Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Reviewing the Kanji

For the past couple of weeks I've been trying to do something related to Japanese for at least an hour every day. My activities bounce around from Rosetta Stone and shadowing to laughable attempts at writing and watching J-dorama (for the listening and comprehension practice, I swear!). And to be honest, I really enjoy each aspect.

Lately though, I've had an itch to practice reading... which means assessing my love-hate relationship with kanji. On the one hand, it's absolutely fascinating and rather fun to gather and convey meaning through the use of symbols. On the other, who in their right mind isn't intimidated by memorizing over 3,000 symbols and trying to make sense of them? Thus, finding the right approach is crucial... along with finding a way to push these little bundles of lines over to the love side.

The method I'd found a while ago: James Heisig's "Remembering the Kanji". Associating images with the correct kanji seemed like an instant win for someone who would much rather concoct stories to memorize than sit down for endless repetition with pen and paper that provide no context and thus get lost to the wind the next day.

But there was a slight problem. How to efficiently review the kanji and their stories once I'd gone to the trouble of memorizing them. Hand flashcards became unwieldy at the 50 mark,
and because of the way stories build on themselves, it was impossible to find the card that held the kanji I needed a refresher on to build another kanji 150 cards later. And let's face it, organization for study and randomness for testing's sake are not very friendly bedfellows.

So my attention drifted off at around the 300 mark... until I made a very important discovery. A website dedicated to those of us following Mr. Heisig's method. Not only can you imput your own stories, you can find them. Easily. Before a randomized review session and after. Instantly. Even better, the review system is set up to help get those kanji into your long-term memory, assigning cards to a scheduled review time that get progressively longer. Provided you're successful at recalling them, of course. Otherwise, back to the front of the line they go, for more study. And finally, if you're having trouble coming up with a story that works for you, you can look at stories that other users have posted to spark some ideas. Brilliant.

As for the ease of reviewing on the move... well, stacks of flashcards are your only choice if you're not that into technology. For the rest of us, having a mobile device that can take advantage of wireless connection means the site is only a click away.

Kanji has become fun again. Now it's a matter of not neglecting the other elements of my studies :)

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