Kanji study – An opinion…
I got a request for this one, maybe a week ago from a close friend who embarked on the journey of kanji “masterization”. The question he asked me was the suggested method of learning them or better yet, memorization. The intimidating number kanji (Japanese name for Chinese characters) in use can frighten beginners, but where’s a will, there is a way…er…method to achieve fluent reading and writing.
Methods of Kanji learning :
- The first method I like to call the “This is Sparta!” approach are constant drills, everyday. I think that this approach is useful maybe in the beginning, but as you study away, the number of Chinese characters that needs memorization piles up and the minutes of drilling become hours. The biggest problem with this method is that it is simply time-consuming and many people with jobs or tight study schedules cannot cope with it. Bottom line – it’s good for a start, to remember the reoccurring kanji that are radicals, but it gets old fast.
- Second is the flashcard attack on kanji – the one of the more expedient methods, though made for reviewing not for studying kanji it can give a solid boost. I saw people who carry their flashcards everywhere, from the toilet to the university, but this method, let’s be honest people, can become monotonous and dull. Judging from some cases I witnessed, students of kanji develop phobias and excessive attachment to their cards that resembles paranoia. Bottom line – use these cards for reviewing, not study if you ask me.
- Third is the reading method – the method stronger than the flashcards by my standards. By reading let’s say, short stories you can both review kanji and learn new words, but you need to balance the base text difficulty – take a higher league text than your current level and you may get pounded by the sheer number of new words and kanji. The key to this method is systematization of the study process and delicate balance. Bottom line – exquisite if you can control your study ambition and take it step by step.
- Fourth method utilizes the study of kanji by learning words – this is a great method, especially if combined with the above given, third method. The only trap here is to avoid being buried beneath masses of new words, since a single character can have a myriad of different readings and this method may lead you nowhere, but this is a matter of personal preference. The potential problem of this method is outweighed by the dual benefit – you learn new words and by extent, you acquire new kanji. Bottom line – a fine approach to study, with more bonuses than losses.
- Fifth method encompasses the memorization of radicals and their meaning, but I find this method to be slow and a bit distracting from the language, by focusing your attention exclusively on the kanji parts before advancing on the next step. Unlike the previous methods where the potential benefits are more numerous (vocabulary, effective review, kanji in sentences and their construction) this method looks at kanji as if it is a completely separate entity. Kanji are the integral part of the Japanese language and to study them independently may sound like a good idea, but by dismissing the entire picture, the acquisition of the already difficult language becomes a whole lot harder. Bottom line – the least effective method in my opinion, takes away too much time and could prove ineffective.
The above given methods are the most popular ones, since everyone makes their own – that is the best way because only you can know how your mind and memory work and which conditions display them in full splendor. Many people are used to combining different methods to facilitate study, while others invent their own – the study of kanji is actually a review of kanji, since their shapes are easily learnt, but how to keep them in memory (especially their readings) is the true trick. The best way is either to find your own method or to combine two or more into one, so people take yer pick.