kanji wa muzukashii ja arimasen

So I just restarted learning Japanese, … again.

When will I ever learn that it’s more effective to stick with something than to take three runs at it from the beginning, before quitting yet again.

Anyway the Kanji to me are the soul of the Japanese language, and are a large part of why I want to learn it. I am making good progress now with King Kanji on my PDA and Heisig’s book. The mnemonics in the book are sometimes indispensable, sometimes worthless. Sometimes I can remember a character just fine with only the appearance of it (and stroke order, very important I find) and don’t need a mnemonic at all. Sometimes I make up my own mnemonic. Also I think using just the book would be ten times as difficult as using it in combination with King Kanji.

So far I’ve been at it again for about two weeks and have learned approximately 200 Kanji, so I’m about 10% done. A lot of those were just review, but the latest study set (35 characters) I seem to have pretty much mastered in two days using this system.

Oddly though I have not yet started learning the pronunciations. Just the meanings and stroke order. Not sure of why I’m so reluctant to start aside from my usual reluctance to begin anything.

What I wish there were though, is a system for learning based on the radicals that make up the characters. Heisig does this to a considerable extent, but what I would like is a learning order, not by grade level as Heisig does it, but rather by building block; where you would learn first the characters that are also radicals. I think this would make it a great deal easier to use the mnemonic system. As it is, I often find that I am expected to remember a character based on the meaning of a radical that I haven’t yet learned.

I think to a large extent I am approaching Japanese learning backwards to what most Westerners would do. Most learn the spoken language first, and if they ever do learn to read and write, that’s much later. I heard somewhere that Japanese people use a completely different part of their brains for language than Westerners. Makes sense, because it’s so visual. Japanese writing has an extra dimension than writing with alphabets – the characters themselves hold meaning, which you don’t even have to map to a particular sequence of sounds in order to understand. Contrast that to alphabetic writing where the letters themselves only represent sounds and nothing more. That’s why I think that learning the Kanji is central to a real understanding of the Japanese language.

Anyway just some thinking aloud about this interesting subject.