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Customer Review

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A promising approach, but has too many flaws to recommend., 7 Jan. 2011
This review is from: Remembering the Kanji 2: A Systematic Guide to Reading the Japanese Characters: Vol. 2 (Perfect Paperback)
After working my way through the first book of this series with good results I had high hopes that this book would also prove to be a great asset in reading the kanji. Sadly, whilst it has done it's job to an extent, I remain very disappointed by the numerous flaws scattered throughout.

The book divides the challenge of learning how to read the kanji into two sections. The first section deals with the 'common' on-yomi readings of the kanji presented in book 1. The primary approach is the use of 'indicator primitives', chunks of characters which are shared between several characters which also share a reading. These start out being completely reliable, with groups with more exceptions being used later.

The approach has its pros and cons. It does reduce the initial work required to learn the first few hundred readings, but starts to feel really stretched in some of the 'mixed groups', sets of characters where some of them share readings and they all share a signal primitive. There are also several cases where a group is initially presented as having no or only one exception, only to later have many more added. Furthermore, there are cases where some kanji are not added to the group they should belong to for no stated reason. My final complaint with this method is that Heisig never explains exactly what it means. Whilst it is somewhat implied that there is some particular reason to these shared readings, it would be nice if it were made explicit.

After this method has been stretched as far as it will go, about 800 readings are left to be learnt by brute force. Heisig does try to make at least some of these more interesting by presenting them in slightly more exotic words and phrases but many are simply left to rote learning. This is particularly disappointing as some effort could be saved by further pattern spotting in the readings; several characters have the same pair of readings, to the extent that it is almost certainly not just coincidence and even if it is, could and probably should be capitalised on.

Also scattered throughout this section are a number of errors in how the example compounds presented are translated. Heisig recommends learning the character as a part of the compound and understanding the compound in the process so as to be able to at least have a stab at reading unknown compounds that will be encountered in the future. However on several occasions the same compound has a different translation when presented as an example for the characters composing it.

Thus far I have only mentioned the on-yomi. This is because whilst the book is divided into two sections, Heisig spends over 250 pages on his methods for learning the 2000 odd on-yomi readings presented, fewer than 15 pages are given to the method of learning the 6000 odd kun-yomi, before Heisig simply points you at the index. The index gives the reading and nothing else. This means that if you want to have any idea what a given word means beyond 'probably some verb to do with the key word of the kanji' you'll need a dictionary. Furthermore, no attention or warning is given to those words which can have more than one reading.

In conclusion, whilst there is some worth to the first third or so of the book, as a whole it is severely lacking. You are scarcely better off buying this book than a dictionary from which to take the readings, and since the kun-yomi section necessitates access to a dictionary to understand what you're actually learning anyway I would recommend not using this book.

[Aside - There were going to be explicit examples, but apparently amazon doesn't support UTF-8 in its review form.]
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 9 Oct 2011 11:30:10 BDT
Try this matey. I've yet to make it through RTK 1 yet but this guys approach seems interesting. Also the website AJATT recommends everyone drops RTK 2 and goes straight to RTK 3

Posted on 9 Oct 2011 11:32:00 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 15 Dec 2011 16:20:37 GMT]
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