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I'm making an innovative book to learn kanji [Feedback request]

alexadler

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Hello there!

I'm currently finishing a book about learning kanji using real etymologies and glyphs from the oracle-bone script.

You can see the first 4 pages of the radical chapter here

And here the first 4 pages of the level 1 (of difficulty) chapter here

I'm launching a Kickstarter campaign and I've already writen the page and sent it to review. I'm concerned mostly about the introductory section. Maybe too much information? I would be very glad if you give me your opinions about the page and the book in general as students of Japanese and kanji.

You can see the preview page here

If you guys are interested in the book you can get further information here

You can see further updates in the facebook page
 

Mike Cash

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I'm afraid I don't understand what is innovative about it or how it is an improvement on the many kanji learning books that already exist.
 

alexadler

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Thank you for your reply!
Have you checked the Kickstarter preview page? I explain it there hehe.
 

Mike Cash

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Thank you for your reply!
Have you checked the Kickstarter preview page? I explain it there hehe.

No, I only looked at all the sample pages and failed to see how it is innovative or an improvement on the many kanji books already out there. Now that I have read the Kickstarter draft, I'm afraid I still don't see the benefit of it. Haha.
 

alexadler

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No, I only looked at all the sample pages and failed to see how it is innovative or an improvement on the many kanji books already out there. Now that I have read the Kickstarter draft, I'm afraid I still don't see the benefit of it. Haha.

Thank you for taking your time and looking!

What I see unique of my book is the arrangement of the characters. They are grouped not only by shared components but also by topics, so characters can be easily associated with one another and be learnt sequentially. Also each chapter is divided by levels of difficulty. You learn first the most used characters and later the least used.

Also I take a new approach to kanji radicals, since they are currently arranged quite randomly. I have published a dissertation about the kanji radicals here. The book I'm introducing gives a solution to the randomness of radicals and the classification of some kanji.

Perhaps I couldn't give a clearer explanation and should talk about the differences of my book more straightforwardly. I'm learning about marketing these days and it's not easy.

In any case, thank you gain for your time!
 

lanthas

 
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I'm afraid I also don't really "get" it.

Grouping kanji by visual similarity is of course highly useful to prevent students from mixing them up: 限 and 郎, 牛 and 午, 昆 and 皆, the usual suspects. However, it's not a new concept. Grouping 牛 and 昆 because they're both animals on the other hand might be new, but I'm not sure what value that has.

Ordering kanji by frequency of use would mean that you first learn 時, 待 and 持 and only then 寺. That you first get to see 挑, 眺 and 跳 and only then 兆. Presenting them in the reverse order would make it easier to learn them, no?

The sample page explains 交 using a "crossed legs" mnemonic and completely disregards the fact that it's just 亠 + 父. In fact, the dissertation about radicals calls 亠 "completely irrelevant" even though it's used in 卒, 方, 文, 亡, 夜, 衣 etc etc. In addition, no sample word is given for the common こう reading (e.g. 交換, 交通).

Speaking of mnemonics, I'm not sure the ones in this book are that much better than the ones you can find elsewhere or make up yourself, etymologically correct or not.

The Real Kanji World: "A person with an enlarged head, aware of the heavens. Alternatively, 一 + 大: heaven is above (一) of man (大)." (not 上 and 人, mind you)
KanjiDamage: "一 + 大. To monotheists, there is only one big god in heaven."
Mine:
lenticular-cloud-mountain.jpg


I do agree though that the standard list of radicals could use some extension in order to make grouping (and therefore, learning) of kanji easier. In fact, the resource I learned from goes as far as making up its own: for example, it extracts the X from the likes of 渋, 楽 and 率 and pragmatically calls it the "sparkles" radical.
 
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I'm inclined to agree. There are already systems that use real etymology, and sort in frequency order. They aren't very popular because mnemonic devices are better for learning, even if they 'crumble' later, that's fine as long it's after you've built up associations of the characters with the words they are used to spell. The need for the mnemonic has passed, and it wasn't 'real' information anyway so it doesn't matter if its lost.

What I will say though is that if you really do have a deep knowledge of kanji etymology and history, that's something that hasn't been written in English. There are tidbits of kanji etymology and history in systems like the one you're trying to create, but to really dig into etymology (as far as I'm aware at least) you first need to be able to read Japanese (or Chinese) fluently so that you can read those books in the languages they're written in.

The upside is obviously not as big as becoming the #1 kanji learning book, but I don't think you're on track to do that anyway. I've got no hard numbers obviously, but it seems to me like there's a substantial fraction of Japanese learners (or would-be learners) who are interested in kanji history and etymology and would love to read it before or while studying kanji rather than after they (hopefully, eventually) become fluent readers.
 

alexadler

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I'm afraid I also don't really "get" it.

Grouping kanji by visual similarity is of course highly useful to prevent students from mixing them up: 限 and 郎, 牛 and 午, 昆 and 皆, the usual suspects. However, it's not a new concept. Grouping 牛 and 昆 because they're both animals on the other hand might be new, but I'm not sure what value that has.

Ordering kanji by frequency of use would mean that you first learn 時, 待 and 持 and only then 寺. That you first get to see 挑, 眺 and 跳 and only then 兆. Presenting them in the reverse order would make it easier to learn them, no?

I think I'm failing to explain how the book is arranged. I'll show it step by step:
  • First you learn 145 radicals at once (although they are already grouped by topics)
  • Then the book gets divided in levels of difficulty based on school grades, from level 1 to 6 and then secondary school. Each level is a different chapter.
  • We go with the chapter 1 (level 1). The chapter first gets divided into topics (human world, natural world and man-made world).
  • Lets start with the human world.
  • There we got the first phono-semantic compund: 交 (garde 1), then we have the character 校 (also grade 1), and then the character 効 (grade 5)
  • The characters 絞 and 郊 also share the component 交 but they are of the secondary school level, so I left them out of the chapter 1.
Taking the examples you mention: 牛 and 昆.

牛 is a radical so it is place in the chapter 0 (radical chapter), "nature world - animals" section along with other such radicals like 虫, 魚, 隹, etc.

The character 昆 is not an animal, although is primordial use in Japanese language is within the word "insect" (昆虫), its actual meaning is "descendants". An "animal" component that is not a radical is, for example the character 皮 (a hand ripping off the pelt of snake):
40px-皮-bronze.svg.png


This character, being within the 3rd school grade, appears in the chapter three, appears within the "natural world" section of that character along another characters that share de component (below the secondary school level) such as 波 and 破.

The book is divided in chapters and each chapter is divided in topic section.

The sample page explains 交 using a "crossed legs" mnemonic and completely disregards the fact that it's just 亠 + 父. In fact, the dissertation about radicals calls 亠 "completely irrelevant" even though it's used in 卒, 方, 文, 亡, 夜, 衣 etc etc.
交 (exchanging) is not 亠 + 父 but a evolution of the glyph
40px-交-bronze.svg.png
, a man with crossed legs. The mnemonic derives from the actual etymology because I think that making up "random" mnemonics fails on taking the advantage the characters give you (albeit hidden by the glyphs' evolution over the years) in order to learn the system faster and more cohesively.
父 (father), as the standalone character, is the derived form of a completely different glyph:
40px-%E7%88%B6-bronze.svg.png
(a hand holding a stone or tool).
衣 (clothes) is just a spread garment:
40px-衣-oracle.svg.png

卒 (graduating) is a tied (ceremonial) garment:
40px-卒-bronze.svg.png

方 (direction) is the hilt of a sword or knife:
40px-方-oracle.svg.png

文 (letters) is a tattooed person:
40px-文-oracle.svg.png

亡 (deceasing) is a person buried in a hole:
40px-亡-bronze.svg.png

夜 (night) is a person in front of the moon:
40px-夜-bronze.svg.png


As you see none of those characters has anything to do with a supposed (made-up) 亠 component. I think these kind of made-up components just give confusion.

IIn addition, no sample word is given for the common こう reading (e.g. 交換, 交通).
The reason I don't give those words there is because I don't want to show words that have a kanji not studied yet. Those words will appear respectively with the 換 and 通 kanji entries.

Speaking of mnemonics, I'm not sure the ones in this book are that much better than the ones you can find elsewhere or make up yourself, etymologically correct or not.

The Real Kanji World: "A person with an enlarged head, aware of the heavens. Alternatively, 一 + 大: heaven is above (一) of man (大)." (not 上 and 人, mind you)
KanjiDamage: "一 + 大. To monotheists, there is only one big god in heaven."
Mine:
lenticular-cloud-mountain.jpg

In this sense you are totally right. At the end of the day students should do whatever fits them better and find more useful themselves. The thing is the book I'm about to finish is something that I couldn't find before and I'd wish that existed. That's why I made it. It uses the power of mnemonics, just with some real (academic) source, thought to learn 2136 kanji at once in the most wisely organized manner I can think of. My guess is that there would be many people that would be benefited for the book. Some people happens to like RTK because it exists and have helped them, I think that The Real Kanji World can help as many or more people learning kanji.

The only problem I'm finding is that these complexities of the book that make it different are quite difficult to explain to the audience. Of course would be much straightforward to see the benefits if you have the book in front of your hands. Probably I should think of contracting some marketing experts, if only I had the resources haha.

I do agree though that the standard list of radicals could use some extension in order to make grouping (and therefore, learning) of kanji easier. In fact, the resource I learned from goes as far as making up its own: for example, it extracts the X from the likes of 渋, 楽 and 率 and pragmatically calls it the "sparkles" radical.

Yeah, the kangxi radicas have quite a bit of flaws, and even more when you deal with the shinjitai Japanese kanji.
 

alexadler

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I'm inclined to agree. There are already systems that use real etymology, and sort in frequency order. They aren't very popular because mnemonic devices are better for learning, even if they 'crumble' later, that's fine as long it's after you've built up associations of the characters with the words they are used to spell. The need for the mnemonic has passed, and it wasn't 'real' information anyway so it doesn't matter if its lost.

What I will say though is that if you really do have a deep knowledge of kanji etymology and history, that's something that hasn't been written in English. There are tidbits of kanji etymology and history in systems like the one you're trying to create, but to really dig into etymology (as far as I'm aware at least) you first need to be able to read Japanese (or Chinese) fluently so that you can read those books in the languages they're written in.

The upside is obviously not as big as becoming the #1 kanji learning book, but I don't think you're on track to do that anyway. I've got no hard numbers obviously, but it seems to me like there's a substantial fraction of Japanese learners (or would-be learners) who are interested in kanji history and etymology and would love to read it before or while studying kanji rather than after they (hopefully, eventually) become fluent readers.

Right, you've expressed it very well. The book is kind of what I couldn't find in English when I wanted to dig in my early years. You got also a point telling that some people may just avoid mnemonics whatsoever. In any case I feel the book can fill a niche. Thank you for your impressions!
 
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