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Remembering the Kana: A Guide to Reading and Writing the Japanese Syllabaries in 3 Hours Each: part 1 Hiragna : par (Manoa) (Japanese) Paperback – 30 May 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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  • Remembering the Kana: A Guide to Reading and Writing the Japanese Syllabaries in 3 Hours Each: part 1 Hiragna : par (Manoa)
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  • Remembering the Kanji 1: A Complete Course on How Not To Forget the Meaning and Writing of Japanese Characters
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  • Remembering the Kanji 2: A Systematic Guide to Reading the Japanese Characters
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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press; 3rd Ed edition (30 May 2007)
  • Language: Japanese
  • ISBN-10: 0824831640
  • ISBN-13: 978-0824831646
  • Product Dimensions: 15.7 x 1 x 22.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 49,553 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

James W. Heisig is professor and permanent research fellow at the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture in Nagoya, Japan.


Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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I'm currently reading one of the author's other books, Remembering the Kanji, and that book really is pretty much perfect. By contrast, this book has two major flaws despite otherwise being a great book; one, the author seems much more suited to creating interesting ways to remember kanji elements than he does to creating ways of remembering the kana. Two, many of the pronunciation guides are given based on American English pronunciation rather than British English.

For example, generally "ta" is generally pronounced similar to "TAp" or "TAtty" but in this book the author suggests using "TOp" as the pronunciation. Naturally, the author being American, all "a" sounds are given the sound of a British short "o" (as in "Orange") and all "o" sounds are given the sound of a rounded "o" (as in "Only"). There are other misleading US pronunciations given too. This leads to one saying words like "kun" - correctly pronounced so it rhymes with "pun" - in a very over-pronounced American way that rhymes with "loon".

In short, think of how Americans pronounce "Cecil" as "See-sill" and you'll see how you'll sound mispronouncing the Japanese syllabaries and consequently full words. You would normally only pronounce Japanese in such an over-pronounced way if you were shouting something, as you may shout to a friend on the other side of a road, or if you were singing.

As for the first given flaw, the author's slightly oddball method of teaching kanji meanings, attributing interesting connotations and keywords to the smaller elements and then building up from said smaller elements to the complex kanji, is employed roughly here to try and enable the reader to remember kana pronunciation and form.
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Format: Paperback
This book is great - so great that it's kind of sad that I can't recommend it as heartily as I'd like. This is because of two problems: one, pronunciation, and two, the katakana section.

Other reviews detail Heisig's method for memorisation, so I won't go into that - except to say that I found it really helpful, and I would have undoubtedly found learning much harder going if not for his help. I could indeed learn the hiragana, as promised, in three hours - although spread out over a week, and I'd say it took me a couple of weeks to be confident in reading and writing at a reasonable speed. Ditto the katakana.

The main problem is the pronunciation. Even if we take away the issues caused by the American accent vs. the English accent, you're still not going to get a sense of how to pronounce things correctly if you go by the keywords. It's really easy to think `oh, the keyword for `ko' is `comb', so it must be pronounced like the co in comb' - but it's not. `Ko' is pronounced more like the co in `copier' or `cough'. Even said in an American accent, the co of `comb' is not going to sound right. Of course, this is not a problem if you're taking a class and or can get a native speaker to teach you the correct pronunciation, but if you're unfamiliar with the sound of Japanese and this book is your first exposure to it, you're going to pick up some bad habits.

A minor problem is the katakana section - which you do second. Heisig didn't write it himself, someone else did, and it's poor quality. Too many of the entries say `it's just like the kanji'. Since it's unlikely that many people will know kanji but not know katakana, for the majority of learners that's just a really irritating thing to say.
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Format: Paperback
I had looked at the reviews of previous editions of this book and the book on learning Kanji by the same author and was slightly put off by the sentiment that the American English used to help memorise the characters made the technique inefffective, but in a devil may care moment I decided I would try it anyway. The book contains a section on learning Hiragana, and one on Katakana. I had previously learnt the Hiragana with some flash-cards (which I got off amazon) but it had taken me about a month and we had been going over them in my Japanese lessons at the time. So I just skimmed the Hiragana section. Then I read the Katakana section properly. And three days later I could read katakana! I'm still slow and I still get ma and mu confussed occasionally, but I found it incredibly easy to get all 46 characters in my head in a very short space of time. I also used the flash cards again to test myself at intervals, and found myself using the daft stories the author had come up with. For example; NE sounds like the begining of the phrase NAVEL DISASTER, with the captain on the prow of his ship, which has hit a reef and bits of ship have broken off. So you draw the prow of the ship, a downward stroke is the captain on the prow, the line under the prow is the reef and the angeled stroke is bits of the ship. Sounds nuts but it seems to work. I did have to make up some of my own including CHI which I just had to remember as the "weird one".

To sum up my rambling, I found this a suprisingly effective method, although I think it probably helps to get some flash-cards to check your memory between reading chapters. ON TO KANJI!
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