want, you can do a little at a time.
6 kanji a day is enough to finish RTK in a year.
Also, I wouldn't see how RTK would "retard" your progress
since you admit that reading and writing are your weakest points.
With RTK, you can get past the kanji barrier and things get much better from there.
I do have to warn you that around the 500-700 people (without RTK) often plateau.
That's because you'll start seeing many kanji that are almost the same and it's hard to
really remember kanji if you can't recognize that parts they are made of.
Lastly, these days you can get Japanese subtitles for Japanese TV dramas.
The subtitles are exact word-for-word transcripts of what the actors are saying.
So it's perfect for learning daily conversation. Of course, you need to be able to
read kanji well and that's where RTK comes to the rescue...... :-)
Anyway, good luck with your studies.
I've been studying Japanese for years, a bit up and down in intensity... and I've studied all the Jouyou kanji and at one point I could correctly recognize 1200 characters on their own and quite a few more in certain common compounds... after a particularly busy time with work (which does not involve Japanese), my recognition had slid to below 600 characters.
I decided to give this RTK a try, and although I haven't quite completed it yet, I feel much more secure in my knowledge of characters. Tacking a unique keyword on them has given a 'name' to each character to help sort out easily confused characters, and the mnemonics have given me the ability to -write- (not just read!) 1800 kanji.
Just my experience, but, while I wish I -had- done RTK as a beginner, I'd say it's not just for beginners, it's for anyone who doesn't feel they already have a solid knowledge of reading and writing 2000+ characters.
I don't know what 3rd year university is because it varies from university to university. Finishing Genki 1 and Genki 2 is 3rd year in some places, 2nd year in others.
With that said I'm not a big fan of RTK if you already understand the basic construction of kanji and the radicals. It does help for seeing stuff like 為 though.
I would just do a mass kanji/vocab program like KiC or KO2001. I like RTK for beginners after learning kana and basic phrases. I think vocabulary is much more important than ... kanji, whatever that entails.
For example, yesterday I was watching a video and I was able to pronounce 実写版 but I was absolutely clueless to what the meaning was.
I greatly appreciate all the replies and advice.
I apologize if I wasn't being specific enough in my original post. My previous Japanese tutor at University had estimated my Japanese ability being at jlpt2. I'm also of half Japanese decent, my mother spoke to me in Japanese as a child. I am by no means near fluent, but I feel coming from this background it has given me some advantages or shortcuts on gaining a higher level of fluency as far as speaking.
I'm not sure if this applicable, but a few of the replies have stated doing RTK, without 'the stories' or 'keywords,' but isn't that altering RTK in way that makes it not RTK anymore??
RTK has several strengths.
The first strength is the RTK order... although it starts out with a few easy characters, it's not in easy->hard order, it's in an order that builds on the elements (and not only traditional radicals, but any commonly repeated sets of strokes.) Also the RTK order is conveniently supported by this site, Anki downloadable decks, and other software resources.
The second strength is giving a unique name (keyword) to each component and each character. This really helps the mind compartmentalize the characters, much more than trying to remember the identity of a character by a set of common meanings and common readings (none of which are individually unique to the character).
The 'imaginative memory' story-system is a great mnemonic system for the characters (or even in general) ... for -many- people but not all people. It's well worth doing if it works for you, and it's well worth looking at other techniques if it isn't clicking. Not everyone's memory is the same.
So, anyway, the story-system is not in and of itself RTK.
I will say that as an intermediate learner when I encountered RTK, there were a couple of things that made me think "This is silly, I'm not going to try this"... and therefore I didn't. Probably the biggest of these was that I already had my own mental keywords for a lot of kanji components, and it was too confusing to add a competing set of mental keywords that had very little, if anything, to do with the meanings of kanji. The second biggest was that I found, as a student in Japan, that writing kanji was the least of my problems. Vocabulary and reading comprehension provided far greater challenges, and linking kanji to English keywords wasn't going to help either of those very much.
I'm trying to shore up my kanji knowledge now -- focusing on recognition and on/kun readings rather than writing. That means SRS cards where the character is on the front and the readings + English keyword + key vocabulary are on the back. (I don't actually have to produce the key vocabulary to pass the card -- they're just there to reinforce the difference between the 検 in 検定 and the 験 in 試験, for example). I wish I could give you a testimonial, but I've only been at it for a couple of weeks so far, and am adding cards at a slowish rate.
I think anyone who has some previous Japanese knowledge before starting RTK will run into some problems with keywords. Sometimes I already had a concept of a kanji that was different that the keyword Heisig presents (not too surprising since many kanji have more than one meaning). I've chosen to change keywords when I don't like the one Heisig uses, and sometimes I use Japanese keywords, or include both an English and Japanese keyword. I also cross-reference with Henshall's "A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters." Even though I am altering the approach I would say I am still basically doing RTK - I'm going through the kanji in the order presented, and although I am changing some things, I am using the basic approach of creating stories using the elements in each kanji in order to remember and be able to write the kanji. One thing I am really focusing on now is actually being able to write, not just recognize, the kanji. Different people have different opinions on whether that's important or not, but the way my memory works, I have a much more solid grasp of the kanji once I can actually write it. Of all the kanji I used to know, for the most part, the ones I still know after a long break from Japanese study are the ones I learned to write, not the ones I just learned to recognize.