Is my method of learning effective?
  • Greetings from South Africa.

    I began learning the Kanji in mid-August of 2012 as something to learn on the side. I enjoy a lot of Japanese media, so I thought it would be natural to try to understand what I'm getting involved in. So far, I've learned around 400 Kanji, more or less. Sadly, I do slack off a lot, like during the December holidays, which I hadn't learned any up until yesterday.

    My current method is to learn 3-5 Kanji a day, learning and reviewing them in the morning, and trying to remember what I've learned in the evening. I discovered Anki recently, it's been a lot of help to my learning. I avoid trying to use Anki during the day, because it shortens my attention span to learning new characters.

    This method does help, and after numerous hours of reviewing with Anki, I memorize easily, but I do forget some of the older characters that I havn't been practicing.

    I'd also like to know about Kanji Compounds.
    To my simple knowledge, Kanji compounds are formed by combining the on-yomi together, correct?
    I have noticed that some compounds are pronounced with a combination of on-yomi and kun-yomi. I might be mistaken on this regard, but if so, please elaborate.

    Ever appreciative
  • The best thing to do in my opinion, especially when you already know a few hundred kanji, is just to read some real Japanese texts about something you like and want to read about. Can be manga, internet sites, (light) novels, ..., the important thing is that when you enjoy reading it, you will remember much more much easier.

    Just pick up something at your level, doesn't use too much kanji and contains furigana (mostly manga) if you need them.

    Read Japanese 小説 for free: You rikaichan or rikaisama for furigana on mouse-over.
  • Thanks, I shall try to do that. I was hoping to learn atleast a 1000 before attempting something like that, but if it's okay now, I'll do it.
    For example, this here only contains the following 57 common kanji:

    It can't hurt to try, if you notice you're not up to it yet, read something easier or go back to learning kanji : )
    Also, learning kanji is much easier when you already know some words that use it.
  • That advice is very useful.

    As for the words, should I learn vocabulary alone, not kanji before proceeding to learning the acompanying kanji / compounds?
  • First of all, it depends upon how well you can remember shapes and images. If remembering kanji is easy to you, then by all means, learn as many of them as you can. But don't worry if you can't, practice is the key.

    As for your question, in my opinion the very least you should get used to kanji as quickly as possible.

    Whatever you method of study, whenever you're studying a particular word/phrase, its kanji should always be there, too. So for example, let's say you use anki, then put the kanji to the back of every card. You don't have to try hard and commit them all to memory perfectly, exposure will do that for you. Actively recalling and being able to write kanji per hand is another story, however.

    Imo exposure is crucial to your general feeling for the language. When I've seen some word or kanji already, and come across it again some time later, I may have already forgotten what it meant exactly, but it still feels "familiar" to me, and I kind of understand. On the other hand, when I find some kanji/word/phrase I've never seen before, (how about 囁?) it might as well be some random scribble as far as I'm concerned - it hardly even looks Japanese [i]to me[/i].
    ( especially beneficial to your motivation)

    Words are hard to learn without kanji, kanji are hard to learn without words. The secret is to find a compromise. Everybody is different, see what works for you.

    But above all, make sure you get another opinion. Enjoy your studiesッ
  • Your opinion is helpful, and it especially has been ignored by me until now. Especially the part about forgetting kanji long seen, but still having it seem familiar. This happens a lot.

    Your help to me is appreciate very much.
    If I might ask, how long has it taken you to get the general feel of understanding Japanese?
  • I realize it it may not be suited for everyone, but I started with this:
    Then I read his book with more details:
    After some weeks or so I found this book, which goes into the details even more:

    Now, the above materials take the approach that you shouldn't just throw random, disconnected facts at the learner, but rather explain why and how things come about, and not to withhold related information.

    - So for example, they start with the basic verb form, 読む(よむ,read).
    - Next is conjugation. They tell you there are just 5 (or 4) forms of every verb, namely 連体形=よむ、連用形=よみ、未然形=よま、已然形=よめ、(命令形).
    - for everyone else, you just put verbs/adjectives together in their appropriate form
    - eg add ない, the adjective of negation, to negate a verb. よまない=not read
    - or the politeness verb ます: よみ+ます=read, polite speech

    And it is especially the last book which puts emphasis on explaining how words and phrases have developed throughout Japan's history, and why they did. It takes quite a bit of patience and time to work through these materials, but as for myself, I can say that my understanding of how Japanese actually works and why it makes sense, most definitely jumped sky-high.
    I'm only doing Japanese as a hobby, so I'm not really dedicating as much time to my studies as I would if I needed to go to Japan soon... it's also quite hard to remember the time when you couldn't do something that you now comes to you almost as naturally as intuition. It's not quite clear what exactly general feel means, and there's a grey-zone between the both, but I'd say, it takes around .5 to 2 years.

    On that note, one more thing that helps me make sense of Japanese:
    When you only know grammatical rules, you can probably come up with many things that would be allowed, but aren't actually used in real life, ie you can't use these rules to predict real life language usage. But what's quite possible is to explain how it is used.

    Whenever you come across some word, construction or phrase you don't understand, take a dictionary and try to figure out why it means what it means. It doesn't have to be the real reason, as long as the explanation makes sense to you, it helps you to keep it in your mind, and remember it. Kind of like "rule of thumb"

    - よみがえる=(be) ressurect(ed), but when you consult a dictionary you will find よみ=黄泉=underworld, and がえる=(common sound change)=かえる=to return.
    - すし=Sushi, but take some dictionary on classical Japanese and you'll find すし=酸し=adjective=sour, the modern form is すい or rather すっぱい
    - はなし=conversation, かすみ=haze, ひずみ=distortion, しおり=bookmark etc., you'll encounter many Japanese nouns ending on an -i sound. Look it up, and you'll find that many of them are just the noun-forms of verbs. (はなす、かすむ、ひずむ、しをる)
    - なければならない doesn't just mean "have to" or "must", but literally "it's bad if you don't"
    - ありがとう doesn't just mean "thanks", but literally "hard to be(=exist)" [in your debt]
    - すみません=sorry, is sometimes translated as "thanks", but it never means thanks -- "May I help you?" - "Sorry [I need to trouble you with my problems]."
    - 日, not just some random lines, but an abstract depiction of the sun

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