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How do you learn Kanji?

Tim33

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Ok i have been learning Japanese at university for the last 1 and half years. I am currently at intermediate in speaking terms however i have a huge dilema.

This summer i go to a Japanese university but only if i pass my exam. Sadly my exam is hugely Kanji based and before christmas i failed my exam purely because i suck at Kanji. You would think they would be ok with this seeing my speaking is so good but never mind.

Well i have tried learning in a number of differnt ways and i just cant seem to remember them, i can remember them for like 2 days and then they just leave my mind again.

So how do you learn Kanji, what is the best way to go about this. Please i really need the help.
 

rajs20

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When's your exam? Sounds like you have to take it really soon, o_O... Also, does the exam require you to know how to write the kanji or just recognize them?

Maybe it would help if you figure out exactly how long it takes for you to learn each kanji on average... Personally I take about 3 minutes per kanji. So, if you can do some rough calculation like that, you can figure out how much time to spend. (Learning kanji is a pretty linear process, just got to put in the time.)

As for learning techniques, I think everyone's different, but here's my thoughts:

-Studying kanji is like feeding a baby... you scoop some food into its mouth, it spits half of it out, so you keep scooping and scooping until it stays in! In other words, you can't just memorize a kanji on Monday and expect it to stay in your brain until Friday. So, it helps to review stuff you already learned.

-Here's my own "kanji study approach" in case it might help, not necessarily the best, and I haven't tried it for cramming hundreds of kanji per week like you probably are going to do, but oh well :)

* Every week, take a new batch of 35 kanji from the "Kanji Pict-o-Grafix" book.

* Every day, I go through the entire batch, focusing on a particular aspect of kanji:
-Monday: Learn meanings, also write each Kanji only ONCE- not so much to learn how to write the kanji perfectly at this point, but just so I am aware which radicals are used in each kanji, etc.
-Tuesday: same as Monday
-Wednesday: Write each kanji multiple times, paying attention to stroke order and proportions
-Thursday: Learn most common on/kun readings. If I have trouble learning one, I make up a story for it. For example, the kanji for "gather" (ツ集), the on reading is "shuu", so my "story" was "gather your shuus" (shoes).
-Friday: same as Thursday
-Saturday: same as Thursday
-Sunday: review all aspects of Kanji

* I try to also spend a little time each week reviewing kanji from previous weeks.. I'm pretty good about remembering meanings, but I often find I forget the readings so reviewing is helpful.

Good luck,

Raj
 

Tim33

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That is extreamly good advice and i will give that a go however my Kanji learning will be more like 35 a day rather then 35 a week.

Sadly its not just the readings which i am fairly confident i could learn it that time, i think i will probally only get 10% for this. The writing is involved also which i do find alot more difficult.

Thanks for your help.
 

bentenmusume

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No offense, but you're out of your mind if you think that you're going to be able to learn thirty-five kanji a day, especially in the early stages of your studies. I think you'd pretty much have to have a near-photographic memory to pull that one off.

Also, learning kanji just as "meanings" (by which most people seem to mean "one-word English equivalents") and readings isn't going to do a whole lot to improve your reading or writing skills. You really need to learn the characters in context -- as many sentences containing the characters and their related compounds as possible.

Go to amazon.com and get yourself something like Bonjinsha's "Basic Kanji Book" or Jorden's "Japanese: The Written Language" -- with books like these you can actually learn the characters in a meaningful way, with plenty of example sentences.

Kanji learning is one of the most misunderstood areas of studying Japanese among learners. I pity people who spend countless hours learning English "keywords" for hundreds of characters -- something that will do them barely a speck of good when they actually try to use their kanji knowledge to read or write Japanese.

Even learning readings just by themselves is of questionable use. Rather than making up little mnemonic devices to remember that the on-yomi of 集 is しゅう, why not teach yourself a few words like 集団、写真集、集合, and so forth? Not only will you remember the reading, but you'll have exposed yourself to some actual real words that you'll run across when you read.

All of this is assuming, of course, that the learner's goal in studying kanji is to be able to actually read real Japanese. Then again, I'm not really sure what other goals there would be.

Anyway, that's just my two cents.
 

Tim33

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I do actually own the Bonjinsha Basic Kanji book 1 and 2 which i was supplied with for my University course. Yes i am quite mad trying to learn 35 Kanji a day, Though its more 35 Kanji compounds rather then individual kanji. In total i have about 200 Kanji that i need to memorise that i have yet to learn well.

But i really dont have along time to do so, it think it is as rajs20 said about feeding the baby, its a case of looking at them forgetting half and then relearning later etc. I think this is probally part of the method i will try. Its mainly the problem that its this type of study i am not good at. Actual language wise im not so bad and can generally hold a basic conversation.
 

rajs20

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Yeah, my approach probably won't work for cramming lots of kanji at a time...

At the rate of 35 per day I guess it's natural that it'd be hard to retain things. I guess just aim for 3+ hrs of study per day or something and keep on reviewing. Maybe you can try using flashcards if you aren't already, as that would give you an organized way to review kanji you've already learned. (Edit: I guess flashcards wouldn't help but writing, but anyways... maybe just some list of kanji you learned so you know what to review, something..)

Good luck :)
 

Kirisame

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When I took my jlpt 2, I did not spend much time cramming for kanji. Instead I had relied on the kanji knowledge gained through a habit cultivated since I started learning japanese.

Whenever I come across interesting japanese articles, I would pick out the new kanji and look them up in the dictionary. I would also try to research their real life usage and various contextual meanings.

That's probably how I saved myself the stress of cramming words into my head. You see, I'm not good at grammar so learning all the tested grammar in jlpt 2 took up much of my review time.

I agree with both rajs20 and jt_'s comments and learning methods. They are all good ways to learn new kanji in my opinion.

All the best for your entrance exam. ご合格するように。 :)
 

chedie

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I'm just a beginner in Nihongo and at the moment also studying Kanji.

For Kanji, I don't keep track of how many Kanji's I try to retain in memory for a day. Thing is, I write a number pf Kanji's in any paper over and over again until I get the strokes and its meaning in my head. The next day, I study another set of Kanji's then review over and over again the previous ones I memorized until I get all of them straight in my head. Honestly, sometimes I get disheartened by it... but its all part of the process learning the language. :)
 

Belgarath

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jt: I understand what you mean, and I'm absolutely no expert, but in many/most cases, the meaning of a kanji can be roughly summed up by an english keyword. Of course there'll be times when that one english keyword one's learned for a kanji won't be of any use, but I've been using James W. Heisigs "Remembering the Kanji"-books, and they have been extremely helpful. One of the aspects I like the most about the books, is that they are very opposite to other types of kanji learning - many people try to master a kanji before moving on to the next, learning ALL meanings and ALL readings. I find this extremely difficult to do, I prefer to learn as much as I can remember, and then learn some more, then some more, taking it slowly with each character. Works for me.
 

Upasaka

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I just started with Heisig and love it. Makes things so much easier than the old write it over hundreds of times method (which did not work for me - in Chinese - at all). BUT Heisig's method is not going to work if you need to kno Japanese readings for the kanji; book one is just one English keyword to each kanji, which serves as the basis for building later to a degree of fluency. It's an integrated method, so you need to do the whole thing to get the system down, and it will not help for a short term fix for the OP's problem.
 

dc_johnson45

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Here's how I'm doing it:

1. Using 'A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters' by Henshall. I learn a new batch every Monday/Wednesday/Friday (10 - 15 kanji per batch).

2. Get Kodansha's Kanji Cards. These are sorted by Grade, as is the Henshall book. Sort out the cards you have learned & review them frequently. Less frequently, go over the entire stack.

3. Download & use Kanji Gold (just do a google search on the name). It has the characters for Henshall & you can load up just the ones you are studying or the entire amount you have learned & review them in any order.

4. Don't be afraid to write them out! As I learn kanji, I write them 10 or so times.. then I rewrite them 5 times the next day. I also have gotten into the habit of doodling kanji when I'm waiting time... its actually kinda relaxing!

Well.. thats my method. Worked pretty well so far.
 

Tsuyoiko

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This is my method:

1) Print off a list of kanji with reading and sample compounds that has some blank space next to the kanji.
2) Practise the stroke order on scrap paper until I know the order. This gets easier the more you learn as you can guess the order pretty well.
3) Copy the stroke order next to the kanji on the printed sheets.
4) Make double sided flashcards with the new kanji. Put the kanji and stoke order on one side, readings and sample compounds on the other side.
5) Look at the flashcards whenever I have a few minutes, several times through the day. Look at the kanji and remember the meanings, look at the readings and write out the kanji.
6) I have a blackboard in the kitchen where I write out sentences using new and old kanji as much as possible, waiting for the kettle to boil, running the bath etc.
7) Look at Yahoo Kids Japan news (that is my level!) to practise recognition.

I have learnt (more or less!) 80 kanji in about 6 weeks and I am in the process of learning another 200. So my method is no good if you need to learn fast! Good luck!
 

Shuujin

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35 a day... I could learn about 8 a day if I really had to. but 35 is just way too much for one day.. Perhaps you could put an ad in the paper. Seeking Japanese tutor. And perhaps japanese friends.
 

Fantt

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Anyone have a link for the Yahoo Kids Japan news?
 

dc_johnson45

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I just wanted to add in that as you study Kanji, you should be studying multi-kanji words. I personally find it a lot easier to remember words when I learn them in kanji than in kana. I usually loosely associate the meaning of the individual kanji to the word. For example, でんわ is easier for me to associate 電 (でん) 'electricity' and 話 (わ) ’talk' into telephone. I'm not saying you can figure out a word by the kanji, and this method doesn't always work, but for the 90% of the times it does, its handy. Makes it easier to remember vocab, and look, you've just learned two kanji :)
 

sketchytiger

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Another way to learn Kanji is to make flashcards out of 'em.

After you have memorized at least 2 or 3 kanjis, write them down [kind ofl ike spelling out the word 5 times]

After you have done that, try to use the kanji in a sentence replacing it/them with the hiragana.

^_^
 

m477

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I find that the best way for me is to simply start reading articles or short stories, look up the words I don't know. Then, (and this is the important part) read the same article over again several times without referring to the dictionary.

I find that things 'stick' much longer this way, as opposed to rote, like just making flashcards without seeing the character in usage.
 
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