Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Kanji Studying

I finally feel like I have an effective kanji studying technique. I've been using the Kanji in MangaLand book lately. It has the most logical progression, and the most useful vocab I've found in any kanji book so far. Up till now I've always struggled with the various aspects of studying kanji:

  1. Do I memorize the individual meanings of kanji?
  2. Should I memorize all the common readings of individual kanji?
  3. How do I effectively memorize a kanji's stroke order?
  4. What about vocabulary written in kanji?
I used to memorize the kanji individually, including their meanings and readings. I've now shifted to memorizing kanji vocabulary instead. I find that by memorizing four to six different words with a specific kanji character in them, I naturally learn the different readings a kanji can take, as well as its meaning. Of course I look over the kanji individually before studying them in vocab, but I don't have to do any memorization independent from studying the vocab.

I write the word in kanji on one side of a notecard, and the hiragana reading plus the English meaning on the other side. I look at the kanji side, and make sure I know both the English meaning of the word, and the hiragana reading of it. I then write the kanji a few times in a notebook and go on to the next one. If I don't know the meaning of a word, then I make sure to review that one more often. I tend to memorize in batches of 6-12 words, and then move on to the next batch. As I accumulate words that I have lots of trouble with, I'll memorize a batch of the trouble makers separately from the rest.

I've found that studying this way increases my vocabulary, allows me to memorize stroke order and the various readings of a kanji, and the individual meaning of a kanji. Frequently, vocabulary includes kanji that I am studying, and kanji that I have not yet studied. I try to learn the stroke order of all the kanji in a word I am studying, although I don't feel the need to learn the meaning or the readings of kanji that I haven't gotten to yet. I can usually discern some meaning anyways, and I figure I will get to that kanji in the future.

The only disadvantage to this method is how long it takes to get through a group of kanji, since I am not only memorizing the kanji, but it's stroke order, other kanjis' stroke order, and several new words per kanji.