- Series: Remembering the Kanji (Book 1)
- Paperback: 496 pages
- Publisher: University of Hawaii Press; 6th Updated edition (March 31, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0824835921
- ISBN-13: 978-0824835927
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 8.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 255 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,311 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Remembering the Kanji 1: A Complete Course on How Not to Forget the Meaning and Writing of Japanese Characters 6th Updated Edition
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About the Author
James W. Heisig is a permanent research fellow at the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture in Nagoya, Japan.
Top customer reviews
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Let me state that as far as the book itself goes, it looks like a fantastic book with a great system, and I am very happy to pay for it and use it. It is JUST the Kindle version that has a problem, NOT a problem with the book or the system itself.
If I receive a corrected version of the Kindle edition, I will come back and fix this review. If you are wanting to learn Japanese, I will suggest you get this book, but for now order the paperback.
Also whoever thought blood red background with occasional blue text was a good color scheme for an educational text is a terrible person.
Edit: I looked at on my iphone and a friend's ipad and the stroke orders are perfect on there. WTF kindle?
Learning to read English that way would be crazy. But that's how a lot of people learn Japanese. And it's excruciating. The value of this book is that finishing it allows you to learn Japanese words more like how you would learn a new English word. It teaches you the Japanese alphabet.
This book seems to be controversial in Japanese learning circles. However I have never heard someone who has finished the book question its value. The criticism is usually levied by those who have never tried this method of learning. For example if you Google "Tae Kim Remembering the Kanji" you can find a critical review by Japanese learning guru Tae Kim (author of the excellent Tae Kim's Grammar Guide). You will notice that he doesn't mention the "learning the alphabet angle" that I did. I must say that he completely missed the point of why this book is valuable. If someone criticizes this approach to you, ask them if they've finished at least a quarter of the book. If they answer in the negative then don't take them seriously.
I keep very meticulous records of how I study Japanese and they show that it took me a little over 150 hours to finish this book. This number is still climbing (but slowly) because I review the book sometimes. While I was actively studying, I fastidiously used Anki flashcards to review the material (Anki is a free and open-source flashcard program). This was very good (and necessary) for my retention, however it demanded a ton of time and could seem very tedious. When you're using Anki on very big flashcard decks (like the decks for this book) you must do your flashcard reviews every day, you never get a day off. If you do take a day off, you must do twice as many reviews the next day. If you take a week off, well, good luck ever catching back up.
Now, the negative. Heisig sure knows how to learn the Kanji, but there are some holes in how he's going to teach you how to learn the Kanji.
1. Ambiguous or unusual keywords. Each Kanji in the book is linked to an English keyword that you need to learn to associate that kanji with. Unfortunately some English words have more than one meaning and you're not sure which Heisig intended. There are also some words that you're just not likely to know. For example one keyword is "godown". What's that, you ask? Well according to Google results it's "In India and East Asia, a warehouse, especially one at a dockside." Who woulda thunk it! This makes the Kanji harder to remember even after you go and look up the keyword, because it's not a word that's natural to you.
All English keywords in the book should be defined. Heisig does define some that he thinks might be ambiguous, however I found that for the most part, he disambiguated words that I wouldn't have had trouble with anyway, but didn't disambiguate the words that I did have trouble with. He should also strive to keep exotic keywords like "godown" out.
Note that this only really becomes a problem about half way through the book when it stops giving you stories for every Kanji.
2. Lack of cross-referencing for primitives. Each kanji in the book (except for the most "primitive" ones) is a combination of other kanji (or even non-kanji) that you have already learned (called primitives). And the primitives that make up each kanji is listed in its entry. However, there are no page numbers for you to be able to refer back to the primitives. As you continue through the book this becomes a bigger and bigger hole.
3. Puzzling errors. I noticed a number of them that made the book seem sloppy. For example a certain Kanji is listed as number 2 billion and something, even though there are *only* 2200 kanji in the book (thank god). These errors aren't a huge deal it's just not what I would expect in a carefully prepared book.
I'm early in the third section of the book (I've learned nearly 700 of the 2200 kanji included). For me, the first two sections of the book were harder to use than the final one - generally because the story/image suggestions provided by the author are based on his personal experience and cultural knowledge. Several suggestions just didn't work for me so I ended up substituting my own. The third section of the book doesn't provide you with any story/image, forcing you to create your own. It's better because you have to really think about the story/image and you don't lose time sifting through the author's ideas. I also find myself using the indexes at the back of the book more and more as I go along.
Keep in mind three things:
(1) This book teaches you to remember the kanji - it does not teach you pronunciations. The second book in this series does that.
(2) Find a phone app or website that you can use as a supplemental reference when writing kanji - the book provides stroke order, but not stroke direction. Some of the time they're obvious, but there are surprises out there.
(3) I highly recommend downloading Anki as a study aid. Their flashcard system is pretty intuitive and there are a few decks that have already been put together for this book by other learners.
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