For reference purposes, let’s discuss how one would learn kanji (meaning and writing only) using an SRS.
It’s quite simple, really. The question section (the front of the “SRS electronic flash card”) contains the keyword (core meaning) of the kanji and the mnemonic story that links the structural components of the character to the keyword — and also pictures, if desired. The answer section (the back of the card) contains the kanji itself. For example:
a SICKNESS that makes you mentally DODGY
You could also add pictures here: of course, ensure they do not contain the actual kanji or any of its components. [ANSWER/BACK] 癡
So, when you (1) see the front of the card, your job is to (2) reproduce the kanji from memory and (3) compare your answer to the answer on the card, after which you (4) score your performance accordingly. Let’s answer some common queries and/or objections to this idea right here and now.
- Do you need to go the other way (kanji to keyword)? Dr. Heisig would say “no” and I would tend to agree with the sensei.
- Isn’t it cheating to give the mnemonic story in the question? Not really, because you still have to reproduce the entire kanji from memory. I think Heisig actually suggests that you do, in the book where he gives a sample flashcard…but that might be wishful memory [confirmation, anyone?]. Anyway, I recommend you do it.
- What about readings? You learn those later, in the context of sentences. It’s easier that way.
- Are you sure? Yes.
- What’s with these stories? Why am I memorizing stupid stories? It’s called a mnemonic device, it’s the basis of virtually all human active-memory techniques and so-called “tricks”. And one way or another, producing kanji from memory, indeed language itself, is a memory trick. The kanji stories will eventually fall away quite naturally, like a scaffolding, leaving only the kanji.
- Are you sure about the readings? If you love readings so much, why don’t you marry them! If you want, you could include maybe one reading in the question section to “get yourself familiar” with it, but, there’s really no need other than that, as I see it right now. Just focus on the kanji. Readings come later, seriously. Just do it now. You’ll thank me later.
- Should I continue reviewing kanji after, like, finishing RTK? Definitely. Yes. Big yes.
As always, anyone with useful tips and advice, please feel free to share.