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Kanji book

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Belton
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Postby Belton » January 24th, 2009 7:20 pm

Javizy wrote:Just wondering why that is. I've seen you steer some other poor souls away from even trying the book, and it makes me shiver to think of the extremely extended path of mindnumbing repetition and frustration these newbies have unwittingly been led down.


I'm wondering if replying is that good an idea...

Javizy seems to suggest that I'm deliberately trying to make life harder for people.
I don't think I've told people not to try it, I have usually said to give it a go, because I'm conscious of my dislike of the book but still know it is effective for some people and I do see benefits behind parts of it. I have said it probably works best if you know nothing about Japanese to hinder you (just like Heisig when he invented it). I have pointed out it's not for everyone. I have pointed out other books I like about kanji. I don't know what I'm doing wrong in expressing my opinion.

There isn't one true way, there are many approaches to learning a language and learning kanji. One size does not fit all. And there's enough column inches about the virtues of Heisig on this board and the net that no-one is going to ignore it all based on my lone opinion.

I was sure Javizy or someone else would come along to extoll it's virtues and put those poor souls back on the one true path of Heisigness. Indeed it seems the metaphor is more of a matter of belief than taste for a lot of people.

I'm loathe to recommend the book because I dislike it. It's Natto mixed with Marmite, maybe good for you but I don't like the smell or taste so don't insist that I swallow it.

I dislike it's made up meanings. I dislike the authors tone. I dislike the lack of Japanese. I dislike that it ignores so much about kanji and how they work. I dislike it's one trick approach. I dislike the half true claims that knowing individual kanji's English headwords enables you to somehow read and understand Japanese. I dislike the idea that one can write by hand properly balanced characters without repetitive practice and instruction. I dislike the insistence that the fault lies with the student if they don't take to it's techniques. That they haven't got what it takes.

It's my fault, mea maxima culpa, I haven't got what it takes to make use of the memory technique.

I dislike that expressing this view contrary to the loudest opinions here will probably lead to flames, because I like kanji, I like Japanese, I like this site...

溜め息

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edited once to add url[/url]

Taurus
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Postby Taurus » January 24th, 2009 9:32 pm

Belton wrote:Indeed it seems the metaphor is more of a matter of belief than taste for a lot of people.


I think this is the crux of the matter for me. The reason I am slightly reluctant to wholeheartedly recommend Heisig is that I was initially put off by its tone, which is that of a dubious self-help guru cum snake-oil salesman. Combined with the passion of the people who have used it, and recommend it, there is, I think a whiff of something slighly cultish about Heisig.

But I totally understand that passion now that the system has helped me enormously. I found it really helped in Japan, because you're faced with so many kanji in so many places that you can't help but match the kanji that you've learned to actual words and sounds. Curiously, it also helped me recently while playing a game in Japanese: there were Japanese subtitles throughout, and actually knowing the approximate meaning of the kanji helped me understand the meaning of some of the sentences that I wouldn't have otherwise understood through listening alone.

I think it's slightly interesting to see the reacion of my Japanese friends when I explain the system. My wife thinks the whole thing is stupid, but I think that's because she thinks everything I do is stupid (I've noticed that when she tells her friends she's rather more impressed with the progress I've made). I explained the system to another friend by using the kanji for 'chrysanthemum' as an example; her initial reaction was to ask why I'd ever need to know that kanji unless I was at a funeral. And another friend was really impressed and wondered about using the system to teach his son when he's old enough (he's only six months old at the moment so I guess it's a bit early).

But a famous sage once said something about horses and courses, and Heisig himself makes use of the phrase 'to each his own'. Like Javizy (and Belton!) I would wholeheartedly recommend that people give Heisig a go, and that way they can make their own minds about what works best for them - but if it doesn't work for you, then, hey, that's life.

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Belton
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Postby Belton » January 25th, 2009 2:27 am

And another friend was really impressed and wondered about using the system to teach his son when he's old enough


I have wondered if Japanese headwords could be used instead of English ones. I found it's possible up to a point, you need origana or you'd need to use a compound. But it's within the realms of possibility.

I've also found that Japanese grade school books *do* break down kanji into simpler more recognisable components. Kanji aren't memorised or learnt as a single entity from what I have seen. The Doraemon kanji book is well worth a look I think. The issue being how do you describe how to draw a kanji verbally.

I wonder if the order would be a problem for a Japanese child. It would certainly conflict with the official order and you'd be a very pushy parent to get a 6 (?) year old to learn all the kanji in one go before starting school.

Nor are they learnt by repetitive writing. I really think the writing bit is to get children to write properly rather than as a learning method for the character.

I also think that Japanese people have a potentially easier time when learning kanji as they are putting symbols that are constantly around them to words and sounds they already know, they are more able to use other cues to work out meaning in texts.
Why I was trying to point out that using Japanese schoolbooks may not be as easy as you'd think.

I really wish there was some concerted effort by linguistics academics as to the best way to learn kanji for 2nd language learners. It always seems an afterthought.

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Postby Taurus » January 25th, 2009 2:40 am

Belton wrote:The Doraemon kanji book is well worth a look I think.


Which one? Over Christmas my nephew gave me one that's called Kanji no kakijungawakaru or something...

Belton
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Postby Belton » January 25th, 2009 3:16 am

it's called
ドラエモンの国語おもしろ攻略歌て書ける小学漢字1006
Doraemon kokugo omoshiro kouryaku Utatte kakeru shougaku kanji 1006

not the catchiest of titles.

I can't find an image of the content but it's great value at under 1000yen. It covers 1006 kanji 4 to a page, with the standard information plus compounds, notes, look-a-likes, little drawings, pointers about how to draw the character properly, and a chant for each kanji about how to write it.
Naturally all in Japanese so not really for a beginner.

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Postby Javizy » January 25th, 2009 6:33 am

Belton wrote:I dislike it's made up meanings. I dislike the authors tone. I dislike the lack of Japanese. I dislike that it ignores so much about kanji and how they work. I dislike it's one trick approach. I dislike the half true claims that knowing individual kanji's English headwords enables you to somehow read and understand Japanese. I dislike the idea that one can write by hand properly balanced characters without repetitive practice and instruction. I dislike the insistence that the fault lies with the student if they don't take to it's techniques. That they haven't got what it takes.



- The "made up" meanings constitute less than 1% of the book. Yet even for these you're still able to understand what the character means.

- You aim to learn 2042 characters with this book in 6 months - do you want to pile 2042 words on top of that (remember your studying Japanese anyway)? Add to this 2042 x X readings, and you have yourself a recipe for disaster.

- What does it ignore that other books don't? Where does the basis for these criticisms lie? What does JLPT, for instance, teach you about kanji at all? And again, will this extra information help you learn 2042 characters in 6 months, plus as many more as you want in future (at which point you can learn all the unnecessary but potentially interesting stuff you want about kanji)?

- How many tricks does it take to learn kanji? Do you want one trick that works, or a bag of tricks that takes 10 times longer? Why is this an issue?

- I'll admit I haven't read the intro for many a month, but I doubt very much that anybody who has finished the book believes they can read/understand Japanese. They're probably more joyous in the fact that they can write and recognise 2042 characters (the true aim of the book). Reading begins from now.

- Yes, balanced characters come with practice (that all learners are exposed to along the way), and look pretty, but they aren't necessary in order to learn to read or write, especially within 6 months.

- Maybe ole J. W. is wrong about the fault lying with the student. Like I said, there's no accounting for the individual, but the technique itself - which is what is in question here - is indisputably effective. Personally, I have a 96% month and over retention rate (over 6 months of Anki'ing), despite my unorganised and outright botched approach.

My post wasn't a personal attack, but rather an attempt to extract some solid criticism of Heisig's technique. I'm not trying to convert you, or anybody else who doesn't get on with it, I just want to understand the reasoning behind your discontent with it. What you've presented is a list of unrealistically harsh, and in some cases moot, requirements that no book can match up to, especially if you take the all-important factor of time into account. This is all I can seem to find to dissuade anyone from trying it, and this seems frustratingly unfair to me.

Basically, as somebody who has had success with the book and understands its intentions, I haven't come across one good reason for anybody to criticise it. Everybody who mentions 'no readings' or 'no Japanese' goes off and takes God knows how many years to accomplish what they are criticising, with God knows how much extra effort. Like you have said, we're second language learners, and time should be one of our top considerations, yet critics have a convenient tendency to completely ignore this when it comes to Heisig, which is what boggles my mind enough to make posts like this.

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Postby Belton » January 25th, 2009 7:49 am

Javizy, I no longer care.

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Postby Psy » January 25th, 2009 7:53 am

**scratches the back of his neck**

... I'm having the strangest feeling... like this discussion has been had before... oh, wait a minute...

It's been done to death, people!

There is more than enough data covering-- rather eloquently, I might add-- on this forum to allow for people to make up their own minds about RTK. I must admit it gets rather exasperating to see the same tired argument come up whenever someone asks about learning kanji. You're a smart guy, Javizy, and I can understand your passionate viewpoint, but could you please lay off a little bit? If you want to introduce people to the heisig/not-heisig argument, you could just provide a link to one of the many older kanji threads on this forum. It has been had before.
High time to finish what I've started. || Anki vocabulary drive: 5,000/10k. Restart coming soon. || Dig my Road to Katakana tutorial on the App store.

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Postby Belton » January 25th, 2009 8:25 am

@Psy

The whole thing could do with being a couple of sticky faqs.

I've decided it's a special case of Godwins Law,
As a kanji discussion grows longer, the probability of a disagreement about heisig approaches one.

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Postby Javizy » January 25th, 2009 11:20 am

Since Belton mentioned an FAQ, maybe my entire last post could be summed up by asking if he'd agree with the hypothetical version below, or continue to measure the book against non-existent standards, which stray not only from the objectives of the book, but from those of learning kanji itself.

Code: Select all

...

Heisig: most efficient and potentially easiest option, can't guarantee results, but try it first.

Kanji book X: nice structure, examples, yadda yadda, great book if you don't get on with Heisig.

...


This is essentially all I've been saying. I've conceded that the book doesn't work for everybody, so where else is this disagreement coming from? I've been in an argument trying to find out - in concrete terms - what exactly I'm against.

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Postby Belton » January 26th, 2009 8:58 pm

I think a Faq hosted by JapanesePod should be neutral in tone. Unless it relates to some service they want to sell. For example neutrality on the Pc/Mac religious wars.

It's not for me to agree or disagree, to give or withhold consent as to what someone may wish to write, that's down to the moderators.
I have previously intentionally kept my musings about Heisig to my own blog and tend to keep away from Heisig discussion on jPod, because it can get heated. Unfortunately any kanji discussion now gets to Heisig pretty quickly. Here I have written about kanji books that I like, experiences I've had. I can't be bothered to read back over my ephemeral posts but somehow I doubt It's my style to have the absolute certainty to say someone only needs to use one particular book/site/whatever or not to try a variety of what's out there.

I dislike the book RTK if not necessarily it's method. It doesn't do what I want to do, for me, and I didn't find it that interesting or enjoyable. I am put off by the cult of Heisig. Personal opinion that is all. Stated as a personal taste/opinion and not as absolute facts. I don't find it threatening that it works for other people. There's no need for anyone to get their knickers in a twist and go trolling for an argument. If anyone wants Heisig debate or wants to know what people may not like about the book I suggest opening a Heisig thread asking for such. Or google (I was surprised and amused to come out #1 today on a search of "heisig snakeoil", not that it returned many hits)

I really don't care about this anymore. This is getting depressing and pointless. orz

@ Javizy-kun
I can understand your passion to an extent but feel you could dial your tone down a bit. Despite what you may think your posts do have the tone of a personal attack, at least where I'm standing. Let's just call a halt to this and ignore each other please.

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Postby Javizy » January 27th, 2009 2:03 am

I read your blog entry, and found it a fair assessment, especially from the perspective of somebody who had no success with the book. My abrasive tone came more from a frustrated lack of understanding, rather than any sort of contempt, so don't take any offence to that.

My experience was that studying Japanese at the same time presented no problems, as long as everything kanji-related was kept nice and passive. I'd say my reading ability at the time could have rivalled any other beginner. The book doesn't achieve this by itself, though, so it's fair to criticise.

I've been able to focus purely on reading for the past year or so, without being bogged down by kanji learning or limited by what characters I know. It's no problem to learn 30-50 new readings a day utilising Anki. I also learn a number of new characters with 'parts' I already know with literally just 'a little imagination'. I suppose that's why I find it hard to swallow the criticism, because it's not just about what the book does, but what it allows you to go on to achieve in such a relatively short amount of time.

If this still seems like a continued argument, then feel free to ignore it. I just wanted to provide you with a little insight into my personal experience, rather than speaking in terms of the book itself.

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Kanji Book?

Postby royal » January 31st, 2009 7:31 pm

Search one at *link removed*. :idea:[/url]

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Postby DaemonForce » February 9th, 2009 11:24 am

When learning kanji I still use image rips of Kanji cards from the Heisig site. It sounds weird but it's great when I can keep them on an MP3 player or some other media device when I don't have access to a computer or the Internet. Everything in my job moves so slow that I find myself studying a lot more during my breaks now.

As for beginner catalogs, I've gone through a few already.

Content: Least -> A LOT

Japanese Picture Dictionary (done)
Lonely Planet Phrasebook (not done)
Minna no Nihongo I (done)
Kanji de Manga I/II/III/IV (done but needs updating)
Kanji Power (not done)
Basic Kanji Book (not done)
Genki I (not done)
Kanji in Mangaland (NOT done)

I started with Minna No Nihongo, image-rips of flashcards on the Heisig site and a DS. It would have been easier and faster if I started with Kanji de Manga or Lonely Planet and then started on MnN or Genki. Kanji Power just feels like it drags on. The Basic Kanji Book evenly splits lessons so you can set a study time and finish learning these characters faster. Kanji in Mangaland has the most content I've seen and I'm afraid to touch it. Still, it would be the best starting point. I've been spending most of my current time on grammar/particle books and rummaging through more JPod lessons from 2006. I took a long break from studying and I wondered how much I would be able to retain if I just dropped everything for a while. Thankfully I forgot only 2 out of maybe 40 characters I studied every week from last year. It adds up to a lot but I'm not worried about it. I just pick up from where I'm having a problem and fix it.

Honestly just pick a book and try to remember as much as you can. Most of these books have different methods of teaching so you learn the characters differently. The Kanji Book seems to work the best for me since it hammers the characters into my mind by drawing them over and over. I still remember all the pronunciations and examples from yesterday's session.

I haven't used Anki in a long time so I guess I'm using the method fairly well. =/

..........

Since the kanji book seems to work best for me, writing might be my best learning advantage. If you have a tablet with Vista or 7, pull up the region settings, add IMEpad, pull up the on-screen keyboard and you've got your new real time study method. If you have a UMPC, Wakan might prove better.

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Postby sweetneet » February 11th, 2009 6:53 am

i don't mean to beat a dead horse (it seems like there is much argument about Heisig method) but i just thought i'd throw my 2 cents in re: Heisig.

in 2006 I used the Heisig method to learn the first 2,000 or so (jouyou) Kanji. i learned them all in 9 months. it was the ONLY way i was able to learn to write kanji. a year after learning all kanji, i had a Japanese boss for a while and he was SHOCKED as to how well I could write kanji, and how I could write kanji that he did not know how to write (nowadays with computer usage, even native japanese forget how to actually write the kanji).

anyway i don't get why there's so much controversy over this method. i get that it may not be for everyone..but for some (like me) it worked wonders. i would never discourage someone from using RTK method.


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