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Thread: Let's have a Heisig Debate!

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    Daimyo ***** dombay's Avatar
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    Default Let's have a Heisig Debate!

    An old BD favourite.



    Heisig is bullllllshit because it doesn't teach you readings, proper radical meanings, compounds or other stroke and other kanji information. So you can sort of make stabs at kanji but you cannot really read or understand them.

    Better way: get a kokugo exercise book from daiso and stuff your arse off till you know them.




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    Senior Member SarahJ27's Avatar
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    First of all, there are three Heisig books (though the third is like an advanced copy of the first and second).

    The second one goes over readings and compounds. In fact, Heisig suggests that readings should be learned through compounds.

    The first Heisig book is fabulous for learning the writings and meanings, even if there are multiple meanings for certain kanji. The idea, as Heisig suggests, is that by learning the writing and meaning of each kanji before learning the readings, you'll be on the same level as a Chinese person learning the Japanese writing system (say what you want about Chinese learners' abilities to grasp other parts of Japanese, they are more successful at the kanji-learning).

    Will you automatically remember each kanji without reviewing using Heisig's method? Of course not, but I've found what needs to be reviewed is the story itself (I've been studying it off and on, so there will be times when I go a long period without studying, so I need some refreshing on the stories).

    I think learning radicals would be easier after the fact. I'm pretty sure the second book goes into radicals more, though I'm not sure.

    In any case, your criticism is a little shortsighted since you don't take into consideration the point of the first book, nor do you take into consideration the existence of the second book.

    My plan, ultimately, though, is to learn the writings and meanings with the first book, then move onto Kanji in Context for readings.

    I honestly don't see how drilling kokugo books is any better than using a method like this. I know Heisig doesn't work for everyone, but it works fabulously for me. I've studied kanji other ways, but the ones I've studied with Heisig stick in my memory far better than the ones done with more traditional methods.

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    Cool Cutie Fighter! Hyakuman's Avatar
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    I think the first book is pretty counter-intuitive in the strife to learn Japanese as a whole, because sure you learn what each character means, but without being able to read it as a compound or having any idea of it's usage, or other potential meanings, seeing it on a billboard or newspaper is going to leave you just as bewildered as if you didn't know the kanji in the first place.

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    Senior Member SarahJ27's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyakuman
    I think the first book is pretty counter-intuitive in the strife to learn Japanese as a whole, because sure you learn what each character means, but without being able to read it as a compound or having any idea of it's usage, or other potential meanings, seeing it on a billboard or newspaper is going to leave you just as bewildered as if you didn't know the kanji in the first place.
    I forgot to mention this in my first post, but I do entirely agree that Heisig is not great for the immediate usage. Since I took Japanese classes, I studied kanji that we had to for class and so I'm not religiously following Heisig's method (which is to not try to learn how to read them before you get through the first book). Nevertheless, when I'm studying on my own, I'm studying the first book. Despite what Heisig says, my other study doesn't seem to interfere with my RtK studying. I would say RtK reinforces my kanji study in cases where I've already encountered the kanji elsewhere (it really helped a lot in class).

    That being said, I don't think this is a flaw in the series that you can't use the kanji right away. I think that just means for some people it's not the best option, or at least, it's not very good without some changes to the method (like I said though, it's good reinforcement).

    I still think it's a very quick way of learning it, especially if you regularly study it. It's remarkable how quickly you can learn to write some kanji.

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    Senior Member karumu's Avatar
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    I prefer to learn it the way the Japanese do, rote learning.

    i study 5 new kanji a day and around 4 or 5 common compounds for each kanji. revise them again over the next couple days then have a revision of the months kanji at the end of the month.

    since quite a lot of words are formed with characters that really don't make much sense being together learning the meanings of individual characters and then trying to piece the meanings together to form the meaning of a compound is going to leave you stumped a lot of the time.

    e.g. 節約 - せつやく - economising, saving
    節 - node; season; period; occasion; verse; clause; stanza; honor; joint; knuckle; knob; knot; tune; melody
    約 - promise; approximately; shrink
    (definitions taken from EDICT)
    now you could debate period and shrinking is saving as in time, but what about in terms of money?

    I think the heisig method is good as a complementary tool, but that is as far as i will give it credit for.

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    Delicious...and moist! kiwimusume's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by karumu
    I think the heisig method is good as a complementary tool, but that is as far as i will give it credit for.
    +1. It can be good for teaching you how to write the kanji, but that's only half of what you have to learn when you learn kanji. And it's totally out of context (no readings, no words that contain that kanji) so I for one probably wouldn't have been able to retain much if I'd used that method.

    Also, even when I tried using it as a complementary thing last year, I didn't really find that the memory tricks worked for me all that much. Part of it is probably because they don't mean anything to me (the kanji that have really stuck, other than ones I use all the time, are ones where I've been able to come up with a memory trick that means something to me) but I think it's also because most of the "meanings" Heisig assigns to the various compounds don't have anything to do with their actual meanings. It's probably different if you're learning kanji for the first time, but I have trouble associating the compounds with their Heisig "meanings" because I know the real meanings.

    On the plus side, the book smells nice.
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    Yeah, it's really good stuff. For some reason, they bound it as a book, instead of on a roll. There's 190 pages, which is probably good for at least a few dozen shits.

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    Resident ewok wicket's Avatar
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    I'm no expert on Heisig, but it seems to be a long-winded and distracting way to learn the kanji.
    I prefer learning them the way Japanese kids do; and in the same order, exhausting a radical before moving on to the next one.
    I learnt hiragana and katakana just by copying them and saying them over and over until I knew them. My husband used those cards with the little pictures on the back. I hate those pictures as much as I hate Heisig. ("Mu" looks like a cow saying "Moo"? My arse it does.)
    However, I'm more into whatever works for each person, so if Heisig's been good to you, far be it from me to knock it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by wicket
    ("Mu" looks like a cow saying "Moo"? My arse it does.)
    .
    As if it doesn't!
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    Senior Member karumu's Avatar
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    actually on the topic of using those methods for Kana learning then i'm all for them.

    I learnt kana (well definitely hiragana) when i was somewhere between 9-11 years old, and we used the picture method. my friends who have not studied any japanese since can mostly read all the hiragana still because they remember the し - she has long hair. etc. When i started studying Japanese again I realised i still remembered all but a couple of the hiragana thanks to this methods.

    for example i was able to remember which was ろ and る after not touching japanese for 12 years thanks to ろ is for robber who stole the ruby from る haha.

    having said that, learning a phonetic script in this manner is completely different to learning kanji. i think it is not sufficient for learning kanji and i would never recommend this being the way to go for anyone wanting to learn to read Japanese.

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    Senior Member SarahJ27's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kiwimusume
    Quote Originally Posted by karumu
    I think the heisig method is good as a complementary tool, but that is as far as i will give it credit for.
    +1. It can be good for teaching you how to write the kanji, but that's only half of what you have to learn when you learn kanji. And it's totally out of context (no readings, no words that contain that kanji) so I for one probably wouldn't have been able to retain much if I'd used that method.
    That's the point of the first book. No one said you're supposed to learn everything at once. In fact the idea is exactly not to. It's divide and conquer in a way.

    As for the meanings, they seem real enough to me, even if they aren't exhaustive. Obviously the book doesn't say that it's going to teach you everything about every kanji at once. Again, that goes completely against the point.

    In any case I don't think there's really anything to debate about. If you don't like the book, fine, don't use it. But there are plenty of us who are successfully learning how to write kanji based on the first book. I've learned how to write 1100 so far rather painlessly (I've never once felt like "oh my god, when will this stop!"). I know that I have to do the readings afterwards, but quite honestly I think it will be easier to do that when I already know how to write the kanji. By knowing all the Joyo (plus some) I won't be encountering too many compounds containing kanji I don't know (unless it's in names in or something). Maybe that's not your method, but it's mine, and you can't really judge its effectiveness half-way in. (and I don't mean to sound like "Don't judge me!" cause that's not how I mean it at all)

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    Delicious...and moist! kiwimusume's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SarahJ27
    Quote Originally Posted by kiwimusume
    Quote Originally Posted by karumu
    I think the heisig method is good as a complementary tool, but that is as far as i will give it credit for.
    +1. It can be good for teaching you how to write the kanji, but that's only half of what you have to learn when you learn kanji. And it's totally out of context (no readings, no words that contain that kanji) so I for one probably wouldn't have been able to retain much if I'd used that method.
    That's the point of the first book. No one said you're supposed to learn everything at once. In fact the idea is exactly not to. It's divide and conquer in a way.
    I'm not quite understanding you here. I could have been totally misinterpreting it, but that mission statement type thing he wrote in the first book definitely sounds like you're supposed to learn to write all of those kanji before you even start on learning the context. Which, for me, would make it harder to learn, because I'm not getting any application of what I'm learning, besides the general English meaning of the kanji, which as karumu pointed out sometimes doesn't have anything to do with the meaning of the words it's in.

    Quote Originally Posted by SarahJ27
    As for the meanings, they seem real enough to me, even if they aren't exhaustive.
    You misunderstand me. What I mean is that the meanings he assigns to the components often aren't what they actually mean in Japanese. And like I say, if you're just starting out it's different. But when, say, I tried to use it as a complementary tool to get better at writing kanji, I found it hard to relate to his meanings because I already knew the real ones. If you've known for years that *gets book* 田 means "rice field", then it can be hard to start thinking of it as "brain", and if you can't get behind the "meanings" then the memory tricks don't work. So while the tricks may work for some people, they were completely useless for me.

    But operative words here are "may work for some people". If it works for you, cool. Just saying that it didn't work at all for me, and I doubt that it would have had I used it when I was first starting to learn kanji.

    Quote Originally Posted by karumu
    I learnt kana (well definitely hiragana) when i was somewhere between 9-11 years old, and we used the picture method. my friends who have not studied any japanese since can mostly read all the hiragana still because they remember the し - she has long hair. etc. When i started studying Japanese again I realised i still remembered all but a couple of the hiragana thanks to this methods. for example i was able to remember which was ろ and る after not touching japanese for 12 years thanks to ろ is for robber who stole the ruby from る haha.
    Holy shit, karumu, where are you from? That sounds practically the same as the pictures we used in high school. O_o
    Quote Originally Posted by goloons View Post
    My favorite student just tried to BITE MY NIPPLE.
    Quote Originally Posted by Coollead View Post
    Yeah, it's really good stuff. For some reason, they bound it as a book, instead of on a roll. There's 190 pages, which is probably good for at least a few dozen shits.

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    Senior Member SarahJ27's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kiwimusume
    Quote Originally Posted by SarahJ27
    Quote Originally Posted by kiwimusume
    Quote Originally Posted by karumu
    I think the heisig method is good as a complementary tool, but that is as far as i will give it credit for.
    +1. It can be good for teaching you how to write the kanji, but that's only half of what you have to learn when you learn kanji. And it's totally out of context (no readings, no words that contain that kanji) so I for one probably wouldn't have been able to retain much if I'd used that method.
    That's the point of the first book. No one said you're supposed to learn everything at once. In fact the idea is exactly not to. It's divide and conquer in a way.
    I'm not quite understanding you here. I could have been totally misinterpreting it, but that mission statement type thing he wrote in the first book definitely sounds like you're supposed to learn to write all of those kanji before you even start on learning the context. Which, for me, would make it harder to learn, because I'm not getting any application of what I'm learning, besides the general English meaning of the kanji, which as karumu pointed out sometimes doesn't have anything to do with the meaning of the words it's in.
    I wasn't clear enough I guess, but that's what I meant. You're not meant to learn the context (readings, etc.) with the first book. That's the point of it. I can understand that that would make it more difficult for some people, but I'm just saying that it isn't a short-coming, because that's how it's intended and it works really well for a lot of people. (I also find this dividing different parts of learning good for other aspects of learning Japanese as well)

    Quote Originally Posted by kiwimusume
    Quote Originally Posted by SarahJ27
    As for the meanings, they seem real enough to me, even if they aren't exhaustive.
    You misunderstand me. What I mean is that the meanings he assigns to the components often aren't what they actually mean in Japanese. And like I say, if you're just starting out it's different. But when, say, I tried to use it as a complementary tool to get better at writing kanji, I found it hard to relate to his meanings because I already knew the real ones. If you've known for years that *gets book* 田 means "rice field", then it can be hard to start thinking of it as "brain", and if you can't get behind the "meanings" then the memory tricks don't work. So while the tricks may work for some people, they were completely useless for me.

    But operative words here are "may work for some people". If it works for you, cool. Just saying that it didn't work at all for me, and I doubt that it would have had I used it when I was first starting to learn kanji.
    I see what you mean. I thought you were referring to the keyword meanings themselves, rather than the primitive meanings.

    It's a shame it doesn't work for you guys though. Personally, I find drilling them over and over is a lot more tedious, inefficient (I plan on being done learning the writings of the 2042 kanji in the first book by July) and leaves you more prone to forgetting the writings. When it's been awhile since you've been exposed to a kanji, it really is a lot easier to recall how to write it with a story behind it than with a vague image of it in your memory.

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    Daimyo ***** dombay's Avatar
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    I don't think that Heisig teaches you to write particularly well. Only writing lots of different characters over and over again will teach you to write.

    You have to develop a style, a handwriting to make your kanji look natural. So for example when I first started learning Chinese though the stroke order was fine and the characters I wrote were readable they looked crap because they were 'too boxy'. A lot of Japanese learner's kanji I read looks like their strokes are not confident enough and they just look crap and are sometimes hard to read.

    Also some different fonts of kanji, handwritings, etc will not be possible to read if you just learned from Heisig. You need lots of practice with writing to be able to decipher them.




    On the whole I don't think that quick fixes ever work for anything. Exercise book from Daiso, a pen and a copy of the Basic Kanji Book (red cover) is a much better way to learn!
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    Senior Member karumu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kiwimusume
    Holy shit, karumu, where are you from? That sounds practically the same as the pictures we used in high school. O_o
    haha well going by your name you are across the tasman sea from me. victoria, australia. I have seen a few different sets for the kana learning but i still love the original one i got given, i guess we lucked out and got the same one.

    Quote Originally Posted by SarahJ27
    It's a shame it doesn't work for you guys though. Personally, I find drilling them over and over is a lot more tedious, inefficient (I plan on being done learning the writings of the 2042 kanji in the first book by July) and leaves you more prone to forgetting the writings. When it's been awhile since you've been exposed to a kanji, it really is a lot easier to recall how to write it with a story behind it than with a vague image of it in your memory.

    i don't think it is a shame at all. from now until the end of july you will learn to write around 900 characters without really any understanding of their meaning, readings or use. on the other hand i will have learnt 300 characters in that same time and know at least 1200 of the most common words that go with them and the most popular readings so im ready to go forth and use these characters and words in my life. this without putting much time into each day either.

    once you start applying readings and vocabulary to the characters you know, you will find it just as difficult to remember which ones go together as the rest of us. I rarely find myself stuck on how to write the character when im revising, it is more of which one is it.

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    Senior Member SarahJ27's Avatar
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    I know what you mean about handwriting. I think that's a problem with lots of kana and kanji books aimed at foreign learners. That's not just a Heisig thing at all, though, and it's also not the point. The point is remembering the strokes that make up the kanji. Otherwise you might find people saying "Oh you have lovely handwriting, but you wrote this wrong." In this case, for me, and for a lot of other people, Heisig's method is a lot more effective.

    I see no reason why you can't develop your handwriting after you already know how to write the kanji in the technical sense.

    As for it being a "quick fix." Well, it probably is quicker in the long-run, but you're not cutting corners; you're just being more efficient (as far as your own memory is concerned).

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    Senior Member SarahJ27's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by karumu
    Quote Originally Posted by SarahJ27
    It's a shame it doesn't work for you guys though. Personally, I find drilling them over and over is a lot more tedious, inefficient (I plan on being done learning the writings of the 2042 kanji in the first book by July) and leaves you more prone to forgetting the writings. When it's been awhile since you've been exposed to a kanji, it really is a lot easier to recall how to write it with a story behind it than with a vague image of it in your memory.

    i don't think it is a shame at all. from now until the end of july you will learn to write around 900 characters without really any understanding of their meaning, readings or use. on the other hand i will have learnt 300 characters in that same time and know at least 1200 of the most common words that go with them and the most popular readings so im ready to go forth and use these characters and words in my life. this without putting much time into each day either.

    once you start applying readings and vocabulary to the characters you know, you will find it just as difficult to remember which ones go together as the rest of us. I rarely find myself stuck on how to write the character when im revising, it is more of which one is it.
    I've already admitted the first book isn't great for immediate use. But I'm not studying for July 26th (which isn't to say you are), I'm studying for the long term, so I have absolutely no problem focusing on the writing and, yes, the meanings while delaying learning the readings and compounds if it means that the former will stick in my memory more concretely.

    Sorry for sounding a bit smug though. I suppose I got a bit defensive. Your method sounds like it works quite well for you. I was more thinking of the writing the kanji over and over thing which I've always found to be quite painful and in the end never helped me beyond the end of the semester.

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    Daimyo ***** dombay's Avatar
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    Yea but it's much more efficient to practice your handwriting, stroke order, meaning, readings and compounds all in one go, surely.

    That's what I meant about handwriting - you need to practice the writing of the characters much more than Heisig suggests to get them to look decent AND be correct.
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    Cool Cutie Fighter! Hyakuman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SarahJ27
    I've learned how to write 1100 so far rather painlessly (I've never once felt like "oh my god, when will this stop!"). I know that I have to do the readings afterwards, but quite honestly I think it will be easier to do that when I already know how to write the kanji. By knowing all the Joyo (plus some) I won't be encountering too many compounds containing kanji I don't know (unless it's in names in or something).
    By this rationale, Chinese people should be able to understand Japanese immediately, and speak it mere minutes later. :?

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    &%$#@!!! Timoshi's Avatar
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    I've had a couple of Chinese friends come visit me, and they both picked up on the Japanese language incredibly quickly...
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    Senior Member SarahJ27's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyakuman
    Quote Originally Posted by SarahJ27
    I've learned how to write 1100 so far rather painlessly (I've never once felt like "oh my god, when will this stop!"). I know that I have to do the readings afterwards, but quite honestly I think it will be easier to do that when I already know how to write the kanji. By knowing all the Joyo (plus some) I won't be encountering too many compounds containing kanji I don't know (unless it's in names in or something).
    By this rationale, Chinese people should be able to understand Japanese immediately, and speak it mere minutes later. :?
    Um, well no, and I'm not sure where you even got that. How does the idea of it being easier to learn compounds if I'm already familiar with the kanji mean that Chinese people can understand Japanese immediately and speak it all of a sudden? Exaggerate much?

    But yes, part of the rationale behind the book is that Chinese people are in general more successful at learning these written aspects of the language than learners from other language backgrounds.

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