Remembering the Kanji 3: Writing and Reading Japanese Characters for Upper-level Proficiency: 3: Vol. 3 (Japanese) Paperback – 15 Jan 2008
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About the Author
James W. Heisig is professor and permanent research fellow at the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture in Nagoya, Japan. Tanya Sienko spent ten years working for the Japanese government and Japanese industry. After a period at the Warburg Institute in London, she returned to the U.S. and now works as an entrepreneur.
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(For the record: I was not all that impressed with RTK1, because of the often extremely laboured mnemonics Heisig suggest and his often limited-usage choice of key words for primitives. So I mostly used RTK1 as a pre-printed notebook that had enough room to add all my alternative ideas, which worked quite nicely for me. And when I saw RTK3 with a discount somewhere, I bought it with the same approach in mind. Plus that Heisig is an actual Professor of Japanese, so his choice of another 800 useful Kanji should be enticing for any learner of this enchanting language.)
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I really like Heisig's approach in volume 1. So no need to trash this review just because you liked that book. However, the current volume is in my view totally useless, or rather will involve a lot of wasted time. I get the feeling that it is written more for people who want to 'collect' kanji rather than learn Japanese. My concern is not with the approach Heisig has taken in his first book (volume 1). My concern is with the specific implementation in this book. His approach works for relatively frequent characters, but it is not so useful for rate characters - the focus of volume 3. Two problems:
First: There are several frequency tables of kanji available. Had Heisig used one of these tables, the situation would have been better. Now we are missing several quite common characters, for instance XX XX XX' (all ranked around 1800). Instead we get very rare characters included, for instance 'XX XX XX' (all ranked around 5000). So in terms of importance, I think Heisig's choice of characters is quite poor. Roughly speaking, every time a character ranked 1800 is used, the character ranked 100 has been used 80 time. For every time a character ranked 5000 is used, the character ranked 100 has been used 100,000 times.
Second: The meaning Heisig gives to characters is not all that useful for rare characters. For instance compare 'XX and 'XX. Their meaning is pretty much identical. However, Heisig gives the characters different keywords. This will obviously lead the learner to think there is some semantic difference in meaning. As a matter of fact one of the characters is an alternative to the other and is only included in the book because it is a name-kanji. So in fact while it has the same meaning, the reason why it is included in the book is that some people have it in their names! Had Heisig provided some usage instruction for the characters, the book would have been much stronger. For common characters this is not a major problem because you will revisit them when you learn vocabulary.
I gained knowledge about all of the 2000 and more kanjis, the correct shapes and meanings without any exceptions in 45 days. I just neglected a little the writing practice. I took advantage of the Christmas period, so working sometimes six hours a day, but also much less (lately a couple of hours per day).
Of course I am not a layman about mnemonic associations. I have been used them all my life, but in a completely different context (mathematics, physics, art history..). Moreover I am not an english-native speaker. So I had to work a lot with the english-italian dictionary as well.
Nevertheless I am already in the volume 2.
P.S. As for the flashcards I highly recommend the White Rabbit.. they are the best!