Adventures in Heisig • week 2

…in which I stray from the path

Heisig isn’t really working for me straight from the book. So I’ve decided on my own Shiawase system. It takes longer. So it’s not the speed system that Heisig mk1 might be.

What I’ve decided to do is incorporate it into more standard learning. I go beyond the keyword and kanji and I look up Jack Halperns keyword in the Kanji Learners Dictionary, because I don’t trust Heisig sometimes, and I believe Halpern is more accurate. I look up the onyomi and kunyomi. Most importantly I look up example words. Preferably words I already know, and preferably compounds.

If I learn a compound I’m linking two or more kanji together. In theory learn 1000 words and you can have all 2000 kanji. In practice, this is how you’ll use kanji; in actual words. Always in the company of other kanji or of おくりがな kana tails. If you take it even further a sentence or paragraph can tell you about a specific kanji. But it’s a much slower process assimilating them.

I feel that the Heisig system is good for remembering how to write a kanji,,, by hand.
In these days of computers you need to know the reading in order to type it and then to be able to recognise that it’s the correct character. There are writing recognition programs. I’ve never seen one on the Mac, but Nintendo has some, and there was one for the now all but defunct PalmOS. Success is variable and keyboard input generally quicker and more accurate.

I’m not sure about reading using Heisig. As a base system you can only “read” in a sort of rebus fashion. Knowing the english keyword of several kanji won’t necessarily allow you to understand a word. However you might be able to guess from context.
公開図書館 Can you guess what that means? Have you any idea how to say it?
does こうかいとしょかん help?
public library.
however it just doesn’t work like that in practice, with me, when I know a word I tend to know the Japanese then equate that to the concept or to English. I no longer see the components as such.
To be fair to Heisig I think he does point out this jump in Lesson 31

So I’m about to leave Heisig behind.
I need/want to use Japanese daily. I won’t/can’t ignore it just to master the jyouyou kanji using Heisig.
I have taken his order, as good as any and in the later parts much more ordered by shape. Although I might go off on my own tangent at times. I’ve taken his mnemonic idea of creating a vivid image from the kanji’s components. I’ve taken his review order of going from keyword to kanji.

I’ve ditched the book. I’ve ditched his stories and fake etymology. I’m carefully examining his keywords.

I’m proceeding at my own pace and am in no particular hurry. I like to explore kanji. I like them. I don’t see them as an irritation to be gotten over. I’ll learn them to go with the words I use. I’ll read at my level in Japanese.
I’m dissapointed with the immediate uselessness of the earlier kanji in Heisig. A lot are Grade 8 or 9 and appear mostly in place-names.

I remember why I didn’t try Heisig before. It was out of print. Maybe the Internet is what has put it back in print. There is certainly a lot written about it. Testament to the fact the people want to learn kanji (outside a classroom) and there aren’t many systems. Although the Heisig fanatics wear me out a bit. And the whole debate is draining. (“I learnt 500 kanji in a week”, yeah right… read this out loud please. Hand-write a letter to a Japanese friend. )
I wonder what system an actual teacher, who knew something about kanji and teaching a second language and how people learn, could come up with. That would be something.

My advice.
If you know nothing about kanji give his method a go. Better still if you have 3 months or so to dedicate to it, try to blast through it. Don’t do any Japanese learning at the same time. Use the reviewing web site.

If you do know Japanese or about kanji. Download the free chapters and give it a go. It might fit with your style of learning.

or attempt Shiawase. Read the sample chapters. Get the order from Anki. Make more notes in Anki or export them to a program where you can have multiple parts to a card; I use iFlash. Someday I might upload my deck but the process of making it is beneficial in and of itself.
Learn and use Japanese.

17. February 2008 by ロバート
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