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!
Glad I could help you out in some way. Being able to do a favor inadvertently to someone who inspires me, well, feels really awesome.
Let me know when you're coming to Japan. I'll be there in January!
I was right about to start an all nighter when I read this. Throughout the night I was like, "Ughhhhhhh" and I was reading the same things over and over again. Whenever that happened I thought about this and it really helped me out.
Iachlan - I used Anki for the computer. I actually have a whole system I've made up around the free tools available. If people are interested in learning Kanji quickly I will post my whole workflow. I'm up to 455 characters with over 90% retention.
I tried to teach myself kanji last year (wile at the same time learning Indonesian) Ã¢â‚¬" I gave up after a few months but I am going to pick it back up next year. But itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a great idea, learn a few kanji a day.
I was so close to the end today that I had to push through and finish. My schedule is normally 35 new Kanji per day, but today I did 78.
And what a sweet victory it is.
Every time someone sees me studying Japanese Kanji（漢字), characters the Japanese borrowed from the Chinese, and then used to represent Japanese ideas and pronunciation, I always get one or both of the following responses
1. Are you studying Chinese?
2. Is it hard?
In response to the first I always teach them and let them know that Chinese is significantly different than Japanese because Japanese people use three "alphabets" (they are in fact more like syllabaries), katakana, hiragana, and kanji, and because the grammar is substantially different.
The second though, is always a mixed bag. The U.S. Government states That Japanese, along with Arabic, and Chinese (and some other languages I forgot) are the languages that require the most time to learn for English speakers. But in my opinion, after having spent years studying on and off, Japanese is definitely one of the the World's toughest languages (at least considering it is actually spoken by over 100 million people) to become really fluent at (watch comedians, read adult-level literature, understand and differentiate slang and homonyms),but one of the easier languages to learn the basics to ( denoting location, modifiers, people, adjectives)