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RTK1 vs. Kodansha Kanji Learner's Course

#26
Kanji keyword systems, if they have something to do with the usage of the kanji, always have considerable overlap, even if and when there's no relation.

Just like how J-E dictionaries all look like they heavily plagiarize eachother.
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#27
(2016-09-22, 2:39 am)wareya Wrote: Kanji keyword systems, if they have something to do with the usage of the kanji, always have considerable overlap, even if and when there's no relation.

Just like how J-E dictionaries all look like they heavily plagiarize eachother.

That's true. It's not like you can redefine the character just because you're making a new dictionary. 鳥 means bird and that's that. There would have to be a lot of overlap on the less obvious ones for it to really count as plagiarism.
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#28
Reading all the opinions so far, it looks like all eight people who have actually used both RTK and KKLC had more positive things to say about KKLC, or in some cases simply said that they switched to it from RTK, or would do so if they could start again. However this does not equate to criticizing RTK or saying you shouldn't use that as well.

On the other side, a couple of people expressed skepticism about KKLC, but said they had not used it. And people have made a key point that deciding which approach to use (or possibly both) is not just a comparison between the two books themselves, because you need to take into consideration the user-created resources and support systems, where RTK excels. People are coming up with different ways to combine the best of both, although there are limits to that since they cover the same ground.

Regarding the OP's question of which one to crack open first if you have both, it doesn't seem like there's a consensus yet. 

This is just my personal takeaway from the existing comments (plus #30 below, written prior to this edit). It should not be taken as a complete or representative summary.
Edited: 2016-10-01, 4:21 pm
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#29
(2016-09-30, 3:07 pm)See_the_Lite Wrote: CAVEAT
This is just an attempt to summarize the overall thread and not meant to substitute reading what everybody actually said, since I did not attempt to summarize each person's point. People made various caveats and qualifications on both sides, and just because people had more positive things to say about KKLC does not mean they were criticizing RTK or saying you shouldn't use that as well.

Please let me know if I missed or misrepresented anyone.

You should probably just not do that.  We can all read the thread for ourselves and the opinions people expressed are more complex than the argument your summary is trying to frame.
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#30
(2016-09-30, 3:07 pm)See_the_Lite Wrote: 8. Redbluefire (inside Furikake comment)

I linked to Redbluefire's review, and he definitely preferred KKLC over RTK, but I would personally be more in the 'ambiguous' category. I think the point several people make is that it's not just a comparison between the books, where KKLC would seem better, but between the overall resources behind them. Whatever the limitations of RTK, you also have to factor in the resources that have been developed by the community over the years, like Nukemarine's SGJL stuff, which is based on RTK. Even though KKLC now has its Anki decks etc., it still makes for a more complex comparison between the two approaches.
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#31
(2016-09-30, 10:29 pm)cracky Wrote: You should probably just not do that.  We can all read the thread for ourselves and the opinions people expressed are more complex than the argument your summary is trying to frame.

Thanks for your feedback. I originally thought I should mention the individual opinions in order to be transparent about where the information was coming from. But based on your comment I decided to just delete them and only express my personal takeaway.
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#32
(2016-09-13, 10:10 am)ayu_modoki Wrote:
(2016-08-29, 8:02 pm)HOW Wrote: This whopping KLC Anki deck has been going around.

It's very well done.

Whopping is right!  Do you know if there's anything smaller?

This is a bit late, but there are some other decks linked here if you're still interested. The "combined deck" is the same as the whopping one.
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#33
(2016-10-02, 5:45 pm)HOW Wrote:
(2016-09-13, 10:10 am)ayu_modoki Wrote:
(2016-08-29, 8:02 pm)HOW Wrote: This whopping KLC Anki deck has been going around.

It's very well done.

Whopping is right!  Do you know if there's anything smaller?

This is a bit late, but there are some other decks linked here if you're still interested. The "combined deck" is the same as the whopping one.

Perfect timing, not too late at all. Thanks!
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#34
(2016-09-18, 11:55 am)fkb9g Wrote: In retrospect, KKLC is the best single all-around resource, since it has more thoroughly articulated stories for all its kanji and gives the beginner vocab exposure (even if retention is low). In practice, I stayed with RTK since I got it first and I got comfortable (in a rut) with its method, never beginning the real work of learning to comprehend Japanese.

I think beginners should start with kanji writings, but transition to vocab uptake reasonably quickly. 

I agree it's important for beginners to get the hang of how to form the strokes and write the basic radicals, but then transition to learning kanji mainly for reading comprehension, focusing on learning them through their vocab. Of course in order to learn vocab effectively you also need to know what each individual kanji means. This is where RTK and KKLC come in, though KKLC teaches kanji meanings that are closer to reality. 

Regarding the OP's question, I would say both books are equally aimed at beginners, although KKLC takes you further by integrating with vocabulary. KKLC builds everything from the ground up, with no prereqs except for kana. 

RTK takes you further as far as writing goes, since the KKLC method is not focused on that.
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#35
Googling "KLC vs RTK" led me to this discussion. Is anyone else familiar with both of these who can compare? What are the main pros and cons of each?
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#36
(2016-12-12, 6:27 pm)ChestnutMouse Wrote: Googling "KLC vs RTK" led me to this discussion. Is anyone else familiar with both of these who can compare? What are the main pros and cons of each?

There are some comparisons linked above or just read the comment by Xia666. There’s also this discussion and this one, which come up on a quick search. 

Asking people to list all the pros and cons might not get much response. Is there anything in particular you want to know that would be quicker to answer?
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#37
(2016-12-13, 9:47 pm)Sembei Wrote:
(2016-12-12, 6:27 pm)ChestnutMouse Wrote: Googling "KLC vs RTK" led me to this discussion. Is anyone else familiar with both of these who can compare? What are the main pros and cons of each?

There are some comparisons linked above or just read the comment by Xia666. There’s also this discussion and this one, which come up on a quick search. 

Asking people to list all the pros and cons might not get much response. Is there anything in particular you want to know that would be quicker to answer?

I’m particularly interested in knowing how the supporting resources like Anki compare, since I don’t mind making up my own mnemonics.
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#38
RTK has plenty of Anki resources, and there's at least one Anki deck linked above. I suggest you use KLC mnemonics or consult RTK community mnemonics before doing your own. Also make sure you have a good sense of what the character means before making up your own mnemonic, otherwise you could remember the kanji the wrong way.
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#39
(2016-12-18, 10:08 pm)Sembei Wrote: Also make sure you have a good sense of what the character means before making up your own mnemonic, otherwise you could remember the kanji the wrong way.

That’s an issue with RTK because the keywords are less reliable as far as being able to make sense of compounds.
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#40
Thanks for everyone’s tips. I was kind of thinking that making my own mnemonics would help me remember the characters better. I wouldn’t want to do it if I would remember things the wrong way, but as long as I can write them, is there really a wrong way? I have heard that you shouldn’t try to learn the “meanings” of kanji anyway since you can’t really predict the meaning of a word based on the kanji.
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#41
(2016-12-24, 3:39 pm)ChestnutMouse Wrote: I have heard that you shouldn’t try to learn the “meanings” of kanji anyway since you can’t really predict the meaning of a word based on the kanji.

In my experience that's not great advice. You can definitely learn words much faster and much better if you know the kanji meanings. People say you can’t predict a word’s meaning based on its kanji, but a lot of time that’s because they don’t properly understand the kanji meanings. Yeah there are ateji and stuff, but I would say 95% of the time you can break down the meaning of a word into the meanings of each kanji if you don't have an overly simplistic understanding of what that is. The point the other commenter made is that the RTK keywords are problematic in this sense. I mean they are not as reliable for the purpose of making sense of new compounds. This is one of the areas in which KLC definitely ramped things up a level or two over RTK. That said, if you’re just trying to learn the writing for now, then RTK would also work.
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#42
(2016-12-31, 1:32 pm)Sembei Wrote:
(2016-12-24, 3:39 pm)ChestnutMouse Wrote: I have heard that you shouldn’t try to learn the “meanings” of kanji anyway since you can’t really predict the meaning of a word based on the kanji.

In my experience that's not great advice. You can definitely learn words much faster and much better if you know the kanji meanings. People say you can’t predict a word’s meaning based on its kanji, but a lot of time that’s because they don’t properly understand the kanji meanings. Yeah there are ateji and stuff, but I would say 95% of the time you can break down the meaning of a word into the meanings of each kanji if you don't have an overly simplistic understanding of what that is. The point the other commenter made is that the RTK keywords are problematic in this sense. I mean they are not as reliable for the purpose of making sense of new compounds. This is one of the areas in which KLC definitely ramped things up a level or two over RTK. That said, if you’re just trying to learn the writing for now, then RTK would also work.

Now that you explain it that way I can see why it would be important to learn the right meanings. After reading more comparisons I’ve decided to go with KLC, but I will definitely tap into some of the resources and stories from RTK/Koohii.
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#43
I don't think there's such a thing as "proper" kanji meanings. The reason KKLC's meanings are good is because they directly tie into the vocabulary items that it teaches alongside those kanji. You're not going to be able to accurately predict what words mean based solely on isolated kanji meanings, but they can make it easier to remember words. RTK and KKLC are both good for that, though I would argue that RTK is a little worse.

KKLC has an edge over RTK in terms of its meanings, but that's a minor thing in comparison to the other thing KKLC does differently: it specifically exposes you to words. They're optional, but they're there. The words are the actual language. Kanji is just an orthography (including its role in disambiguating loaned chinese morphemes). You normally study kanji for the purpose of reading words. The exact mechanism isn't important, and studying kanji themselves isn't even mandatory.

KKLC also tells you that your goal should be reading to actually acquire the language, which is great.
Edited: 2016-12-31, 10:05 pm
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#44
(2016-12-31, 10:04 pm)wareya Wrote: I don't think there's such a thing as "proper" kanji meanings. The reason KKLC's meanings are good is because they directly tie into the vocabulary items that it teaches alongside those kanji. You're not going to be able to accurately predict what words mean based solely on isolated kanji meanings, but they can make it easier to remember words. RTK and KKLC are both good for that, though I would argue that RTK is a little worse.

KKLC has an edge over RTK in terms of its meanings, but that's a minor thing in comparison to the other thing KKLC does differently: it specifically exposes you to words. They're optional, but they're there. The words are the actual language. Kanji is just an orthography (including its role in disambiguating loaned chinese morphemes). You normally study kanji for the purpose of reading words. The exact mechanism isn't important, and studying kanji themselves isn't even mandatory.

KKLC also tells you that your goal should be reading to actually acquire the language, which is great.

I would dispute the idea that there's no such thing as "proper" kanji meanings. If you go over a list of compounds and factor out the meanings the other kanji bring in, you're left with a kind of average meaning contributed by that kanji. Sometimes that meaning coalesces around one core idea, but other times it coalesces around two or more - that's why it doesn't make sense to reduce some kanji like 残 to a single core idea, which is one of the problems of RTK. The ideas themselves are really there, which is why people can make sense of words they haven't learned before. This means the way the meaning is expressed in English can be objectively judged as more accurate or less accurate. An English meaning can be very accurate, and it can be totally inaccurate.

You're right though that you can't accurately predict what words mean just based on isolated kanji meanings (or at least not always). You'll always guess wrongly sometimes, and then only after you've seen the word's English meaning you'll be able to figure out how that meaning can be derived from those kanji. What I meant to emphasize is that you can break down the meaning of a word into the meanings of each kanji -- sometimes relying on the English gloss as a guide -- if you don't have an overly simplistic understanding of what the kanji's meanings are.

RTK sometimes oversimplifies or distorts the meanings, because it's not designed as a kanji dictionary or even as a guide for helping you make sense of words written in kanji. It's designed as a mnemonic technique for being able to write kanji. When we try to rely on it for more than just writing, we get into trouble.
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#45
(2017-01-01, 12:44 pm)Sembei Wrote: (...) When we try to rely on it for more than just writing, we get into trouble.

…unless you just go one step further and use Heisig's keywords as mnemonics to build a story to help you memorize the writing of a word. This may be useful sometimes, though using it systematically would certainly be unnecessary and cumbersome.
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#46
This is gonna be a long one since my ritalin just kicked in, sorry in advance. No offense or anger meant by the length, just how this post is gonna be.

(2017-01-01, 12:44 pm)Sembei Wrote: <snip>
I'm against there being "proper" meanings, not against there being meanings in any capacity. A vague meaning with no predictive value is not a "proper" meaning. There are certainly kanji that have proper meanings like 不 and 内 but the kanji that don't have "proper meanings" are substantial in number.

(2017-01-01, 12:44 pm)Sembei Wrote: What I meant to emphasize is that you can break down the meaning of a word into the meanings of each kanji -- sometimes relying on the English gloss as a guide -- if you don't have an overly simplistic understanding of what the kanji's meanings are.
You can't. That's a dangerous generalization, and while it certainly represents a truthful concept, "you can break down the meaning of a word into the meanings of each kanji" doesn't work. You can only understand words in terms of other words, not their kanji. Kanji are not the language. The words are the language. I'm not trying to spew abstract nonsense as an argument there, I'm dead serious, and I finish this thought right after the next paragraph.

I realize that koohii is literally an RTK community, but you can only use RTK "properly" if you understand the distinction between kanji and the morphemes they encode. Forgive me for using linguistics terminology here, but it's the only well-known word for this concept. Morphemes are free beasts that can do whatever they want.

Japanese is not an analytic language like varieties of Chinese are, so morphemes do not have to have a reasonable application of their underlying meaning when they appear non-derivationally in words. Look no further than 誌 being glossed as magazine for no reason but association. "Magazine" is by no means a proper meaning of 誌, yet without knowing that 誌 is associated with words having to do with magazines, you can't predict the meanings of words with 誌 in them with any real accuracy.

When you use your understanding of the language in general to predict the meaning of a word based on its kanji in japanese, you don't do so on account of knowing proper meanings. Meanings are a small component of it. The key elements in predicting the meaning of a word are 1) words with shared characters that are used in similar situations*; 2) association between the kanji in the unknown word and the other words in which that kanji appears**; 3) general reading comprehension.

* compare "declension" to "conjugation", which are both ~ion words that appear in the same contexts, and probably have reflective meanings (which they do)
** compare "metalworks" to "fontworks"; even though the meaning doesn't belong to the sequence "works", you can tell from "metalworks", referring to foundries, that "fontworks" is probably using "works" the same way

Now, it certainly is the case for some kanji to definitely have proper meanings. 木, 地, 死, basically anything that represents a very simple concept will have something that I would accept calling a proper meaning, and for characters like 不 and 無 which basically correspond directly to certain derivational morphemes in their own right, you can't not say that they don't have proper meanings. But non-beginners shouldn't ever have trouble understanding a new word that only differs in one of these characters, like going from 名 to 無名.

(2017-01-01, 12:44 pm)Sembei Wrote: RTK sometimes oversimplifies or distorts the meanings, because it's not designed as a kanji dictionary or even as a guide for helping you make sense of words written in kanji. It's designed as a mnemonic technique for being able to write kanji. When we try to rely on it for more than just writing, we get into trouble.
You absolutely can use RTK for more than writing, you just have to be aware of its limitations and what it's really doing for you. Isolated kanji memorization as in RTK, even without readings or words, is still useful because it makes it much easier to see through the orthography of the language to the morphemes that make up the words in the text, and that should increase the rate at which you acquire (retain) the language, even if and when you don't make accurate predictions about what you're reading.

I think that it's very important to understand the distinction between kanji (which are sort of like identifiers, like species names) and the particular morpheme usage that kanji will be used to write whenever it appears on paper. If you know that 誌 doesn't actually mean "magazine", there's no issue calling it "the kanji for magazine", especially because words regarding magazines are by far the most relevant to it.

That's not to say you can't get in trouble, but when you're using conscious memorization to make acquiring a language easier, you're always going to run into trouble. RTK is perfectly fine if you can avoid getting in too much trouble when you use it. It doesn't even have to be for writing. In fact, KKLC might be better for writing because it has explicit stroke order and direction information for every single kanji, rather than doing it by components and order without direction like RTK does (hence saying "do RTK with KKLC's data" on the previous page).
Edited: 2017-01-04, 6:46 am
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#47
(2016-12-31, 10:04 pm)wareya Wrote: I don't think there's such a thing as "proper" kanji meanings. The reason KKLC's meanings are good is because they directly tie into the vocabulary items that it teaches alongside those kanji. You're not going to be able to accurately predict what words mean based solely on isolated kanji meanings, but they can make it easier to remember words. RTK and KKLC are both good for that, though I would argue that RTK is a little worse.

KKLC has an edge over RTK in terms of its meanings, but that's a minor thing in comparison to the other thing KKLC does differently: it specifically exposes you to words. They're optional, but they're there. The words are the actual language. Kanji is just an orthography (including its role in disambiguating loaned chinese morphemes). You normally study kanji for the purpose of reading words. The exact mechanism isn't important, and studying kanji themselves isn't even mandatory.

KKLC also tells you that your goal should be reading to actually acquire the language, which is great.

Sorry, could you clarify "disambiguating loaned chinese morphemes"? Just one example should help me understand.
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#48
(2017-01-07, 4:41 pm)ChestnutMouse Wrote:
(2016-12-31, 10:04 pm)wareya Wrote: I don't think there's such a thing as "proper" kanji meanings. The reason KKLC's meanings are good is because they directly tie into the vocabulary items that it teaches alongside those kanji. You're not going to be able to accurately predict what words mean based solely on isolated kanji meanings, but they can make it easier to remember words. RTK and KKLC are both good for that, though I would argue that RTK is a little worse.

KKLC has an edge over RTK in terms of its meanings, but that's a minor thing in comparison to the other thing KKLC does differently: it specifically exposes you to words. They're optional, but they're there. The words are the actual language. Kanji is just an orthography (including its role in disambiguating loaned chinese morphemes). You normally study kanji for the purpose of reading words. The exact mechanism isn't important, and studying kanji themselves isn't even mandatory.

KKLC also tells you that your goal should be reading to actually acquire the language, which is great.

Sorry, could you clarify "disambiguating loaned chinese morphemes"? Just one example should help me understand.

I think wareya means compound words that are pronounced the same but spelled with different kanji (try looking up "taisei," for instance, and see how many different words you find). Lots of morphemes were borrowed that were pronounced "sei" at the time, but the different kanji distinguished among different uses.

I don't know very much about the history of how kanji compounds were formed. I always assumed that, on top of cases where a kanji was used both as a figure with a Chinese sound and matched up with a native Japanese word (like "eat" is both "shoku" and "taberu"), many words were coined by putting syllables together to make longer words, as many English words were consciously coined by using Latin word-roots. Chinese wouldn't have this, since its vocabulary is monosyllabic (as I understand it?). In that sense, knowing the "root" meanings of kanji can help you guess what the compounds were intended to mean, but as in the case of Latin word roots, you won't always guess right. I have certainly encountered many, many compounds where the relationship to the "meaning" of the kanji chosen to spell the word was mysterious at best.
Edited: 2017-01-07, 5:27 pm
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#49
(2016-12-18, 6:07 pm)ChestnutMouse Wrote: I’m particularly interested in knowing how the supporting resources like Anki compare, since I don’t mind making up my own mnemonics.

I think to a certain extent we all make up our own, but it’s definitely not necessary for the sake of learning. I did it more when I was using RTK because Heisig leaves it up to you. Now with Kodansha I've been just going with what they have for the most part. Their solutions are effective and organized into an overall system, so I don't see much benefit in making up my own unless I have some special reason to.
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#50
Interesting post. I have to try some of this ritalin stuff!

With all due respect, I think you kind of proved my point. Or to put it another way, we probably disagree much less than we think.

At the top you said "There are certainly kanji that have proper meanings like 不 and 内 but the kanji that don't have "proper meanings" are substantial in number." So what our debate comes down to really is:
1. What do we mean by "proper meaning"?  and
2. How many kanji are there where you really can't identify such a meaning?

My response to question 1 is that there really does exist a kind of average meaning contributed by a kanji to the words in which it appears (this is why I feel like you're just making the same point when you emphasize the importance of knowing "the other words in which that kanji appears"). What I refer to in borrowing your term "proper meaning" is this: the best possible English word for capturing that core idea that your mind abstracts out of all those "other words in which the kanji appears".

So where you say "You can only understand words in terms of other words, not their kanji", I think you are just highlighting the fact that the "proper meaning" for a kanji has to be derived from a careful analysis of its compounds. Obviously the RTK keywords were not derived this way, because as I mentioned before it's not designed as a kanji dictionary or even as a guide for helping you make sense of words written in kanji. It's designed as a mnemonic technique for being able to write kanji. So naturally a person who only studied with RTK would assume that kanji do not have "proper meanings" and that you can't break down the meaning of a word into the meanings of each kanji. This is where I would argue again that we are taking RTK too far if we try to rely on it for more than just learning writing.

Like I said before, sometimes the kanji's meaning coalesces around more than one core idea, which is why it doesn't make sense to reduce a kanji like 残 to a single keyword. But there is still a "proper meaning" or "best keyword available in English" for each of those ideas. This is not to make an argument for any particular keyword being the very best for a particular meaning, but just to state in the abstract that you can place the keyword choices on a continuum from least to most accurate. My definition of "proper meaning" would be that keyword or phrase that is closer to the accurate end of that continuum than any other word anyone has yet thought of.

I feel like your example of the kanji 誌 further illustrates the point. The original meaning of that character would not be too helpful in sussing out modern Japanese words like 週刊誌 or タイム誌. But as you point out, 誌 has also come to stand for another core idea in modern Japanese - "magazine". So today the Japanese can say 週刊誌 or タイム誌 and 誌 means "magazine" in those words - no more, no less. For all the words like 誌面, 誌上, 機関誌, etc, the "proper meaning" in English for 誌 is absolutely "magazine", and any other word would definitely be less accurate. So in modern Japanese, it's not really appropriate to try to boil down 誌 to its original meaning, "記録。文章。" As with 残, you also need a second keyword for the other very common meaning: "「雑誌」の略" (=magazine).

You could reply that magazine is not the "real" meaning of 誌, but that would be the same as arguing that the "real" meaning of a word can never change over time, and if that were true, then we would hardly be able to engage in this conversation.

My response to question 2 is that, logically speaking, there must always be a word or words that is/are farthest to the "accurate" end of the continuum for any given kanji meaning, although sometimes English will lack good options, or perhaps nobody will have thought of a really good English keyword yet. The real trouble comes in deciding how many keywords a kanji should have. I think you and I would agree that 不 and 内 need only one, and that 誌 and 残 each need 2. But what about something like 方? How many "meanings" should you learn? Personally, I would say you should keep learning the different shades of meaning as you learn new words (while trying to see how they relate to one another if at all), so you can keep expanding not just your vocabulary but your vocabulary-building power. But I would not venture to talk about a "proper" number of meanings you should learn up front. That's an empirical question.
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