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"Heisig's Remembering the Kanji sucks" - Other Kanji Learning Methods?

#1
Before you jump on my back, that wasn't my opinion, I'm just quoting what other people say on other web sites/Amazon.

Basically, what other ways are there of learning Kanji? I'm talking about fully-fleshed out methods, from start to finish. I see a reasonable number of people on the Internet criticizing RTK. As a Japanese language learner, I don't care if their arguments are justified or not, I care about whether those who criticize RTK can actually offer any alternatives or solutions. Based on what I've read in the past: they can't. That's why I did RTK: Because there does not appear to be any alternative ways of learning Kanji. Or at least, not decent ones.

For example, Heisig's RTK is a method. The 2000+ Kanji are ordered in a specific order. You only build new Kanji from primitives from the ones you already know. In the short term, you remember the Kanji using stories. In the long term, you forget the story and simply remember the Kanji itself. In order to aid recall, flash cards like Anki is used. With this method, you can learn 2000+ Kanji in one year at the latest, or 3 months (or less) at the earliest.

The only other alternative I know of is the traditional Japanese way. As a Japanese Japanese language student living in Japan, you learn a couple of hundred Kanji in the first year, a couple of hundred the second year, etc... The Kanji learnt is ordered by commonness. After 5 years, I don't even think they have reached 2000 yet. On the other hand, they already truly mastered the ones they already know (know all the readings etc). The disadvantage of this method is that we are not Japanese, we don't live in Japan, and we're not Japanese children living in Japan learning Japanese for the first time (native language). Any foreigner who attempts to learn Kanji this way would probably give up. Maybe.

I suppose another alternative is the AJATT "Japanese Immersion" way. Instead of reading textbooks, you surround yourself in Japanese stuff. When you read a book and you come across Kanji you don't know (IE. all of them), you look it up in the dictionary. And you do this every time. I hesitate to call this a method. The advantage is that you see Kanji in its natural habitat and in context. The disadvantage is that looking up Kanji you don't know (all of them) gets very annoying, very fast. The other disadvantage is that you're simply looking up the Kanji, not actually studying them closely the same way you would do with RTK.

So, I again ask, if Heisig's RTK is a sucky way of learning Kanji, then what are the alternatives?
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#2
Heisig's method is illogical and ineffective because 80% of Kanji or Chinese characters are phono-sematic compound, that means one part of the kanji conveys sound, however Heisig uses a external meaning instead of how the kanji was invented.

Hence Heisig RTK is a fail for 80% of the kanji out there.
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#3
Heisig should have combined both RTK 1 and RTK 2 together, by incorporating Onyomi into RTK, that would have been a much better method IMO.
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#4
qwertyytrewq Wrote:Any foreigner who attempts to learn Kanji this way would probably give up. Maybe.
This is a pretty ridiculous statement -- Heisig wrote his book in 1977; are you suggesting that "any foreigner" before 1977 gave up?
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#5
warakawa Wrote:Heisig's method is illogical and ineffective because 80% of Kanji or Chinese characters are phono-sematic compound, that means one part of the kanji conveys sound, however Heisig uses a external meaning instead of how the kanji was invented.

Hence Heisig RTK is a fail for 80% of the kanji out there.
Let me guess, you didn't read the introduction?
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#6
yudantaiteki Wrote:
qwertyytrewq Wrote:Any foreigner who attempts to learn Kanji this way would probably give up. Maybe.
This is a pretty ridiculous statement -- Heisig wrote his book in 1977; are you suggesting that "any foreigner" before 1977 gave up?
Probably not before 1977, but now that RTK exists, maybe they would give up when they know there's a better alternative. That's what the thread is about, alternatives.
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#7
Kanji Kentei - although it's just a supplement to the traditional Japanese school methods.


And keep in mind that plenty of foreign learners of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean have mastered Chinese characters by simply doing what the kids in those countries do...
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#8
warakawa Wrote:Heisig's method is illogical and ineffective because 80% of Kanji or Chinese characters are phono-sematic compound, that means one part of the kanji conveys sound, however Heisig uses a external meaning instead of how the kanji was invented.

Hence Heisig RTK is a fail for 80% of the kanji out there.
80% of kanji are phono-semantic
???
therefore RTK is a fail for 80% of kanji

You're going to need to fill in that ??? in order for this to be a logical argument.


Also, even if it is true that 80% are phono-semantic (I think it's actually closer to about 65% if we're talking about Joyo-kanji), that doesn't mean that the phonetic markers are overly helpful for all of them. In fact, the phonetic markers are unhelpful or useless for a large portion:
http://forum.koohii.com/showthread.php?pid=8643#pid8643
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#9
qwertyytrewq Wrote:
yudantaiteki Wrote:
qwertyytrewq Wrote:Any foreigner who attempts to learn Kanji this way would probably give up. Maybe.
This is a pretty ridiculous statement -- Heisig wrote his book in 1977; are you suggesting that "any foreigner" before 1977 gave up?
Probably not before 1977, but now that RTK exists, maybe they would give up when they know there's a better alternative. That's what the thread is about, alternatives.
While I always tell people that the method works for me and always suggest to people that they look into it because it might work for them also - what evidence do you have that RTK is the "better" method?
Edited: 2012-08-30, 6:14 am
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#10
That's why I appreciate this method, the order. But I'm not surprised Warakawa added some nasty words...

When I tried learning Kanji through grades the kanji lacked meaning, sometimes, because primitives weren't really introduced first. But I guess a teacher would teach that?
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#11
qwertyytrewq Wrote:So, I again ask, if Heisig's RTK is a sucky way of learning Kanji, then what are the alternatives?
My way.

I combined and improved RTK volume with Chinese Pinyin since I am also studying Chinese. Basically I am learning Kanji, hanzi and pinyin at the same time.
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#12
Necrojesta Wrote:That's why I appreciate this method, the order. But I'm not surprised Warakawa added some nasty words...

When I tried learning Kanji through grades the kanji lacked meaning, sometimes, because primitives weren't really introduced first. But I guess a teacher would teach that?
Excuse me? Can you please point out what "nasty" words I used? Why are you being such a sheep can fellow Heisig's way as if it is God's way and any criticism of his approach is branded "nasty"?
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#13
Kanken is the most obvious alternative method to me. It's all laid out in a path from total beginner to kanji god.

Other methods could be just plowing through kanji reference books. Some of them actually do a good job of explaining radicals. And even most RTK alumni end up plowing through the same books to learn readings and vocab.
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#14
warakawa Wrote:
qwertyytrewq Wrote:So, I again ask, if Heisig's RTK is a sucky way of learning Kanji, then what are the alternatives?
My way.

I combined and improved RTK volume with Chinese Pinyin since I am also studying Chinese. Basically I am learning Kanji, hanzi and pinyin at the same time.
Shouldn't you actually finish RTK, or whatever the method is that you came up with, before you deem it a better method?
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#15
When I started Japanese, I learnt 700+ kanji through remembering how to read and write all the vocabulary in Genki I in a few weeks by rote memorisation. This is the traditional method right? I'm sure this is how people did it before RTK and Anki existed.

Then I discovered Anki and RTK and did RTK1 (but without using stories) for some reason, but I imagine I'd have been just as well served by sticking with learning to my original method but switching the notebook out for Anki.

Sure learning them in a logical order and using mnemonics helps but I think the naive method above is not as hard as people make it out to be. Kids take a long time because they're well, kids. Elementary school isn't exactly intense.

I heard that at Oxford university the Japanese language students are just told to learn 200 a week or something.
Edited: 2012-08-30, 6:45 am
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#16
kitakitsune Wrote:Shouldn't you actually finish RTK, or whatever the method is that you came up with, before you deem it a better method?
I am almost done, I am just perfecting it, I have improved on the keyword (Heisig's keyword is messed up, a lot keyword in RTK does not represent the main meaning of the kanji, again Heisig did that because he didn't incorporate pronunciation thus had to use keyword to different each hanji, anyone with a copy of JECD can tell you the amount of kanji synonyms is ridiculous), improved on the order of Kanji and hanzi learnt, increased number of primitives such as 㐱 and many others.

Once I am done I will published it to you all as RTKAHAPS (Remember the Kanji and Hanzi and Pronunciation Simultaneously).
Edited: 2012-08-30, 6:52 am
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#17
Smile at kanji, they will smile at you.

Any successful strategy of learning written forms of kanji boils down to this: a. dissect kanji into components recurring in many kanji b. name the components and use them as building blocks to remember new kanji c. learn stroke order.

buonaparte Wrote:Funny how people quarrel about insignificant trifles!

As to kanji and components. Heisig is only one of the possible methods.
I just learned all the classical radicals 部首 (ぶしゅ) and their Japanese names.
When I see 詩 I know it is 言 + 寺. When I see 誰 I know it is 言 + 隹 ふるとり). Mr Heisig calls it 'turkey', I'd rather call it the Japanese way. When in Rome (i.e. Japan), do as the Romans do! 郷に入っては郷に従え。 ごう に いって は ごう に したがえ。
I'd much rather spend my time actually learning Japanese than invent some weird stories just to remember the components.
It is a matter of preference in a sense.



Language is a system of four subsystems: pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar and discourse (here: how to make texts). You have to lovingly develop/acquire four language skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing) to manipulate the four subsystems.
At the beginning, listening comprehension and pronunciation are the most important, and, more often than not, completely ignored. 日本 and 二本 (にほん) are pronounced differently, for instance, you cannot learn that just by learning kanji components and stroke order (that is what Mr Heisig does).
Kanji are just a small element in the whole picture called 日本語。

Words - how they sound and how they are written - are much more valuable, they carry meaning and emotions.
I somehow don't want to see 古里 (ふるさと) as a tombstone and a computer (according to Mr Heisig), I'd rather see my hometown, and smell it, and hear all the voices of my childhood and of my ancestors.
We are governed by our emotions - love and soul shattering awe are among them.
When I read this
色is a pictograph of a man inserting his phallus into a woman from behind → sex; lover; mistress → looks; appearance (← motive factors stimulating the sex drive) → color (← complexion ← appearance).
I remembered the kanji instantly.


Sorry for my survival English.
Peace to you all, Japanese lovers.
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#18
kitakitsune Wrote:Kanji Kentei - although it's just a supplement to the traditional Japanese school methods.
Could you briefly explain what the "Kanji Kentei/Kanken" method is?

I had a look at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanji_kentei

and it seems to be a Japanese Kanji test intended for Japanese people to test Kanji that they should already know. Since it's for Japanese people, I'm guessing that they learn Kanji from most common (e.g. eat, drink etc) to least common using the Jouyou Kanji as the base, and that they learn Kanji by writing it 100+ times each?

If that is so, then the advantage of this method (for non-Japanese foreigners) is that people can learn the most common and useful Kanji first and can use it immediately.

The disadvantage is that writing a Kanji 100+ times is inferior to using RTK and writing it a maximum of 3 times.

The other disadvantage of course is that the most complex Kanji will be covered first (complex in terms of number of radicals, not in terms of meaning) which makes it harder to remember. Of course, you need to memorize the radicals before you can memorize the complex Kanji, which makes RTK's "building block" method much preferable.

Anyway, this thread is about alternatives so I guess that is an alternative.
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#19
dizmox Wrote:When I started Japanese, I learnt 700+ kanji through remembering how to read and write all the vocabulary in Genki I in a few weeks by rote memorisation. This is the traditional method right? I'm sure this is how people did it before RTK and Anki existed.
So is rote memorization the only Kanji-learning alternative to RTK?

dizmox Wrote:Sure learning them in a logical order and using mnemonics helps but I think the naive method above is not as hard as people make it out to be. Kids take a long time because they're well, kids. Elementary school isn't exactly intense.
Yes, that's why, in regards to rote memorization/brute forcing Japanese Kanji, I differentiated Japanese elementary students with foreign adult-learners of Japanese. Japanese students can take all the time they want, learning only a couple of hundred of Kanji a year, and living in Japan helps. And what works for Japanese students is not necessarily the best option/method for foreign adults, who are not Japanese, not young anymore, and don't have all the time in the world.

dizmox Wrote:I heard that at Oxford university the Japanese language students are just told to learn 200 a week or something.
What kind of method (if any) do they use? Rote memorization?

buonaparte Wrote:Any successful strategy of learning written forms of kanji boils down to this: a. dissect kanji into components recurring in many kanji b. name the components and use them as building blocks to remember new kanji c. learn stroke order.
Does that confirm my suspicions that there are only two ways of learning Kanji?

1) Making a story out of the Kanji (EG. Heisig)
2) Brute force/rote memorization (writing a Kanji over and over)

Because if people criticize Heisig's RTK, then rote memorization is the only alternative, an arguably inferior one.

buonaparte Wrote:色is a pictograph of a man inserting his phallus into a woman from behind → sex; lover; mistress → looks; appearance (← motive factors stimulating the sex drive) → color (← complexion ← appearance).
I remembered the kanji instantly.
For sex-related stories, I know it is what Kanji Damage specializes in, but isn't that based off RTK anyway (breaking Kanji into radicals)?
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#20
qwertyytrewq Wrote:Could you briefly explain what the "Kanji Kentei/Kanken" method is?
kitakitsune is probably referring to the DS game plus optionally going through the work books.

erlog has talked about this a couple times, but according to his experience, the DS game will take you up to about 3、4級 before it starts to get too boring. From there on out it makes sense to just create Anki decks with the stuff you need to learn. It's much more efficient.
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#21
qwertyytrewq Wrote:
buonaparte Wrote:色is a pictograph of a man inserting his phallus into a woman from behind → sex; lover; mistress → looks; appearance (← motive factors stimulating the sex drive) → color (← complexion ← appearance).
I remembered the kanji instantly.
For sex-related stories, I know it is what Kanji Damage specializes in, but isn't that based off RTK anyway (breaking Kanji into radicals)?
buonaparte was describing that character's actual etymology.
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#22
dizmox Wrote:I heard that at Oxford university the Japanese language students are just told to learn 200 a week or something.
What kind of method (if any) do they use? Rote memorization?

Presumably... I doubt they're told to use any specific method, more "Go away and learn this!" I imagine.

Maybe I misheard though..
Edited: 2012-08-30, 7:08 am
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#23
dizmox Wrote:Presumably... I doubt they're told to use any specific method, more "Go away and learn this!" I imagine.
Then this thread would be helpful because you have to learn how to learn Kanji before you can learn Kanji. Wink

JimmySeal Wrote:
qwertyytrewq Wrote:
buonaparte Wrote:色is a pictograph of a man inserting his phallus into a woman from behind → sex; lover; mistress → looks; appearance (← motive factors stimulating the sex drive) → color (← complexion ← appearance).
I remembered the kanji instantly.
For sex-related stories, I know it is what Kanji Damage specializes in, but isn't that based off RTK anyway (breaking Kanji into radicals)?
buonaparte was describing that character's actual etymology.
Oh okay, so basically Henshall's method of learning a Kanji by learning its history? http://www.amazon.com/Remembering-Japane...0804820384

I don't really know how that works, but it could be the 3rd alternative (Heisig, brute-forcing, and etymology).

I've heard negative opinions about learning Kanji this way though (etymology).
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#24
qwertyytrewq Wrote:
buonaparte Wrote:Any successful strategy of learning written forms of kanji boils down to this: a. dissect kanji into components recurring in many kanji b. name the components and use them as building blocks to remember new kanji c. learn stroke order.
Does that confirm my suspicions that there are only two ways of learning Kanji?

1) Making a story out of the Kanji (EG. Heisig)
2) Brute force/rote memorization (writing a Kanji over and over)

Because if people criticize Heisig's RTK, then rote memorization is the only alternative, an arguably inferior one.
Dear qwertyytrewq,
I can assure you that my way of learning languages (kanji included) has nothing to do with rote memorization.

Mr. Heisig did NOT invent anything. He took the Chinese (or Japanese) radicals, added some more, called them 'primitives' and used some stories in English to remember the kanji. Nothing more, nothing less.
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#25
buonaparte Wrote:I can assure you that my way of learning languages (kanji included) has nothing to do with rote memorization.
Is it etymology as dizmox mentioned?

buonaparte Wrote:Mr. Heisig did NOT invent anything. He took the Chinese (or Japanese) radicals, added some more, called them 'primitives' and used some stories in English to remember the kanji. Nothing more, nothing less.
What about the systematic order as shown in his books? I'm pretty sure that's his own creation.
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