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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