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Good books or websites for learning Kanji the right way

hiverloon

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Anybody know books or online sites where I can learn kanji systematically and which guides me right from the beginning till some more advanced level? There are of course a couple of sites there but mostly I saw they are just an introductory or merely motivation to start learning. I have searched through this forum especially the "Kanji appreciation thread" but the link posted there seems to have been very old and is inactive now. I imagine something similar to Tae Kim's Guide but more devoted to Kanji learners.
 

Mike Cash

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Is it in English?
No, they are intended for native speakers. But I doubt that would be an issue.

The series runs from 10, which is the kanji learned by elementary school first graders, up through 2, which is the last bit of kanji learned through high school. It fits very well the parameters you set forth.

The very earliest ones include lots of things in kana and some helpful illustrations, as you might expect for the targeted age range. If I had the learning of kanji to do all over again from the beginning I would include these among my materials. (I did use the final two volumes earlier this year).

@nekojita may have experience with these or similar materials and be able to give you a more informed opinion on them.
 
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nekojita

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What I did was to work with a bunch of test papers, with a notebook to write down vocabulary I wasn't familiar with. I'd end up with a list of study words for each level.

You can get practice materials by googling something like 漢検 無料 プリント plus the level (10級 and work your way up) , there are also Nintendo DS games and phone apps. I went with the DS route because I could get them cheap off Ebay at the time, it doesn't matter as long as there's lots of practice questions.

What the lower levels taught me was there were a lot of words that a primary school child would be expected to know that I didn't. I thought I 'knew' all my basic kanji, I'd just whip through the first few levels till it got hard. That was a lesson in itself. It quickly became an exercise in vocabulary learning first and in kanji learning second, but I don't think that was a bad thing. I credit it with getting me to the critical kanji/vocab level that allows you to actually start reading.

I also used another DS game called 'nazotte oboeru' which is similar in concept - good fun as it has themed sections in addition to working your way through the levels (an entire section of food-themed kanji quizzes, this is very fun if you are me).

Kanken practice questions generally have fairly simple sentences to give context so you know which word they're looking for. I don't remember running into any grammar issues (I was probably low-intermediate at the time on that front).

Another potential, if you would prefer to start with something aimed at foreign learners:
2001.Kanji.Odyssey

I haven't used this fully but I had a play on some of their free materials. They provide common words and example sentences (sample ). I believe there are some tests also.

You will have to experiment with learning styles - some people would take this material and SRS it, I feel my brain turning off after about five seconds of flashcards, but quiz-style stuff like kanken works well for me. I often try to combine more than one sense - so when doing the reading I would read aloud the full sentence, if doing writing I would say the word as I wrote it.

It doesn't really matter which method you choose in the long run, as long as you keep at it. Study every day, even if only for a short time, and you will see your skills improve. Don't neglect your grammar, either! Your aim should be to get to a point where you can read.
 

hiverloon

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No, they are intended for native speakers. But I doubt that would be an issue.
So, if it's for Japanese kids, I imagine you learn through pictures and more kana in the beginning?
Another potential, if you would prefer to start with something aimed at foreign learners:
2001.Kanji.Odyssey
Why can I only open a few groups (see for example 2001.Kanji.Odyssey , only group 8 and 9 are accessible)? Are the rest of the groups available only for premium users? But I don't see where one can sign up.
You can get practice materials by googling something like 漢検 無料 プリント plus the level (10級 and work your way up)
Google will only direct me to Japanese sites in that case and I don't know how to proceed.
 

nekojita

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Sorry, here's the main site:
Learning Materials of Japanese Language - Kanji
You will need to pay for full access.

Learning to navigate Japanese websites is good practice in itself - you only need to learn a few words to find your way about. (A good marker of how well you know your katakana as many words on websites are loanwords). Don't worry about not being able to read everything, just look for keywords that you're after - 漢字、ダウンロード, etc.

Early levels of kanken - pictures, no, a lot more kana, yes. (Some practice materials for kids will have pictures but they're not part of this test).

Anyway, here's a direct link to one of the sites 10級 practice questions (reading and writing):
漢字テスト【漢検10級トレーニング】 | プリント学習サークル
The first three columns seem to be the same pdf repeated three times (I guess intended that you repeat each practice set three times), the last (解答) is the answers.

They're not in the official format but it gives a flavour of the sort of questions.
 

lincstreff

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The software that I used when I started out is called LexiKAN. It was only made for the PC, but could conceivably be used on other platforms by using a PC emulation program. I liked it because it had a nice interface, was highly customizable, had lots of functionality, and interfaced with EDICT. The creator discontinued support several years back, but the software is now freely available on the web if you search for it. It is no longer guaranteed to work with the newer versions of Windows, although I have it installed on my Windows 10 laptop, and it seems fine, except for the help files, which do not work with newer versions of Windows. With LexiKAN, you can create study groups of characters and words, and then drill them SRS-style. I still highly recommend this software.

As for books, based on user feedback I have seen on another forum, there are two popular books for learning the characters. One is the Kodansha Kanji Learners Course (although called a "course", it is, in fact, a book). I have no experience with it, but browsed it a bit on Amazon, and it seems good. The other was written years ago by a British academic. I will not name it, because I do not recommend its study method, but it does have many devoted followers. The philosophy of the author is to learn the characters first using English-language meanings. Meanings are remembered with mostly silly mnemonics, most of which are not based on actual character etymology. Only later, per this method, are character readings and vocabulary words learned. I think this method is highly inefficient, but it seems to work for some people.

I have also written a book for learning kanji. I won't name it here, so as to avoid excessive self-promotion. My approach is to first have the learner understand how the characters work in general - topics such as how the characters have been created and how they are used to write Japanese. I do not teach a specific set of characters, though; this book is designed to be used as a companion book and reference book, not as a standalone source for learning kanji. My book is new, and as far as I know has not been tested "in the field" by an actual kanji learner, so it is not yet possible to obtain an unbiased review of its efficacy. If anyone wishes to contact me, I can provide more information about it.
 

Mike Cash

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it does have many devoted followers.
That's an understatement. I've seen the word "cult" used to describe them.

I think this method is highly inefficient, but it seems to work for some people.
I came across the case of one fellow who, if I understand his timeline correctly, managed to BS his way through a pass on the JLPT N1 with having followed that method. He was planning on taking the Kanji Kentei level 4 or 3 and said that, thanks to having used that Unnamed Method, he knew the meanings for all the kanji covered and a reading for about half of them. I laughed and laughed and laughed when I contemplated him taking the KK with little more than what he had learned from the cult book.

I have also written a book for learning kanji. I won't name it here, so as to avoid excessive self-promotion.
I suffer no such inhibitions.

Very deserving of consideration
 

hiverloon

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I will not name it, because I do not recommend its study method, but it does have many devoted followers.
If you mean JWH, I think I agree with you in some points. Despite being rated high in Amazon, there are also not a few negative reviews. Most of them mainly comment on the memorizing method which introduces a kanji character as a nameless symbol (in the first volume) but accompanied with a story to aid readers memorize its meaning. The reading of the characters comes in the second volume. So, I guess unless you are determined to seriously follow his method from beginning until at least the second volume, this method is basically inefficient as you said. Maybe I will think to have a copy of this book but I won't use it as my main study resource.

I have also written a book for learning kanji. I won't name it here, so as to avoid excessive self-promotion.
I suffer no such inhibitions.

Very deserving of consideration
I will consider it further, thanks.
 
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