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Remembering the Kanji 1: A Complete Course on How Not To Forget the Meaning and Writing of Japanese Characters Paperback – 30 Jun 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press; 6th Revised edition edition (30 Jun. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0824835921
  • ISBN-13: 978-0824835927
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 2.3 x 22.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 43,310 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

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The first thing to say is that this book will not teach you Japanese.

Anyone who has ever attempted to learn Japanese will, however, agree that the hardest aspect of studying this infuriating, endearing language is kanji, and the main trouble is remembering how to write the little beasts. What this book does is to systematise the mnemonics that we all invent for ourselves - "thing like a ladder, box lid, lantern, child, camp-stool, moon, mouth, twiddly-thing-that-means-motion". Then the author combines these, or encourages the student to combine them, into 'stories', which you are supposed to visualise, thereby remembering the writing of the kanji. And it does work, up to a point.

Other reviewers have commented that the book is very, very American, which sometimes poses difficulties. Several of the stories are concerned with baseball, about which I know nothing; there are numerous references to Bible stories and the doings of Almighty God, which is rather off-putting; and "a moose head hanging on the wall of the den" is not the first image that would come to the mind of an urban Brit. There are some strange choices, too - why the familiar standing bowl of rice that forms a part of so many kanji to do with eating and drinking - taberu, nomeru, musume... should become 'halo' is beyond me. So I am not sticking faithfully to Mr Heisig's 'primitives'; I am using the book more as a starting point for creating my own system.

The book does not include any Japanese readings of the kanji - each one is just given a 'key word' meaning in English, some of them rather wide of the mark, I feel. I gather that there's another volume that teaches the readings, but I will probably stick to my kanji textbook for that. Heisig warns that you should not use his book whilst studying kanji the conventional way, which is quite weird - who, other than a student of Japanese, could possibly want to Remember the Kanji?
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The best thing ever. Let me tell you.

If you are beginner in Japanese language, if you want to learn quickly you will use this book. There are people that do not like Heisig method, BUT.. that is because they do not understand what this book gives you.

You will learn 2200 characters. You will remember them and have mnemonic meaning. People say "how does this help you with Japanese?" and "what is the point to know how to write character if you don't know the real meaning in context".

Hear me. After you know 2200 kanjis and their mnemonic meaning, it will be so easy for you to go into grammar and vocabulary. Why? Because you will store new words in your head so quickly, because you know the kanjis already. It's so so so simple.

Basically this method shortens the whole procedure of learning Japanese by a lot.

When you were learning latin alphabet, you had to remember A, B, C, D to make a word. It is the same with kanjis. When you know them it's easy to remember the word.
So trust me, and go through this book, once you remember the kanjis, Japanese grammar and vocabulary is peace of cake.
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Format: Paperback
Truly a great buy if you're just starting out to learn Kanji. I've only had the book about 2 and a half weeks now but I've already memorised just over 100 primitives just from casual reading and practicing in my spare time, on the train, or even during quiet moments at work or at lunch times. This book's strong point is definitely more about teaching you HOW to remember the characters, and how to retain them in your long term memory using imaginative stories and imagery. The author's approach to tackling the great challenge of learning Kanji is almost the complete opposite of how it's traditionally taught in launguage schools, which was originally how I had approached the issue; by simply trying to force my brain to remember one Kanji after another by trying to memorise every reading, and stroke order. As predicted, I could remember a number of them, but after learning more and more, I'd very rapidly forget the previous ones. This book's approach is very simple and basic, almost child-like, but nonetheless very effective in stimulating your long-term memory.

I've yet to actually begin with the 'heavy' stuff, but I can already notice the benefits from the techniques and ilttle tips and tricks that this book provides. Although I found it interesting, before this book, I found Kanji extremly tedious and very laborous. Now quite the contrary, I actually enjoy learning more and more. This book has made it fascinating and, definitely more of a fun challenge to try and test what you've learnt using the techniques the book employs.

Just as my personal recommendation, this book should be used side-by-side with Anki, a free downloadable program which acts like digital flashcards. It's extremely useful in testing yourself and guaging your progress.
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Format: Paperback
First of all, let me categorically state that I have no problem whatsoever with Heisig's proposed method of concentrating on learning the meaning of the most commonly used Kanji with the use of mnemonics, while leaving the grammar and pronunciation for other textbooks. After immersing myself in the first two parts of Heisig's "Remembering the Kanji 1", I do have some other points of criticism.

My main point of criticism concerns the quality of many of the mnemonic 'stories' that Heisig comes up with for many of the first 600 Kanji that he treats. He seems to adhere to the motto "the crazier, the more memorable", which leads to a large number of stories that may be downright wacky, but have little or no obvious connection to the Kanji in question. E.g. #372 "read", where he states that most words that are read are read for commercial reasons. Is that dubious statement really the kind of clever mnemonic trick that will allow you to "fix" this symbol in your memory, even using the 6 steps Heisig recommends for doing so on page 102 (after the reader will already have tried to memorize almost 250 Kanji without the benefit of these 6 steps)? I don't think it is. Nor do I feel that this kind of mnemonic 'story' comes across as being the result of the sort of careful consideration and pruning that Heisig claims to have employed, resulting in the most efficient and vivid story to finally be selected for use as a mnemonic. And the same thing goes for a great many other 'stories' that Heisig presents the reader with in the first two parts of this book. That gave me the distinct impression that the author was being less than truthful about both the method and care he employed to create his learning method. Did I think I could do better?
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