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which better: kanji dictionary ordered according to JLPT or usage frequency?

mglArslan

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Hi all,
I am working on a kanji dictionary that will make kanji learning easy. Each kanji is going to be explained using their etymology as much as possible.
I wonder if it should be structured according to JLPT kanji order or most used kanji frequency / most common kanji list? What do you think which is better for you, a japanese language learner. Is JLPT really important? I feel that a lot of people study to pass N5 or N4 or whatever level.

Which type of dictionary is more useful and you would buy?

Thank you all, in advance. Looking forward to your feedback.
 

Mike Cash

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There are already lots of things available which serve the same purpose. What new and unique features do you plan to include in your project?
 

mglArslan

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There are already lots of things available which serve the same purpose. What new and unique features do you plan to include in your project?
I did not see JLPT books or apps being etymology based. They teach level 5 to level 1 kanji by showing them and listing their readings, meanings, etc, but without giving mnemonics or or other aid to nail the kanji. If I am wrong pls correct me. this is my observation.

The most used kanji approach is more or less is used in Heisig's RTK book, Henshall's A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters and perhaps other books. The difference is Heisig's book relies on mnemonics which in many cases has nothing to do with etymology. Sometimes their etymology is dead easy and accurate to learn kanji.

Henshal's book is said to be a bit deep theoretical. But it does not have gradual build up like RTK.

So I am trying to make a book with gradual build up, consisting of well over 3000 kanji constructed mostly on etymology.

If you see something like this (books or apps ) already on the market, pls mention in this thread. I'll be open to any criticism, suggestion, whatever.
 
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Usual questions for these sort of projects:

What is your own level of Japanese?
What is your experience with teaching (particularly teaching languages)?
Are any native speakers involved in the project?

Why "over 3000"?

Why do you think etymology is going to make things easier? A lot of etymologies are sort of dubious anyway, but if you're going to use them as mnemonics does it matter whether they're accurate or not?

I personally wish there were more resources that focused on teaching people how to deal with unfamiliar characters or vocab, rather than just teaching X number of kanji. Basically, once you know some basic stuff about stroke order, meaning/phonetic components, different types of readings (including ones that aren't on/kun), etc, you shouldn't need a book to explain every single kanji, just a source of loads of practice material (Kanji Odyssey, Kanji in Context, Kanken practice tests, etc).
 
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Take a look at KanjiDamage. Its main feature is that its kanji list is ordered not by usage frequency, not by any JLPT grading, but by visual structure. That is, kanji that are visually similar are grouped, and base kanji are taught before the "compound" kanji that use them. This makes the learning process much easier.

Also it uses really silly mnemonics to help remember the compound kanji, rather than trying to give the real reason/history of why "beautiful" consists of "big" and "sheep".

It "only" lists 1700 characters instead of the 3000 that you are planning; but honestly, for me that was more than enough. Inbetween learning grammar, I learned the KD list over a year (for reading only), and have been reading Japanese news articles daily since then. Sure, I still encountered characters that I didn't know yet, but definitely not 1300 ones.

Apart from KanjiDamage, there are other sites like Memrise or WaniKani that also offer mnemonic-based kanji learning. Though really, I've found that the best mnemonics are the ones you make yourself.
 
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I personally wish there were more resources that focused on teaching people how to deal with unfamiliar characters or vocab, rather than just teaching X number of kanji. Basically, once you know some basic stuff about stroke order, meaning/phonetic components, different types of readings (including ones that aren't on/kun), etc, you shouldn't need a book to explain every single kanji, just a source of loads of practice material (Kanji Odyssey, Kanji in Context, Kanken practice tests, etc).
I think RTK does that to some degree. I learned the stroke orders (+radicals) and meanings from it, nothing about phonetic components there, though. That alone makes it really easy to "decipher" new kanji, in my opinion.
 
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I think in your case it depends also on what your goal is. If you want to take the JLPT then, yeah, the JLPT order is a good way to go. If you're just concerned with learning as much kanji as you can so you can go out there and actually read some articles, then frequency is your best bet.

Also, adding onto what others have said about etymology on the kanji, if that's what you're into, then go for it. Keep this in mind though, as an English speaker, do you look at every letter in what I am typing and think "Oh, a long time ago this character 't' came from the ancient..." yada, yada, yada? No, of course not. You just read. So, I'm trying to say through this example that learning etymology and such is not really necessary. It can help you remember a kanji when you're starting out, but if you look on Kanji Damage, like others have suggested, there are some mnemonic devices that are just funny or crazy. As long as you can recall the kanji, its etymology really has no purpose.

That's just my thoughts, of course. If you're really interested in studying each and every kanji, then go for it. As long as you keep your goal/purpose for learning Japanese in mind, you should have yourself a nice, custom dictionary.
 
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