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Let's Learn Kanji: An Introduction to Radicals, Components and 250 Very Basic Kanji (Kodansha's Children's Classics) 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-4770020680
ISBN-10: 4770020686
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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Japanese

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Preface [slightly abridged]

In all languages, reading and writing are entirely separate skills from listening and speaking. Children, and even adults to a certain extent, can pick up the spoken language through listening to and participating in everyday conversation. But they go to school to learn to read and write because the written language cannot be "picked up." A person who can speak a foreign language quite fluently may have difficulty reading or writing it if not properly trained. Everyone, even native speakers, must make special efforts to acquire reading and writing skills, and the Japanese language is no exception. The only difference between Japanese and other languages is one of degree rather than of kind. The process of learning written Japanese may require more time because of the three writing systems, Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji, and because the number of Kanji is rather large. Native Japanese learn Kanji during nine years of their education (elementary and junior high).

Non-native students, in contrast, cannot afford to spend so much time learning Kanji, so they need a systematic method to help them learn Kanji quickly and efficiently. The system devised in this workbook focuses on radicals and components and the way in which these radicals and components allow the Kanji to be arranged into related family groups. In other words, Kanji which contain the same radicals or components can be considered something like a family and the method of learning Kanji in this book is organized around this family relationship.

In Part I, which is devoted entirely to Kanji fundamentals, students will begin with the smallest unit of a Kanji character: the stroke. Next they will move on to radicals and components. These are the identifiable parts of Kanji and often carry intrinsic meaning or derivation. Most importantly, as mentioned above, radicals and components form the basis of Kanji family groups. By learning these various family groups, students will be able to break down new and complex Kanji into familiar components. This skill will facilitate the process of learning more complex Kanji.

In Part II, the students are ready to actually start writing Kanji. They will practice and learn 250 "very basic Kanji," most of which will appear later as components of more complex Kanji. In addition, each very basic Kanji is presented with examples of these more complex family group members, thereby enabling students not only to learn the 250 very basic Kanji but to recognize the related over 1,000 complex Kanji as well. Throughout Parts I and II, exercises are provided to help students learn the material presented in each chapter.

It is the authors' great hope that through the use of this workbook, students will develop a desire to continue and eventually master Kanji....

Joyce Yumi Mitamura Yasuko Kosaka Mitamura

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha USA; 1st edition (February 2, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 4770020686
  • ISBN-13: 978-4770020680
  • Product Dimensions: 10.8 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,241,170 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a good book for beginning students of Japanese. This book walks you through the basics of kanji: stroke order, style, radicals, readings, and compounds. It starts out a little slow because it teaches you all the basic radicals before moving to real kanji. However, I feel that learning the radicals first is a good thing and the book is right in doing so, but nevertheless for the impatient student this book may seem slow. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who has just started to learn kanji.
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...but this book is working for me!
A little background so you understand why I rate this book 5 stars:
I have a decent handle on Japanese grammar and aural comprehension, making steady progress every week. The remaining challenge was progressing in Kanji. However, every source I checked indicated that the rote memorization of Kanji was unavoidable. I tried some of the mnemonic techniques but that approach seemed to add more work, with marginal results. You can follow the stroke order etc, but the details start to blur after a while if it seems like you are just drawing random pictures. Alas, learning Kanji seemed like it was going to be a long hard slog.

Fortunately, I'm really good at take low level details and using induction to put the details into a larger context. Lo and behold along comes Let's Learn Kanji! The genius of this book(I've searched for others that are similar in approach but no luck there) is that it teaches about the fundamental Kanji radicals and how they can aggregate and combine into more complicated Kanji. Since I learned the Kana fairly quickly, this felt like learning new Kana(even though it isn't) because the shapes were not as complicated from jump and I could get comfortable with how they were actually contstucted with correct stroke order and stroke type. Now, when I read my grammar books, with the kanzi, okurigana and romazi translations, I can see the radicals present within the Kanji. The Kanji then start making sense, given that the radicals have already been described. The correlation with the radicals isn't 100% but there is enough for me to make consistent progress without feeling overwelmed. Discovering this book was energizing. Be forewarned, that it will still take time to go through all of the material.
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Format: Paperback
Let's Learn Kanji is systematic, it gives you a wealth of basic kanji knowledge (including stroke order and radicals) as well as providing space to practice AND regular worksheets/mini tests so you can monitor your progress! Often kanji books offer only examples and written explanations, or focus soley on repeated written practice. The addition of the mini tests for consolidating your learning makes this book a must have. I studied some kanji previously but found my self directed study slow. While I agree with the other reviewer that the pace seem stedious at first, I after a month I can claim some serious progress! My only concern with this text is that from time to time the mini tests do not have an answer key. All in all an excellent book for self study by motivated beginners!
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Format: Paperback
This book is clear, systematic, and comprehensive. It includes excellent information about kanji aesthetics and stroke formation/order. I have no doubt that it would lay an excellent foundation for learning kanji IF YOU FINISH IT.
My problem with it is you have to slog through 85 pages of radicals (that is A LOT of work) before you write your 1st real kanji. That doesn't work for me. It provides very little reward in the beginning and I lost motivation. Also, I am living in Japan and didn't want to wait months before beginning on real kanji. I want it now. I'm not in it for the long haul. So I bought Basic Kanji Book instead. It's nothing out of the ordinary, but it got me learning real kanji that I can use right away, and it has kept me at it.
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Format: Paperback
This was the first kanji book I tried to learn with, and I found it very hard to keep up with. One good thing I liked from the start is, there is a lot of information in this book, like, what to call the strokes in Japanese -- i.e. hidari barai, migi barai, kanmari, etc.

The biggest problem for me was that the book wants you to learn all the radicals, strokes and terminology before you learn any actual kanji. I wasn't learning any kanji, and there was no application of what I was learning i.e., reading material, etc. At the time I was living in my hometown, and the only time I saw kanji was when I opened that book, so it was quite discouraging for me at times. It took me at least a week to learn all the information about -- i.e. the afore mentioned terminology -- before I could go on and tackle what it was actually trying to teach. Another problem is that there is a lot of romaji at the beginning, which personally, I thought was deleterious to my Japanese learning as a whole.

That said, the benefits -- i.e. detailed radical information, and Japanese terminology for writing the kanji, shouldn't be overlooked. I used another book to learn kanji, and when I went back to this one, I found it a lot more useful, and not so overwhelming. I highly recommend this book if you already have a good, basic, grasp of kanji, radicals and stroke order. Maybe not a great beginner book, but definitely a good resource when you're comfortable with kanji and want something a little more detailed.
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