Jimmy L. is a member of that proudest, most handsome breed of human beings: AJATTeers. This proud, handsome man recently sent me an email wherein he shares a sitrep (situation report) on his progress with the lazy kanji card format we discussed a short time ago.
Jimmy isn’t just good-looking. He’s also blindingly insightful. He has put his finger on something I, in all my verbosity, had not been able to express. You see, Jimmy has managed to verbalize what it is that makes the Heisig method so great.
And it is this: order. It turns out that the true genius of Dr. James Heisig’s kanji-learning method — his greatest gift to us kanji-learners — is not actually the keyword system. It is the idea of learning kanji in a deliberate sequence based on incremental logic rather than straight usage (i.e. not car, book and house (車、本、家) but big, plump and hound (大、太、犬)).
Having said that, the keyword system is a pretty freaking sweet idea that has made the kanji world a better place: attempting to learn every nuance of a kanji from the word go does not scale well. Keywords only start to pinch when we spend more time building, maintaining and collating them than actually kanjiing it up.
Anyway, here’s Jimmy’s email [formatting and emphasis added by me]:
A[n abridged] version if you’d prefer brevity:
- “Lazy Kanji” format = Good!
- Dictionary Meanings instead of Keywords = Good!
- Color instead of Stories = Good!…
I just entered my 600th kanji card using the “Lazy” format you talked about a short while back. I just wanted to let you know that I’ve found it to be far, far more effective than the straight Heisig method that I was using before.
The problem with the Heisig method is the very thing that makes it so great: the singular keyword. I’ve come to find that very often the keywords are somewhat off of what is actually implied, or it’d be exactly the right word and I was using it inappropriately because I had no context for its usage (God bless double meanings…).
With this new format, I have simply been taking the kanji (in the order that Heisig presents them – I believe that to be the true genius of his method), and taking the dictionary entry for that kanji and pasting it directly into the answer field. No longer is the keyword an issue, because now I actually have a sense of feel for the broader idea and meaning of the kanji.
But I also think that book you’ve been recommending, Brain Rules, has played a large part in this new formats success as well. In the chapter, I believe it’s in the chapter about attention spans, he mentions that memories tied to emotions stick the best.
I am a person who feels “in color”. That is, when I think back upon a sad memory, it has a certain hue. Happy has one, angry has one. So what I’ve been doing is using color with the cards that highlight the general mood of the kanji. Coupled with the fact that it makes the cards more fun – which also makes the meanings stick better – I’ve seen a dramatic improvement.
Well, just wanted to let you know how your suggestions have been helping your readers. Thanks a lot. I know I’m only 1/4 through and that I’ve a long way before I’m out of the kiddie pool, but I think it’s been a good re-start, and the enthusiasm is doing a great job of propelling me forward.
Thanks, Jimmy 😉 . As I said before, this is still very much an experimental thing, and neither of us have any long-term data — yet. But, the short-term data are very promising; I find that I”m:
- Enjoying my kanji reps a lot, and doing them in greater quantity and frequency (consistency) — which is what counts, because if we don’t practice, it’s game over, no matter what the system is.
- Actually making contact with the kanji — not just “thinking about” how I “should” be making contact with them, and
- Actually actively starting on learning new characters rather than queuing them up in some inert “to learn” list somewhere.
That’s all from us — let us know any insight/experience you may have on the topic.