1700 Kanji and the Skimming Hypothesis

So I’m finally almost done with Heisig. I’ve been doing about 50 to 100 Kanji per day and I am almost there. A few key things I have noted recently.

I mentioned in a previous post that I was shedding guilt regarding the study of Heisig. I was also focusing less on memorization of a kanji, versus partial retention of it. What I’ve learned is that when studying the Kanji, the STORY is king, not how easy the Kanji is to write. Also, some Kanji are not hard to remember because of written complexity, but your familiarity with the keyword in your native langauge.

For example  and “Confer” and “Constancy” are a few words I have trouble with, because I don’t generally use these words….ever. 

I know that the proper use of Anki is excellent for memory retention, but I personally don’t like it so much, because of the time it took to use.

Since I lost strong interest in that program, I started wondering what people did before Anki, what methods they used to revise and gain a powerful retention of the Kanji meanings. This lead me to actually stop SRSing for a long time, because I found it was bothering me (based on my Learning DNA). So i said “What did Heisig do?” well, he must have had a system of basic revision. See, using imaginative memory to know these Kanji puts them pretty solidly in your mind, and I’ve found that just skimming through chapters, can doubly reinforce Kanji I’ve forgotten.

I’m not sure why, but sometimes I might open Anki, and see a word, and then I am stuck. But if I look through the book, and I remember the series of Kanji (groupwise) that the word is from, it comes back to me immediately. So I’ve been doing this instead of Anki recently. I will get a sheet of paper, hide the Kanji, and sequentially go through a list of probably 150 Kanji at at time. What I find is that my linear memory is pretty good, (i.e I can sequentially remember the next Kanji as it follows the previous one storywise), but in a non-linear situation (like Anki) sometimes I would be stuck. Anki is great, and i’m actually going to utilize it when I start doing sentences, but I was tired of the repetitions and sitting in front of my PC for so long revising stuff that I “sort of knew” already.

So I’m operating in a mode of less effort.

I’ve also been putting less effort into writing down the stories. In fact, some stories I don’t even write, because I simply organize an idea using only the primitives. This has allowed me to move considerably faster over the last two weeks. Plus It allows me to operate from mostly my mind, and as I’ve started believeing more in the power of my own mental abilities, I’ve been more bold with testing new things.

Also, despite NOT doing Anki and just “skimming” and doing “light revisions here and there” I am remembering almost all the new Kanji I learn. All I do, is do a quick read through, of the chapter, say some of the stories out loud (or just think about them) and then move on. I tended to get quite stressed thinking of “this number of reviews to do” ” what’s my retention percentage” “failed cards” and so on.

A little more on this Skimming thing I noticed.

I’ve been using this little practice to learn some readings of the jyoyou Kanji using the Movie Method. I have another post I wrote on this which I haven’t uploaded yet, but a quick summary.

Consider a reading for muliple Kanji a universe, or a planet. You create a story that links all the Kanji in this planet. So let’s say your “planet is a movie” e.g

DAI another day. (got this from a guy named NukeMarine) so these are all だい。

泰  題 台  第

He attributed parts of the move to each Kanji with its English Keyword meaning.

Maybe James bond’s TOPIC of conversation at the craps table was very light. or, early in the movie, we can see James Bond hopping on different PEDESTALS to try and catch a villain. Now the keyword in English is attributed to the reading.

I quickly read through some of those examples and later realized that I had memorized several with little or no effort. Even when I read stories that had nothing to do with the ones I made myself, I found that i learned other readings like せい

Movie: Star Wars

制 ー the SYSTEM the sand people used to steal robots.

清 - the force is PURE energy

stories from a guy with a blog called “The Movie Method in Action”

Either way, I remember those from just reading his blog without really trying to memorize anything. I even got some multple readings like しょう and せい for 省 (the Kanji for “focus”) for one the guy said “Indiana Jones is a cool SHOU”, and then for “SEI” from Star Wars.

So as I finish the Kanji, I will be doing a lot of skimming of these meanings and see how many will impress lightly on my mind and remain in long-term memory. What I realize is that the time spent creating a connected to the KEYWORD using the primitives from Heisig is the strong root. Using the Movie method is merely a sort of attribution to the story you already made (but can even work for something you didn’t make).

Learning Japanese can feel quite pressurizing and this post is about me trying to maximize the ease with which I approach certain things. I am not saying of course that i will not have to do some rote memorization for certain words and terms, but I am going to test the “skimiming” of these movie method readings and see how many I can retain with slightly modifications of the stories in my mind WITHOUT using Anki.

It’s kind of how i can’t forget a word like 犯人 (はんにん、criminal) from Death note because the context was so strong when I learned that word. I am trying to explore more ways to remember things in strong context and avoid too much time consuming rote memorization (the reason why books like RTK1 even exist)

For a busy guy like me,  Anki is a series of stacked time constraints. First you do Anki to review the Kanji you learn in English, then you do Anki to learn random sentences, and for me, most of the time, there is ZERO context, and I often forget certain things. I usually get a lot more from trying to read some manga (and failing horribly) than trying to memorize sentences I have yet to use.

I believe once I start speaking better, this outlook will naturally change. But for now, I will make my observations on what I am doing and maybe try and be a bit clearer about it. Like with more specific details.

Hopefully I will be done with Heisig this week, and then I can gloriously move on to a systematic approach to getting the readings.

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About marcusbird

Writer, Designer, Filmmaker
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