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First, thanks a lot to Aphasiac, Vorpal, Swilkins, Haraksha and everyone else whose stories helped me make it to the end of these two books.
I thought it would be helpful to the RTH community if I gave my reflections on the Hanzi learning process after entering the '3036' club and learning each of the characters in these two books.
[Note: to find over 2,000 of my stories for the 3,035 Hanzi you'll find in Books 1 (1500 Hanzi) and 2 (1536 Hanzi), go to reviewingthehanzi.com , where you can also enter your own stories, track your progress and review your keywords. This site has been a big study aid for myself and others.]
[Second note: this review covers Remembering Traditional Hanzi I and II at the same time, because they're essentially two volumes of the same work.]
To begin, I'm definitely happy that I spent so much time and effort in learning these characters. Yes, I said 'time and effort', because as people warned me before I started, while these books may be the best way to learn Hanzi, they don't take the effort out of learning the characters. My Remembering the Hanzi word document, in which I've placed all of the character stories I've used to remember the Hanzi, is now about 120,000 words. I needed to write at least 2,000 stories to get from #1 to #3036, which takes a lot of time out of your day. I don't say any of this to brag, only to make it clear that while these books are amazing in the way they teach, you still have to put in lots of work.
I am also happy to defend the Heisig/Richardson method against the criticism it sometimes encounters. It's true that you won't learn to write these characters fast except by rewriting them and rewriting them. It's also true that I've forgotten about half of the ones I've learnt.Read more ›
I began RTH 1 after finishing volume 1 of RTK (kanji). This gave a quick start to learning the traditional forms and allowed me to compare the two systems Heisig has setup for Japanese and Chinese. Overall, in terms of mnemonic devices, they're about equal. RTH mnemonically does some things better than RTK and vice versa. The only suggestion I would make is if you're uncomfortable with a particular radical mnemonic (e.g. if you can see a more provocative meaning in reach) then go for it.
One thing that is possible with some of the characters is to assign lexical class with each character (so the label n./v./adj./etc. will be listed next to the meaning). They don't do this with all the characters and some of the meanings provided are ambiguous in terms of referring to lexical class. This problem and another, which I'll list right after this, could be solved together. The readings for the characters in the appendix is absolutely horrible (edit: clarification on this point: Index 1: Hand drawn characters have many incorrect readings. The other index that alphabetizes the pinyin readings is actually fair as far as I can tell although it does not include multiple readings. more on this later). Anyone using this book, at least until a newer improved edition comes out, should FIND A NATIVE SPEAKER TO GO THROUGH INDEX 1 and correct it for you before you start studying it (if you choose to use their list). This depends on whether you want to study using 國語 (Taiwan) or 普通話 (China). Also, ask them to provide the extra readings for other lexical class instances of the character. It's unbelievable that the authors only included one reading for every character, and often incorrectly. Of course, there's only a minority of characters that have more than one reading but those are important to know.Read more ›
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Heisig does not believe in placing the Mandarin Anglicization of a character near the character. He places it in its own index. In my opinion that's the only flaw in his books. Otherwise the book is easy to read (big characters) and otherwise well organized.
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