Having embarked on another kanji learning phase I looked again at Heisig to see if it could help me. Unfortunately not, I’m a traditionalist at heart. A traditionalist who doesn’t have the type of imagination and patience needed to invent mnemonic stories.
However there are some things I’ve learnt about Heisig that I feel are worth pointing out for anyone embarking on that method.
You have to do it on Heisig’s terms. That means you follow his order, use his keywords and do not attempt to integrate Japanese. He has the reasonable insistence that you should do one thing at a time. In RTK1 this is putting English to the symbols in such a way that it becomes easy to remember how to write them. You come back later to integrate that into Japanese readings. Also it’s all or nothing. For it to be truly useful you have to complete the course. At the end you are in a similar position of a Chinese person, able to recognise, write and put a meaning to kanji but not knowing the language. Heisig himself admitted that while he could write kanji from memory after developing his system he could neither write nor read ねこ for the character 猫; he could only relate it to the English “cat”.
All my reservations about the Heisig method still stand, but if you have the ability and 6 months it could be worth the attempt.