Natural SRS

I had touched on this many moons ago, when I found that revising Kanji from the Heisig method felt oddly counter productive. As one starts reading and learning more Japanese words, the idea of going from “English to Japanese” gets a bit funky.

I personally dont’ review my RTK (Reviewing the Kanji) cards very often. Why?  First off, I stopped reviewing them consistently a VERY long time ago, and i pretty much gave up on “catching up” because I was wondering “who am I catching up with?” What i’ve realized is that in reading Japanese, I see the same Kanji over and over and by extension I see the RTK Kanji as well.

Also, learning new vocabulary adds layers upon layers of learning. So basically if I had learned the Kanji with RTK, then I am learning new vocabulary which use RTK Kanji, then I am reading stuff which shows the vocab I learned that I can recognize with RTK then you see how it builds up. For a long time I had major issues with “catching up with my RTK reps” because I felt that I wouldn’t retain Kanji memories otherwise. I’m happy to have seen that even though I didn’t revise RTK constantly, I remember a ton of Kanji, and also, with my current reading and massive vocabulary learning practices, I’m getting exposed to the Kanji anyway. 

This is where the idea of “Natural SRS” comes into play. I can

A: Sit at my computer and look at individual Kanji, trying to remember the original English story ad nauseam.

B: I can study new words and see the aforementioned Kanji in a word, in context.

I prefer doing B at the moment. As i’ve mentioned in other posts, I tend to recognize almost every Kanji I see in a sentence, or at least the structure of the story for the Kanji. Then, I will just look it up on the RTK website, refresh my memory relating to the story (that i’ve already learned) and then move on. Occassionally if i had energy and patience, I would simply “skim” through chapters of Heisig’s RTK book. Since  a lot of stories build on each other, I could go through a few hundred without any major problems. I’d see how many I could write, strengthen weak stories, etc. But this kind of excercise is helping me mostly memorize the meanings in English… so that’s why I’d rather study new vocab and “revise the Kanji” as it were. Reading stories, manga and so on, will create a Natural SRS environment for me anyways, so if I see some Kanji like 後 which I learned as “behind” but can be read as ”nochi 後”、 “ushiro 後ろ” “go” as in 最後、今後 how do I learn all these cases? Well a few months ago I would have put my hands in the air and bemoaned the difficulty of such an undertaking.

But just by learning new vocabulary in context I saw enough differences with how that one Kanji was used to gain understandings of the new meanings. I didn’t have to really to anything involving my Heisig Deck either. So I’m writing this post because a part of me is still worried about forgetting Kanji, when in actuality, I’m using a sort of fluid approach to learning the meanings of the Heisig Kanji that is more Japanese-based. Like anything it isn’t perfect, and i’m still trying to figure out ways to streamline the process, but it seems that the idea holds true that:

If I learn thousands of words, I will learn the meanings of thousands of Kanji by extension.

If I read regularly, I will see hundreds/thousands of words, and keep refreshing these meanings in context. 

My only issue is “production” which is where the whole Heisig Anki deck thing gets tricky. I want to be able to write what I’m hearing, but i’m finding that the balance between writing production and the amount of input you need to write fluctuate drastically. I’m already seeing how i’m reading a lot of words I couldn’t before, but i am not always able to write everything I read. This makes me feel like i’m doing something wrong, (which stresses me out) but then I realize to spend time

Writing dozens of sentences per day

Doing dozens of Anki reps per day

Learning new vocab

Immersing in native media

Reading manga/online text

Takes SO much effort for the average person that at some point you have to compromise. I’ve definitely seen blogs where people say that they will focus on writing later and learn Japanese comprehension first. I am semi-leaning towards this scenario, but I haven’t adopted it yet. I try to at least write each new vocabulary word I learn once or twice while doing Anki SRS reps to add some muscle memory to the story… but if I am doing 200 reps on a certain day, it will slow me down to write and re-write the Kanji over that period.

So for now I write the Kanji as I learn it from my vocabulary deck, (but don’t write it in a sentence) so I can move to the next Kanji. When I had just started the core2000 I was doing production without realizing it. I was listening to a sentence and writing the entire thing then rechecking to see if I got the meaning right. But this was before I realized I’d need a proper way to learn vocabulary, get a sentence deck etc. Then I also saw that writing the sentences each time took a bit of time, and more than a bit of effort. So yeah, I’ll probably post more on “balancing it all out” soon enuf…

but I digress…

About marcusbird

Writer, Designer, Filmmaker
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2 Responses to Natural SRS

  1. In my opinion, as long as you keep reading stuff in Japanese everyday, and also do your sentence reviews in Anki, you don’t have to worry that much about forgetting kanji. You will forget some inevitably anyways, but that can be easily fixed by looking it up on an online Jap dictionary and reading some example sentences.

    Heisig’s method is a way to get you really used to the kanji. Once you are comfortable reading them in Japanese, the “English” keywords and the stories start disappearing. At the end, reading interesting content in Japanese everyday is what ends up being a “natural SRS” 😀

    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • marcusbird says:

      I agree. For now i’m trying to make it manga and lite stories, then when I get better I’ll move on to maybe internet content and blogs after I hit a few thousand pages of exposure. Thanks for the comment!

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