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Chinese Project Notes 8: Ch-Ch-Changes + Stuff That Applies to Japanese, Too

OK, sometimes I hate writing these. Not because I don’t like you :), but because they’re kind of a distraction from actually doing the doing. Nevertheless, I do have progress to report, so here goes:

Cantonese Early Start

One week before Thanksgiving last year (2007), I began some experimentation with Cantonese (but did not inhale? What? 1960s hippie references not funny for you?). The details are going to have to wait, so don’t ask — I’m still experimenting. It did however necessitate a change in how I learn Mandarin.

SRS Question-Answer Pairs Flip/Shift

The way I had been SRSing Mandarin (and Cantonese) was like this:




nin2 yao4shi4 bu4chi3 xia4wen4 de0 hua4, xiong1di shi4 zhi1 wu2 bu4 yan2 de0


〔不恥下問〕bùchǐ xiàwèn

zhī wú bù yán【知無不言】
【補足】“言無不盡bù jìn”(話せば餘すところなく語り盡くす)と続ける.

かもん【下問】 〔貴人などが〕目下の人に問いたずねること。下聞(カブン)。

Chinese sentence front, reading and meanings on back. I’ve flipped that slightly to look like this:


nin2 yao4shi4 bu4chi3 xia4wen4 de0 hua4, xiong1di shi4 zhi1 wu2 bu4 yan2 de0





〔不恥下問〕bùchǐ xiàwèn

zhī wú bù yán【知無不言】
【補足】“言無不盡bù jìn”(話せば餘すところなく語り盡くす)と続ける.

かもん【下問】 〔貴人などが〕目下の人に問いたずねること。下聞(カブン)。

Phonetic reading[here, green] on the front, actual text representation[here, red] and definitions[here, black] on the back. My task is to produce the Chinese text (and of course know its meaning[here, blue], not give a translation per se but just know what it means), given only the phonetic reading. So far, it’s working VERY well. I’m finding that the readings basically memorize themselves if I’m able to produce the hanzi given only the reading.

Why did I make this change? Well, for one thing it was more fun. I like writing Chinese. But in terms of more “practical” reasons…it prevents confusion for me between Cantonese readings and Mandarin readings in the cases that a Mandarin and Cantonese text are the same which they are when it comes to Written Cantonese. What I mean is, I have this kind of relationship going with kanji/hanzi:

Hanzi→[Cantonese, Mandarin]

But there was too much overlap between the Cantonese and the Mandarin. To prevent that overlap, I have done this:


But, I find that I am still comfortably able to do this:


Not in spite of, but because of flipping directions. I really can’t explain it beyond that. Another interesting thing that I’ve found is that the characters where I was continually having issues with the Chinese reading were also ones where I was actually a bit shaky on the writing. Interesting, huh? [However, I still do think it’s advisable to learn meaning and writing before and to the exclusion of the reading, a-la-Heisig. This is because while there are phonetic patterns in hanzi, there are too many exceptions (I think) to make them useful, to an adult at least(?), until after you know the writing. For example 購(gou4) and 構(gou4) sound the same, but 講(jiang3) sounds completely different, despite sharing the same component on the right-hand side].

Another motivation was that I found my Chinese listening relatively weak. But literacy is crucial and I love text. So, what this does is both use and build strength in both writing and listening at the same time. Given a phonetic representation of Chinese, you have to produce the text (and of course in order to produce the text correctly, you have to have understood the phonetic representation). In that sense it’s like taking a dictation.

Could you do this for Japanese sentences/phrases, too? My first answer was actually, “no”. But Momoko said “yes”. And after trying it, I would say, “yes”, too. So, yes. You definitely can, and in fact I would heartily recommend you try, because I think it would do wonders for your kanji production skills and your listening comprehension skills (remember, there are no subtitles in real life). And of course if you can write it given the reading, you can read it given the writing, no problems. So, here’s an example of how you might do things for Japanese:


くさなぎ もとこ
しんちょう:ひゃくろくじゅうはち せんち
こうあん きゅう か の じっしつてき りーだー。



That one’s from the Ghost In The Shell SAC 2 website. One exception to this style of SRS pairs in Japanese is personal names outside the context of a sentence. The number of plausible kanji variations for names like Hiroyuki (e.g. 弘之, 広幸, 裕幸, etc.) and Keiko (e.g. 啓子, 桂子, 慧子, etc.) runs into the dozens and hundreds. You know how it is — everyone wants unique-ish characters for their kid. So, in these cases, I would suggest doing things the “old-fashioned way” for names. Specifically:




なかやま ひろゆき

That’s the primary method I used to learn how to read Japanese personal (and place) names, and it’s worked very well for me.

Am I going to go change all my Japanese sentences in my SRS? No, too much trouble. But, my Chinese SRS pairs have the property of having full pinyin, so it was easy enough to flip them.

Nota bene: this flipping we’ve discussed is not the same as producing (translating into) Chinese/Japanese given English. I found that that sucked for me, not least because the same phrase can be translated multiple, multiple, multiple ways, so who’s to say what’s correct? One key feature of truly useful SRS question/answer pairs, I think, is to have a very limited number of reasonably possible correct answers — preferably only one plausible correct answer. That way it’s a good, “fair”, useful test. Translation does not allow for this. Plus it ties one to another language too much, which is not a good thing unless you’re laddering…and even then. But I digress.

Make Your Own Books: Printing Out Webpages

This is going to go down in history as a “flash of the blindingly obvious”, but…printing web pages is to a great way to give yourself more or less free reading material in a target language. Especially when you don’t have access to things like newspapers. You can just go to a news website or even the Pedia of Wiki, print yourself and article and carry it around. Best of all, unlike a book, you don’t have to be kind to it, you can mark that thing up with crayola like there’s no tomorrow. Then, when you pick sentences out of it for your SRS, you can just copy-and-paste and save yourself some typing. Yay!

OK, that’s all from me. Until next time, take care of yourselves and each other 8) .

  68 comments for “Chinese Project Notes 8: Ch-Ch-Changes + Stuff That Applies to Japanese, Too

  1. quendidil
    January 19, 2008 at 15:05

    That’s interesting. I’m going to try this for my subsequent Japanese sentences. BTW Khatz, you said you were interested in Russian some point in the future too? Well, I’m personally interested in Greek too, but since they’re both inflected languages, I was wondering of a way to get started with all the forms of the words. The cases function like particles in Japanese so I think just learning them like particles should be alright, but what about the verbs? Specifically, the perfective/non-perfective whatever. I know you shouldn’t sweat it on the grammar but as far as I know, none of the languages I know have much in the way of this sort of tense/aspect thingy.

  2. Dan
    January 19, 2008 at 17:38

    Hey Khatzumoto,

    I wondering if you knew of anywhere to get a VMWare image of a Japanese OS?

    (The only one I’ve found thus far is but that’s a specialized version of Knoppix for mathematics. I’d prefer something like Ubuntu or a windows)

    The page is great too! I’m having lots of fun learning Japanese

  3. Charles A.
    January 19, 2008 at 20:15

    Here’s where Anki can shine. Since you can enter in multiple data points (Kanji Sentence, Kana reading, English translation, definitions) in seperate blocks on your “card”, you can then decide which block gets displayed as an answer and which as the question.

    So, if you have been using Khatzumemo (and are able to export your file), import it into Anki. If you need to, you can then export it again as a spread sheet so you can switch columns to re-import into khatzumemo.

    By the way, I think I was going to experiment with the reading to Kanji method sometime later. I am finding that I can “read” a sentence based on its context and fill in the gaps thanks to the kanji. Sort of inadvertantly cheating the system.

    By the way, there’s a logical extension to your idea of going pronunciation to kanji sentences: sound file to kanji sentences. I think there’s a couple of spreadsheets on the net that include short sound clips of the sentences. If I recall correctly, its a blog that posted all the sentences from Japanese for Everyone. Again, Anki shines here.

  4. Jon Desousa
    January 20, 2008 at 01:35

    Hi Khatz-san,

    I also print web material for use as a book. When I print out large amounts of material (ie Tae Kim, etc), I bring it to my local office supply store and they can put a spiral binding on it which allows it to take quite a beating while still being convenient. I frequently print four pages per sheet of paper and cut the paper in half so that I only have a small book sized item to carry with me.

  5. James Stuber
    January 20, 2008 at 06:00

    This seems like a great idea. I’ll try it with my Japanese studies today.

    Also, kind of off topic, but what resources would you recommend to someone just starting to learn Mandarin (i.e. knows absolutely nothing)? For Japanese we have awesome sites like Jlpt study for common vocab, Tae Kim’s grammar guide, Reviewing the Kanji, etc. but I’m having trouble finding similar sites for Chinese. (This is for a friend)
    Any recommended beginners sites/books?

  6. Rmss
    January 20, 2008 at 06:02

    I’m a bit confused by all the extra info you put on your cards.

    The way I do it now (for Spanish);
    Spanish sentence

    Dutch sentence

    Nothing more, nothing less. But when I see your examples I feel kinda bad. Am I doing it wrong? Because I was planning to do the same for my Mandarin in the future.

  7. dancc
    January 20, 2008 at 07:33

    I think the readings to kanji is interesting. Might help with actually producing sentences when not doing repitions. Right now when I get a reading right in my SRS, I can’t produce the sentence(with kanji) later in the day. Maybe going reading –> kanji would require more upfront effort of memorizing the sentence, so less reps in the SRS per day, but overall the amount of information you retain will be the same because going kanji –> reading is faster and you can get more reps done but it takes longer for it to stick.

  8. Jason Reaves
    January 20, 2008 at 07:43


    Mine is the blog where the Japanese for Everyone spreadsheet and audio files were posted, though I was not the one who created them. As Katz has said, textbooks suck. But as textbooks go, JfE is a good one, especially as a source of example sentences. The sentences in the spreadsheet are fully kanji-fied (more kanji-dense than in the book itself) and provide several examples for each function/pattern, with about 1400 sentences in all. The sentences were proof-read by a native speaker, and after learning to about half of them, I’ve found few errors. As for the audio files, I made them available on my web site, but I do not use them myself, mainly because the speaker, while quite good, is not native.

  9. Jason Reaves
    January 20, 2008 at 08:20


    When you’re doing your reps from pinyin -> chinese characters + meaning, do you always write out the characters? Or do you sometimes just say the Heisig (or other) keyword associated with the character, knowing that you could write the character if you had to? It seems like writing them out might be painfully slow. When I was going through RTK1, I found it faster to just say the primitives in the order I would write them rather than actually write them. On the other hand, I can see how the physical act of writing down the character might reinforce memorization.

    As Rmss noted, your example cards seem to have fairly long answer fields. How do you grade a card if you understand the pronunciation and meaning of the question but have difficulty with one of the definitions in the answer field?

  10. khatzumoto
    January 20, 2008 at 12:56

    Remember, kids (and even many adults) don’t know, and they get it right. I say just gets TONS of input and it’ll come together.

  11. khatzumoto
    January 20, 2008 at 12:57

    Sorry…all I can think of is that the English pages should have links to the other languages, including Japanese.

  12. khatzumoto
    January 20, 2008 at 12:58

    @Charles A.
    Yes, I’ve actually been using text-to-speech engines, especially for Cantonese. I’ve had some problems getting files to actually play back. Like I said…it’s all experimentation at this stage…

  13. khatzumoto
    January 20, 2008 at 12:59

    Good call on the small print!

  14. khatzumoto
    January 20, 2008 at 13:00

    @James Stuber
    I will have to think about it. Although of course the first thing is characters — Heisig/ Hanzi Mnemonics Project on this site…

  15. khatzumoto
    January 20, 2008 at 13:04

    @Jason Reaves, MD 🙂
    >the physical act of writing down the character might reinforce memorization.
    Precisely. I’m finding my speed and accuracy at writing characters REALLY jumping. It’s like they just flow out effortlessly — because of the small effort of practicing writing out the sentences.

    >How do you grade a card if you understand the pronunciation and meaning of the question but have difficulty with one of the definitions in the answer field?
    The defs are only for reference, I only look at them if I don’t know the meaning of a word. If I [know the meaning and pronunciation of a sentence and the essential meaning of each word]/[can produce the characters with 100% accuracy and know the meaning of the sentence], then I’m golden. So the defs don’t always get looked at by any means.

  16. khatzumoto
    January 20, 2008 at 13:05

    >Am I doing it wrong?
    Not at all. Not all my Q/A pairs are that verbose either.

  17. khatzumoto
    January 20, 2008 at 13:07

    >Maybe going reading –> kanji would require more upfront effort of memorizing the sentence, so less reps in the SRS per day, but overall the amount of information you retain will be the same because going kanji –> reading is faster and you can get more reps done but it takes longer for it to stick.
    Yeah. I find that I do a lower quantity of reps, but I would definitely say that they are of a MUCH higher quality.

  18. nacest
    January 20, 2008 at 18:10

    This idea sounds interesting, but I’m not quite convinced yet. Are there really no downsides?
    Maybe I’ll wait a little more to know what the medium-term effects of this method are (I’m gonna use you as my lab rats!).

  19. khatzumoto
    January 20, 2008 at 19:50

    >Are there really no downsides?
    There are. It takes longer to do each rep. If you use paper, you go through reams of it.

    >what the medium-term effects
    Vomiting, nausea, suicidal feelings, impotence. The usual.

    >I’m gonna use you as my lab rats!
    Haha! I will happily oblige 🙂 .

  20. Charles A.
    January 20, 2008 at 20:39

    I have to second the recommendation to write out the sentences (and the kanji especially if you’re doing just RTK). First, it’s like a log of all the work you’re putting in. Imagine looking back on 20, 30 or even 100 pages of paper just chocked full of your practice and review kanji. Second, it allows others to see your progress which is important when a native can take a look.

    Jason Reaves,

    Thanks for posting that spreadsheet. I’m not using it (as I did not have the textbook for quick reference) and have moved onto UBJG. However, when I’m done with UBJG I’ll definitely share the effort. What we all need is a lot more structured amount of sentences, at least starting off.

  21. Nathanael
    January 20, 2008 at 21:15


    While I’m never too keen on being a lab rat with the mysterious chemicals experimenters seem so keen to play with and my fellow rodents who have keeled over by the hundred of thousands, I can second using this method for at least a portion of your learning.

    I picked up some children’s books at a local bookstore back in December and starting to go through the stories and enter sentences and phrases I didn’t understand. Since the books were targeted at 小学1年 and 2年, most of the words were written in kana. At first I was going to use kanji for all the words where I could unambiguously determine what they should be, but I realized that I had more trouble understanding the sentence with just the kana.

    It then occurred to me that maybe it would improve my listening comprehension if I learned to understand directly from the kana since I usually try to read my entries aloud. My listening comprehension is notoriously lagging my reading ability. 他人:”授業のあと、ふくしゅうしよう?” 僕:”ふくしゅうって、どういう意味?” ・・・10秒後、僕:”あっ!報復の復と習慣の習、復習!”

    Since naturally a language is learned by listening to it far before reading it this made sense and I decided to try and use mainly kana for those two books. A month or so later, not only is my ability to recognise those phrases in conversation better than my other entries, but I’m also also to produce them in conversation sooner than my mainly kanji entries.

  22. khatzumoto
    January 20, 2008 at 22:40

    On a more serious note…like Charles A. suggests, you could always try writing out your reps just as they are [the kanji-containing (question) part].

  23. nacest
    January 21, 2008 at 03:14

    I was referring to the idea of pronounciation to kanji reps, not the “write the sentence down” one (that one is well established).

    If that’s what you meant, how does this change affect the amount of writing you have to do? The sentences are the same, whether you write them from the answer or the question field.

    Perhaps I’m just confused :S

  24. Nivaldo
    January 21, 2008 at 04:59

    Hey, Khatz! Sorry for bothering again with my difficulties(which I think I should solve alone as they are about my environment and not about japanese itself). Well, that thing about waiting only a few days to get my sound environment didn’t happen the way I hoped and I think It won’t happen in the near future so (although knowing that you would say it’s just a CHALLENGE), this is the question: What would you do if you had only some 3 hours to listen to music or watch movies/anime(without interference, 5am to 8am), 24 hours to learn kanji, 6 months free of any other commitments(REALLY), in short, what would you do to learn kanji with enjoyment if you knew you had only 3 hours of music/movies(no chance of buying an MP3 player, only input directly from the computer)?
    In my point of view, the problem here is enjoyment. With these problems, I’m really not finding the way to follow your guidelines(ENJOY learning japanese).
    Note that I’m not only waiting for help I’m thinking myself and putting all my energy to find solutions but it’s not easy, you know. Although I’ve found some solutions, I wanted more ideas(you know, two heads think better than one).

  25. nacest
    January 21, 2008 at 06:09

    In my puny opinion, don’t get too stressed about the number of hours you spend doing input. You said it well: it’s about enjoyment. Nobody is gonna pay for your time spent in Japanese.
    I might be saying something totally obvious, but just WATCH and LISTEN, as much as you like. If you encounter something you enjoy, follow that path, get something with the same actors, or by the same creators. Continuously test and experiment new genres. Well, stuff like that.

    I in no way feel entitled to answer in Khatz’s place, because my Japanese experience is so low and he will be able to give you better answers.
    I only spoke up because the one problem I don’t have is lack of motivation and enjoyment.

  26. Serge
    January 21, 2008 at 07:26

    Surprised you’re saying:

    >while there are phonetic patterns in hanzi,
    >there are too many exceptions (I think) to make
    >them useful, to an adult at least(?), until after
    >you know the writing.

    As an experiment, I actually have learnt around 6,000 hanzi + pronunciation and the tones, incorporating the last two components in my mnemonics and I have found phonetic patterns hugely helpful. I have a go at explaining why here:

    The result is being able to (practically) drop pinyin as I move forward in my studies.

  27. dancc
    January 21, 2008 at 09:24

    Hey question for anyone. I just went to the a local Japanese mall
    And had a great time. It was actually packed and 99% were Japanese!! It was so much fun. Anyways I bought some Naruto, Bleach and Onepiece manga, and was wondering if anyone used them to mine sentences. Since I can watch those shows on my computer, I was thinking it might be great practice if I just go through each book until I read it all, and I can watch the shows over and over to help in pronunciation. Khatz I think you’re a manga junkie, did you just jump right in or wait until you had a descent vocab before trying to read them.
    1) How close are the anime and manga dialogues?
    2) Should I buy the translated manga? I’ve read that is a good way to read things?
    Anyways I’m starting on Naruto 1 as soon as I hit “submit comment”… crap I’m just wasting time.!!!!

  28. Nivaldo
    January 21, 2008 at 10:18

    Hey, nacest, thanks for the answer. Let’s wait for Khatz’s reply and put it all together. I think you’re right, I should just LISTEN and WATCH. I think here is a nice place to recall your awesome comment from “Strategies for Overcoming burnout”(really, it’s a great comment), it’s with that in mind that I say there is a trouble. Please think with me, you say somewhere that when learning kanji one should forget about the number of kanji that actually “exist” and concentrate on each one of them, OK. If I concentrate on each one of them, I’ll surely do a good work but as Khatz said we all get bored during the doing and in that aspect, Japanese Music relaxes me to a point where I start mixing the flow of the music with the images producing super-vivid images. Without the music I can still do it but not in the same performance, I’ll become increasingly bored until I hit the burnout stage. The music helps me forget about the number of kanji and lets me enjoy as much as possible. One of the solutions I found for this enjoyment problem was to enjoy only text. That’s why I play some old DragonBall RPG games. Maybe I’m not giving myself needed breaks, I’ll think more thoroughly about this. Anyway, thanks for the answer, nacest.

  29. jubilantia
    January 21, 2008 at 12:15

    Hey Khatzumoto,

    I am almost halfway through Heisig, which I am quite excited about. However, since this update will be relevant when I start sentences in a month or two, I thought I’d ask this before I forget:

    Should I start out with the first few sentences doing reading to kanji, or start out kanji to reading to get myself used to the whole ++reading JUST kanji scary can’t compute out of cheese error reboot world from start ++ thing, or intermix the two methods, or what?

    As always, thanks.

  30. scout
    January 21, 2008 at 13:45

    You might want to check out They have the ISO for the Japanese localized version of Ubuntu. You should be able to create a new VMWare image file, and then install from the CD images on that site. Everything is in Japanese right out of the box.

  31. Dan
    January 21, 2008 at 17:16

    It’s a good idea, but I only have the free version of VMPlayer. So I can’t make the images only run them (as far as I know)

  32. nacest
    January 21, 2008 at 18:47

    if I understand correctly you are having problems because you get bored of the kanji studies. I can see why that can trouble you, since it’s against the AJATT way to do boring things, right?

    Again, I’m not nearly close to fluency, so I have little authority on the subject. But I finished RTK1 a few months ago, and I think it was a successful feat for me. So maybe you could extract something from my experience.

    I discovered this blog and method when I was towards the end of the book. After that, things cleared up a lot. I started focusing on the (I think) right things: Japanese, enjoyment, input, etc., and I was much faster.
    But even before that, and even though it took me an incredibly long time to go through the book due to my sort of tight schedule and lazy character, I don’t remember ever getting bored of my kanji studies. And I can tell you plainly, I’m not some patient zen monk, or higher being. It just went that way. In this aspect, I had the right attitude, unconsciously. I was slow, sometimes I skipped for a few days, once I skipped for a few months, but I wasn’t bored. I wasn’t thinking about it at the time, but now I can try to find out what it is that I was doing right.

    The first thing that comes to mind is that I didn’t care about when I’d finish the course. I could make an estimation, but it didn’t really matter to me. Only towards the end I decided I needed to finish before a certain date, because I wanted to be ready for the JLPT in December. But the consequence of that decision was simply an “adjustment of the pace”. I calculated roughly how many kanji a day I needed to do in order to finish in time (rounding up), and then I could once more forget about the total number.

    I don’t know if you already do this, but I found that having a fixed amount of characters due every day establishes that sort of routine that you just get used to; it’s not boring any more.
    And then… I don’t know how to express this, but it didn’t even occur to me that I could ask someone else to help me with my motivation. I didn’t spend much time thinking about how to do it. I only spent time doing it. These are things you can read in every post on this site, and they are so true!
    The fundamental thing to understand, deeply, is that in language self-learning the instinctive attitudes count much more than the rational thoughts.

    I instinctively knew that once I finished the book I’d be rewarded for all the time and effort I put into it, so I didn’t mind.
    And wow, the reward did come. After kanji 2042 it was like I had finally obtained the higher-level magical fire-shooting, soul-leeching sword I had been waiting for. The monsters that had been bullying on me before (J-sites, books and manga) rather suddenly became vulnerable to my attacks. And the sword is special, it gets stronger and stronger if you feed it with magical SENTENCES.

    Now I can almost kill a manga with one stroke (ok that’s exaggerating, but who cares).

  33. Zack
    January 21, 2008 at 20:59

    I finished RTK3! I now know the meanings and writing of 3020 kanji (at least starting today). By the gods, am I expected to be a botanist, or a geologist? Those gem/animal/plan kanjis nearly drove me crazy. Anyway, I don’t know if anyone will believe that I actually did RTK1+3 in 30 days, 100 per day, but it happened.. wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who don’t have their entire days free though, but it’s possible.

    Anyway, other than my bragging, I wanted to ask about the windows vista (dislike it alot) and the new JIS2004.

    I don’t know if you’re aware of it or not, but the new JIS2004 standard for computer characters changes alot of the primitive elements of primarily non-joyo kanji to older forms. It freaked me out for a bit when I was going through RTK3, because at first I thought either heisig was wrong or my computer was screwy, but I found the downgrade to JIS90 for now and they’re back to normal. I was wondering if you knew what was going on with this, why does this new JIS standard use these older kanji forms?

    On the plus side at least I’m able to identify alot of the older/alternate forms now that weren’t covered in the last 40 kanji of RTK3, but still.

  34. scout
    January 22, 2008 at 00:58

    It looks like that same site has VMWare images as well:

  35. Nivaldo
    January 22, 2008 at 02:32

    Thank you very much for the help, nacest. I think I got it, besides, today during my frustration I sat down looking at the kanji indexes and thought “maaan, these figures are beautiful. I want to learn them”. I remembered why I wanted to learn kanji in the first place, they’re nice and beautiful. And from that thought I figured out that the enjoyment was inside each kanji, even more enjoying when one forms vivid images with the primitives. I think I was getting bored because I wasn’t doing them well. In summary, I’ll seek enjoyment inside the kanji being learned through the primitives. Haha, the problem was in the stories I created, they don’t get the needed attention. I was bothering you because of this problem. I can’t believe this, I’m so sorry. Also, I tried to do 100 kanji a day but found out that 50 a day is better for me as I’m not so good at creating stories. Thanks again, nacest. You were really helpful.

  36. Dan
    January 22, 2008 at 02:55

    That’s excellent thanks so much! I’m going to do all my Japanese study and Japanese browsing using that image now.

    I’m sure other people might be interested too!

    (For the curious, simply, VMWare allows you to run another virtual computer on your current computer. It runs at a good speed inside a window. The VMWare image scout linked is all in Japanese. It’s a great alternative if you cringe at the thought of replacing your primary operating system :D)

  37. nacest
    January 22, 2008 at 08:14

    you weren’t bothering me at all! No reason to apologize. And don’t thank me like I did something special, I didn’t do anything at all. You should still wait for Khatz’s answer for better insight.

    By the way, have you ever seen a shoudo master do his job? There should be something on youtube. Man, that’s inspiring for the kanji! I just love those apparently brisk but deeply genius brush strokes (the genius part I realized when I tried to do shoudo myself; my strokes were just brisk. And ugly).

    Also, you could try telling people how many kanji you have studied until now. No need to brag, just say the number, and they’ll be impressed. I know it’s silly but it does do something for your motivation. I remember that when I was at ~500字め hearing the others say “what? five hundred friggin’ letters? man, you are crazy!” made me feel like I had already accomplished something (which was true). Might be a useful feeling.

  38. Nivaldo
    January 22, 2008 at 08:36

    You did do something special, you helped me find a way to enjoy learning kanji and hey, guess what? I’ve come up with a brand new idea to not allow any interferences of portuguese and english into my environment. The problem is: OK, I can’t listen to japanese music during daytime and must rely only on learning kanji but at home it’s very easy to hear portuguese and english almost all the time so now I’m going to isolate myself in complete silence(better than with interferences) and learn kanji there but in that place there is no SRS so I picked up the concept of a “mind map”. In case you don’t know what a mind map is, you should google “Tony Buzan” and get info about it. With the mind map, I set all the meanings in a random fashion so that I can now practice as if I were actually using a true SRS. I don’t know what shoudo is but by context I think you mean drawing the chinese characters artistically with the appropriate instruments, I tried once but also failed, first because I didn’t have the appropriate instruments and second because my hand was and is still untrained for this kind of art(at most, drawing manga), it makes me nervous sometimes. And sure, let’s wait for Khatz’s answer. じゃなあ

  39. quendidil
    January 22, 2008 at 10:58

    I’m not Khatz, but I think I can answer your question a little.

    Just jump right into the manga. Yes, sentence-mine them, you can read them in advance of the anime or before, it doesn’t matter. If the anime follows the text closely, you can use it as pronunciation practice very well too.

    You won’t enjoy it very much at first, I didn’t personally. But after you get the basic vocab down (to be honest, vocabulary in 少年 manga isn’t very wide :P), you’ll find reading a breeze and you should be able to zip through a new volume in less than a hour.

    Oh yeah, and regarding colloquial contractions in manga (~なきゃ、~ちゃ) and even pseudo-kansai-ben, just let them come, you’ll get them naturally.

  40. quendidil
    January 22, 2008 at 11:28

    1)Some manga are really close to the anime while others are not. It goes case-by-case. Death Note and Claymore are two recent series that follow the manga very closely, though the sequence of events is somewhat altered in Death Note and the last 2 episodes for Claymore end differently.

    2)You might want to read through the translation just once to get the general outline of the story. But remember that more time spent reading the English takes away time from the Japanese. I personally never used English translations for manga.

    For novels it’s a little different, since they’re much more text intensive and you can sort-of deduce the meanings of some words just based on the translation without a dictionary. I have tried reading ハリー・ポッター with the original in hand. It works alright. Plus, sentence-mining a novel is quite troublesome at the beginning, due to a different set of words used and the literary tenses (that never appear in speech).

  41. Rmss
    January 22, 2008 at 21:50

    I don’t know if it has been mentioned before, but yesterday I found this sentence website:

    It says it contains about 15,000 sentences in Japanese.

  42. mark
    January 22, 2008 at 22:03

    “I don’t know if it has been mentioned before, but yesterday I found this sentence website:

    It says it contains about 15,000 sentences in Japanese.”

    I think a big word of warning might be in order for that site – most of the sentences come (I believe) from the Tanaka corpus. See a warning here re. the Tanaka corpus:

  43. khatzumoto
    January 22, 2008 at 22:47

    Again on your concern about going kana–>kanji in your QA pairs, I too had some concerns: would this not weaken my visual memory of characters? Would I really learn readings? In the admittedly relatively short time I have been doing this, I have found that there was no cause for worry. For one thing, I still get visual input both when I write out the characters and when I check my answer against the full-kanji answer. My reading recall is not perfect but appears to be better than before — quicker, surer.

    I’m doing this for Japanese now, too, just not with my old items.

    >how does this change affect the amount of writing you have to do? The sentences are the same, whether you write them from the answer or the question field.
    Yes, they are. I have a little secret to tell you — I did not always write out all my sentences. I just did as much as I felt like, which generally was about 25-50% of them on a very good day, quite often 0-10%. Why? Because it started to bore me — writing out a sentence that’s right in front of my eyes — it was too easy. This new way (1) compels me to write them out and (2) is a fun challenge, like a game: I’ve had some interesting discoveries, for example, that I didn’t know from memory which was the こう in 症候群(しょうこうぐん, syndrome)even though I know 候 very well.

    Anyway…it’s good to have doubts and be firm in your position. I would say, rather than accepting it on argument or faith, give it a limited test run, like Nathanael suggested. After all, discussion proves nothing in this game: only results prove.

  44. nacest
    January 23, 2008 at 06:23

    Well, how can I reject something you recommend? 🙂

    Actually, I’m gonna try it for two reasons, after thinking about it a little and upon reading your comment:

    1) “Tentar non nuoce”, in Italian is a proverb meaning “trying doesn’t harm”. If I don’t like it I can still go back and forget it.

    2) Lol, I don’t write all the sentences down too, for the same reasons you stated. Besides, I’ve noticed my weakness in recalling from memory the exact character that goes in a compound. So what you say makes total sense. To cut it short, I’m more or less convinced that it could work. Sorry for my being annoying in my earlier posts.

  45. Rmss
    January 23, 2008 at 06:48

    Ah, thank you Mark. Didn’t know that. Better to get things myself ;).

  46. Charles A.
    January 23, 2008 at 22:46

    Well, I’ve been trying it the last couple of days. So far so good. It’s much more of a challenge meaning I was getting to much of a hint from the kanji itself to figure out a sentence. With that, if you’re using Anki, you might want to do a Production and Recognition card set (spaced 24 hours apart per card naturally). When the Recognition (ie Kanji sentences) pop up, just read it and grade yourself accordingly. When the Production (ie Kana sentences), just write it out and again grade yourself accordingly.

    At first, I was not too sure about reverse cards. Heisig cautioned against reviewing Kanji to Keyword for example. However, as I’m using a Leitner system, I think that any “contamination” eventually goes away as the reverse cards get spaced farther and farther apart. For example, in Kanji there’s some that are easy to write recognize via Keyword but I don’t recognize by just the Kanji and vice versa. As Khatz says, perhaps such a problem could be occuring when you’re doing sentences. So, just cover your bases.

    PS: I usually try to write out all the sentences. If nothing else, I have physical proof of the amount of study I’m putting in (granted, I have data results from RevTK and Anki, but paper is so much cooler here).

  47. Jimmy
    February 6, 2008 at 13:00

    This may sound like a silly question, but when you write the question field in kana, how do you write out particles like “は”, “へ” and “を”, as these differ from the actual pronunciation? Since the idea is to improve listening skills, do you write them as “わ”, “え” and “お”?

  48. February 6, 2008 at 13:28


    I just write out the particles as は、へ and を. Sometimes it can be a little confusing and you have to read it both ways to see what fits, but with practice that becomes quicker and you won’t even notice you’re doing it.

    I did have this in a question yesterday though:


    Took me a second to realise it was 母は!!

  49. Max
    February 8, 2008 at 09:49

    I’ve been using this for about a week and a half now, and it’s been going great. Thanks, Khatz. Something I’ve found effective is putting the words that would normally be in kanji in katakana to avoid the 母は/ははは problem. 例えば…

    意気投合 – いきとうごう – 互いにすっかり気が合う事

    If two kanji words come in a row, I just use ” ・ ” to keep their katakana forms distinct.
    – ケッキョク・イッスイも出来なかった

    I don’t bother changing some of the easier words into katakana, like 出来る. Does this sound reasonable, Khatz? Any comments/critiques?

  50. Rob
    February 19, 2008 at 10:11


    Just wanted to let you know that I’ve been doing it the way you suggested above and far it’s working out great. Thanks for the idea.

  51. Nathanael
    March 2, 2008 at 00:24

    khatzumoto wrote:
    “After all, discussion proves nothing in this game: only results prove.”

    I’m just writing to provide an update on my results, albeit rather qualitative in nature. I’ve now been using reading→kanji (r→k) cards for almost two-and-a-half months now and my ability to produce the vocabulary learned this way continues to be significantly better than vocabulary learned only with kanji→reading (k→r) cards.

    The latest example that brought this to mind was a new card that I just added:
    When first going over it, I was thinking, “Ah! I’ve seen 潜 before. It’s in, um, the word for that underwater naval vessel!” But I was unsucessful in actually thinking of 潜水艦 which is in one of my older cards; on the other hand, I have no problems immediately recognising the word when I see it.

    It was at this point that I realised, again, that I can produce almost any word that I’ve learned using r→k cards as soon as I think of the concept. However, I have to concede that my progress in terms of cards/time with r→k cards is slightly lower than k→r cards. I can only maintain an average spacing increment factor of 2.3 with the former while with the latter 2.5 isn’t a problem. (Id est, if I last saw a k→r card 10 days ago, I can safely not see it for 25 days, but to be safe with r→k cards, I have to see it after 23 days – on average) Meh, minor qualm, but it’s more than offset by the increased ability to actually make use of what I’m learning.

    All in all, I highly recommend using reading→kanji cards.

    (Yes, I know of the three types of lies, . . .)

  52. T
    October 25, 2008 at 04:58

    First of all your site rocks 😉
    2nd I was wondering if someone knows a how to look for j-drama transcripts (eg. Anego, Zettai Kareshi, Kimi ha Petto, Hana Yori Dango etc.;Japanese with Kanji please)? That would be totally useful b/c I could listen to it while reading it and also I could picture the situation.

  53. IrishJohn
    December 20, 2008 at 05:22

    Hello Everyone and Good Work Khatz, you are an inspiration,

    I am currently struggling with the 10,000 sentences aspiration, but I recently found a guy who has put 20,000 mandarin sentences on the web ( The only problem is they are for mnemosyne, and I am an Anki-proselytiser! I have tried opening the 20000 sentences file in a web browser and then copy and paste them into Anki but it takes an age. Does anybody know how to convert these files into Anki??

    zhen xie xie ni-men,


  54. John M
    February 2, 2009 at 20:42

    I’ve been doing something similar, but different, for the past couple weeks, and I think it’s better than writing out the whole dang sentence. Since writing the whole sentence takes for-ev-er, I just pick out the word I’m trying to learn (it’s usually only one anyway) and make a “reverse” card from the forward sentence.


    Keep the sentence cards for learning context, but now there’s no need to write ’em. If you run into same sounding words, you can just give yourself some hints on the front. I think it gives the kana>kanji benefit in a more efficient manner.

    Anyway, that’s what I’ve been experimenting with. Try it, and tell me if it works for you too.

  55. John M
    February 2, 2009 at 21:17

    Okay, so I just realized you can do this SUPER easy in Anki cause its got the whole Production/Recognition duality thing, and I’m excited bout that. Just add another field for the word you want to learn, and you can have everything on the back (including the original sentence etc). Every time you make a new card, just throw the new word in that field and your good to go.

    Oh, and thanks Khatz, for this site I mean, at least 100 cool points to you.

  56. Peter
    April 20, 2009 at 01:53

    @ quendidil

    I don’t know if you will ever see this but…

    Inflection is incredibly easy to remember. when I learned French I was worried about all the verb forms but I just read and listened. Eventually, you will just know what it meant to be. Inflections are not mystical at all. In English or Japanese you might use a particle or a preposition which is considered a word to show some sort of grammatical relationship in the sentence. Like say, ‘with’ or ‘on’, which is just a SOUND that means something. But in a language with cases you use an inflection which becomes a part of the word. It can change the word itself and the inflection can change depending on other factors but the fact is, it’s still just a SOUND representing meaning. With time your ear will just know what sounds right. I have NEVER memorized whether a French word it masculine or feminine. I just KNOW. It just sounds one way or the other. I think I must get it right 99% of the time. Even on words you just learned because words sound feminine or not. (if they don’t sound feminine then they sound masculine and if they sound neither they are probably masculine)… in fact you don’t think “oh this is masculine”.. no no… the word le or la just comes out, because, well, that’s the only word that could come out.

    Inflection and gender should be approached in the same way as any other language without them. Lots of exposure! 😀

  57. Harrison
    June 12, 2009 at 10:45

    I am slightly confused. I will be doing the kanji/kana over the course of the upcoming weeks and will head into the sentences right after that. I was just wondering how I’m to know the readings of the kanji when I first start out. How am I to take sentences that I may or may not be able to read but have no idea how to pronounce and try to pronounce them? Can someone explain to me how you started with the sentences?


  58. July 9, 2009 at 07:52

    There is one big problem with this method… Reading kana-only sentences is much harder/slower than reading sentences with kanji. This make the whole process longer, less enjoyable and generally less productive 🙁

    @Dan: If you have Windows Vista Ultimate or Windows 7 Ultimate you can change the
    UI language to Japanese

  59. August 6, 2009 at 04:50

    Hey Khatsumoto, great website! I’m on my way to studying Chinese in University, but while I was twiddling my thumbs waiting, I spotted this website, and I said “feck it shur. Why wait.” (That is not a curse in Ireland btw, no need to censor me! ) So I’ve started learning already! Thanks for the motivation.

    Ok – so have you checked out for learning material?

    I’ve already downloaded a number of interactive language learning C.D’s Check out “Rocket Chinese.” Its a good beginners package. The way the website works is you pay a membership fee. I’d say go for the 3 day membership. Im not sure how expensive it is, but it will be worth it when you download as many things as you can in 3 days. Think of it. Not only language learning things, but computer programmes etc.

    Ammm I have a question also. I downloaded RTH book 1 on Anki on my laptop. I also downloaded it on Anki on my “other halfs” Laptop. Some symbols are slightly different ! Seriously! How am I supposed to know if I’m learning the right ones!! I’m freaking out. The only words I can think of off the Bat are “straight” , “blade” and “uniform”. They differ slightly…

    How do I know which one is right???

  60. cabjoe
    August 9, 2009 at 19:03

    My guess would be that one of the books was for traditional Chinese characters (as used in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Chinese literature that predates the Cultural Revolution) and the other was for simplified characters as used in mainland China

  61. Noah
    September 4, 2009 at 08:45

    I’ve been using for some time now. I recently took the approach outlined in this article, that is, reading->kanji sentence.

    Using I’ve made an Anki deck that is audio-only, and I produce the full kanji sentence and kana reading.

    At first it was slow going, but my listening has improved greatly, and other skills are not being deprived from exercise.

  62. アメド
    January 4, 2010 at 16:08

    Hmm this is interesting. I was always wondering about this. This was the most concerning topic that i kept thinking about for Japanese learning. B/c I’m convinced that my readings will become fluent in the not too distant future and as well as my understanding. And my speaking will improve with the immersion(although i still think i’m bad at speaking, it has gotten easier when reading kana and speaking general stuff). So my last concern is the writing. I was always thinking that kanji-kana was slow, it didn’t really seem i could write all those kanji-filled sentences from memory with ease. It always took too much time or i failed it alot while doing my SRS anki reviews. If this can improve my writing sentences full of kanji, i’ll do it for sure. Just need to wait till my reviews go down to around 100-200. Cuz right now, it’s at like 500-700 nowadays.(I know that’s a lot eh?-seriously annoying, so i’ve dumb down my sentences to 50 a day, now.). But eventually i’ll start adding new sentences and do 50 kanji-kana and another 50 kana-kanji for those exact 50 sentences and i’ll go on from there. Anyone got there own update on this process, b/c this intrigues me a lot nowadays.

  63. jon
    July 19, 2010 at 15:39

    Just some ideas for those like myself who are sucky but getting there and want to do more complex sentences.

    At the moment I’m 1000 Kanji into RTK and loving it, but want to do sentences al’ natural (fresh and glistening with rich Kanji and the like.) Well, what I’ve found with this is that it gets pretty hard when you see a big block of Kanji in a sentence – some might even say I shouldn’t do sentences that hard right away, lol. Anyway, what I’ve done is set up Anki with a ‘hint’ field which I use hint peaking to see. What the hint gives me is the Kanji I find difficult + a clue (Helsig style). For instance I might see 会社 and have no idea, so I go for the hint and get [Kanji] =
    Man, I have to go work at my … again!” or “Business people work and run them.”

    It works for me, give it a go. I recommend only doing ones you don’t get after 3-4 tries.

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