Whenever people link to me it shows up in my stats, so I always go visit the site to see why I got linked. A couple weeks ago I followed back to a site called Sushi and Seduction.
The guy who runs the site really has a knack for finding pictures of gorgeous Japanese girls, so of course I started scrolling down looking at the pictures. Then a headline of an article caught my attention.
What!? It seemed impossible. The Japanese have three alphabets. I can bumble through and sound out the two phonetic ones, but the third is a beast,thousands of characters that must be individually memorized. It's called Kanji.
It's such a daunting task that I never really even considered doing it. I had some experience learning the writing system of Chinese in college and it was brutal. The Japanese borrowed their characters from Chinese, so it's basically the same thing.
But... this article convinced me. Sure enough it wasn't hype,he actually had found a system to learn it in two months. There is a list of 2000 characters that the government has designated as essential Kanji. If you can read those then you can read a magazine, newspaper, or any sign. It takes schoolchildren many years to learn all of them.
Do 35 kanji in a day and you're done in just about two months. How hard could it be? I did three months of Japanese tapes before going to Japan. Two months of this would be easy.
Day one was a breeze. It was really working! Soon I had been going for over a week and had almost 300 characters under my belt. I found a program for my phone to practice with when waiting in lines or at restaurants and I was consistently drawing the correct Kanji 95% of the time in just over ten seconds on average.
Normally I'd do the Kanji as soon as I woke up or at least before dinner (I'm a night owl, so this is a 5-6 hour span of time), but yesterday I had another project I was excited to work on.
I took a break in my work to fit in Kanji practice. I went through the day's three dozen words and had a ton of difficulty remembering them. I quizzed myself and did terribly. The lesson seemed so much harder than previous ones. I pushed on through it and eventually got them down.
At midnight today I finally got around to doing the Kanji. I would have done it earlier but I knew that I'd be reviewing the Kanji from yesterday and was dreading it. Again I had a tough time remembering the Kanji and was getting most of yesterday's wrong as well.
What happened? Two days earlier I was an A+ student and today I was a D.
I put away the Kanji for a minute and thought about it. Why was I learning this stuff? What's the benefit? This is a technique a hypnotist friend taught me that always stayed with me. If you're doing something you don't want to do, like cleaning, think about the end result and not the process.
Then it hit me.
I am VOLUNTARILY learning this. I chose to do it on my own because I wanted to. How can anything voluntary be drudgery? Once I put in two months of work I will be able to read ANY common Japanese or Chinese character (there are some differences with Chinese, but many more overlaps). That's an awesome skill that will be very useful in my travels.
In fact, visiting Japan, one of my very favorite places in the world, will be an even better and richer experience! This is an exciting challenge, not some chore to dread.
And just realizing that changed everything. With a new positive attitude I began to easily remember the new words and started doing much better on my review. And best of all, it's fun again. Instead of thinking about how difficult it is I think about how I'm going to totally dedicate myself to this and learn them all really well.
P.S. Thanks for the inspiration Emergency!