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by Max Hodges
Marketplace Options for Kanji Learners
iﬀerent people come to second-language learning works best for you. with diﬀerent goals in mind. A rock climber One noteworthy book is Kanji Pict-o-graphics: over traveling in Thailand might just want to know enough 1,000 Japanese kanji and kana mnemonics by Michael phrases to make her vacation go more smoothly. A Rowley. Rowley has applied his international award Mexican carpenter working in Texas might only care winning graphic design talents to create a book which to learn the English names of the various tools and uses image and text mnemonics to help you learn and hardware needed for his job. Not everyone strives for remember the kanji. Reviews of this title on Amazon ﬂuency or even proﬁciency beyond daily conversation are very polarized, so it’s deﬁnitely not for everyone. with friends. However, if you intend to achieve “Too often the written form a modern kanji is the result a mastery of the Japanese language of simpliﬁcations, historic miscopying of elements, beyond daily conversation, you are best components used for phonetic—not symbolic—reasons, advised to create and diligently follow a systematic plan to learn kanji. Learning and hosts of other twists, turns, and mutations of which Japanese presents diﬀerent challenges scholars themselves are not always in full agreement.” to diﬀerent people. Particle usage is a common diﬃcultly for many, as well as getting the I own it personally and used it to learn hiragana and verb forms right. Kanji mastery, however, presents a katakana, but it’s not my favorite choice for kanji due particular challenge because failure to accumulate a to its lack of kanji compounds. I’ll elaborate more on broad knowledge of kanji becomes a serious barrier to this below. study at and above the intermediate level. A Guide to Remember Japanese Characters by While you will ﬁnd liberal use of hiragana, ruby Kenneth G. Henshall explains the origins and (a.k.a. furigana) and romaji in beginner and premeanings of over 2,000 characters. I consult this book intermediate level study materials, their use as an aid frequently, but its helpfulness is limited. The problem in recognizing kanji becomes less and less common with this book is no fault of Henshall, who has done in intermediate level materials and above. Therefore, a praiseworthy job of researching etymologies and ﬁnding useful learning materials becomes more and suggesting mnemonics. The problem is with the messy more diﬃcult as you try to make progress without a Darwinism of kanji evolution. Too often the written suﬃcient number of kanji in your arsenal. form of a modern kanji is the result of simpliﬁcations, The solution of course is to study kanji. But, how? historic miscopying of elements, components used Japanese children are required to learn 1,006 for phonetic—not symbolic—reasons, and hosts of “education kanji” (教育漢字 kyōiku kanji) in other twists, turns, and mutations of which scholars elementary school. There are 1,945 “daily use kanji” themselves are not always in full agreement. So, while (常用漢字 jōyō kanji) which consists of all the this book is certainly interesting, and sometimes useful, kyouiku kanji plus an additional 939 more diﬃcult the study of kanji etymology is probably best saved for advanced level study. There is simply too much here kanji taught in secondary school. In publishing for the general public, characters outside of this category are to confuse and distract for this to be a primary text in often given ruby—small kana written above or beside early kanji study. kanji to show its reading. reading We now turn to Remembering the Kanji Vol.1: a Japanese children learn kanji largely by writing them complete course on how not to forget the meaning and writing of Japanese characters by James W. Heisig. Heisig hundreds of times each throughout their schooling. Since we aren’t going to aﬀord ourselves the same takes the unorthodox position that Japanese studies number of years it takes Japanese children to master should begin with kanji; that is, learn the kanji ﬁrst, rst the kanji, we’re going to need some special tools and and only then proceed to learn grammar, vocabulary techniques. There are several kanji learning systems on and other forms of usage and expression. This approach is rather academic for those who have already moved the market, and I urge you to experiment with several until you ﬁnd one, or a combination of several, that to Japan and can’t aﬀord to put their entire Japanese
studies on hold. Furthermore, the author says what he means in the subtitle: this book teaches the writing and meaning of kanji; you won’t ﬁnd the pronunciation of a single character in this book. Although at ﬁrst this book may seem too oddball to be worth consideration, there are many who swear by the eﬀectiveness of Heisig’s system. I bought this book rather recently, and sure enough, I was able to learn a considerable number of kanji in just a few hours. The secret is his choice of meanings used to represent PRIMITIVES—kanji
1. 再開 2. 海開き 3. 窓を開ける 4. 開く 5. 開封する 6. 開発
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倣 報 墓慕戊暮母簿菩 報報報報報報報
or elements of kanji that are used to create other kanji. He then builds STORIES around those meanings which help you invoke your visual memory. You can try Heisig’s book for yourself as the ﬁrst 126 pages are available for free download on the web: http://www.nanzan-u.ac.jp/SHUBUNKEN/ publications/miscPublications/Remembering_the_ Kanji_1.htm. After buying the book however, I felt a little cheated. After page 126 he shortchanges you on the stories and provides only PLOTS. Soon plots give way to ELEMENTS as he leaves you to create the stories on your own before the book is even halfway ﬁnished. We now turn to Japanese Kanji Flashcards, Vol. 1, Revised Edition: the Complete set of kanji for Levels 3 and 4 of the Japanese Proﬁciency Test published by White Rabbit Press. (See sample images on this page.) Disclosure: I am the co-author of Japanese Kanji Flashcards, but I’m attempting to be as fair as possible in my reviews here. Japanese Kanji Flashcards Vol. 1 (JFK1) is the only set of kanji cards on the market speciﬁcally designed for the Japanese Language Proﬁciency Test (JLPT). The JLPT consists of four levels with level one (native level proﬁciency) being the most diﬃcult. Focusing on the JLPT, if for no other reason, is a great way to set study goals and to measure your progress. Level 4 requires about 100 kanji and level 3 requires another
180 kanji. White Rabbit Press kanji cards include all the jōyō on-yomi and kun-yomi readings as well as strokeby-stroke diagrams, look-alike kanji, and six kanji compounds per card. This last feature is an important diﬀerence between our ﬂashcards and the other titles mentioned here. I’ve come to understand that most kanji can’t be summed up well with one or two English word deﬁnitions. All the aspects of a kanji are best revealed in the compounds it forms with other kanji. To that end, we’ve included six kanji compounds per card, complete with readings in kana scripts and deﬁnitions in English. So you get over 1,700 vocabulary building kanji compounds in the set, and plenty of opportunity to understand the variety of meanings a kanji can have. Kanji ﬂashcards oﬀer some methods of testing and drilling yourself which aren’t aﬀorded by books. You can view the kanji and vocabulary on the front and test your memory of the readings and meanings. Or you can use them back-to-front; that is, view the reading, attempt to write the kanji, and then check your results. The stroke order diagrams help you in learning to write the kanji, and we also oﬀer an audio companion for the product which contains all the readings on the card read by a native Japanese voice actress.
カイ ひら･く/ひら･ける/あ･く/あ･ける ����������������������������������
1. さいかい ��������������������� ������� 2. うみびらき ��������������������������� 3. まどをあける ���������������� ���������� 4. あく ������������������������������� 5. かいふうする ���������������� 6. かいはつ �������������������������
For more information and online purchase visit The Japan Shop web site:
www.thejapanshop.net Max Hodges is the principal IT consultant of MAXConsulting and the publisher of White Rabbit Press. He lives in Tokyo with his wife Tomoko and their two cats—Wabi and Sabi. Contact Max by email at email@example.com
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