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Lazy Kanji Cards: An AJATTeer Shares A Personal Status Report

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]:

Hey Khatz,

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.

  50 comments for “Lazy Kanji Cards: An AJATTeer Shares A Personal Status Report

  1. Drewskie
    March 30, 2010 at 12:24

    Nice to hear about successful experiments! This is AJATT’s obvious strength: The refusal to shoot down untested ideas simply because something else worked for some guy once.

  2. Greg
    March 30, 2010 at 12:55

    I’ve decided to give it a shot–barely barely have enough to claim results. However, my emphasis is on reading Mandarin Chinese for both Simplified and Traditional. This gives me a great way to practice reading both (even if the Simplified characters combine many into one, it gives me higher recognition), which is something the Heisig method lacks. I suppose that is why it is split up into two books! I definitely noticed that after inputting 4,129 characters from Rick Harbaugh’s Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary and studying through them for a few months, there was a lot of overlap. The stories actually became so convoluted in my mind that, even though I could recognize 99% of what was written (“Oh, I’ve written that one before!”), I might only glean the meaning from about 50~70%, depending on the material.

    Heisig is a great way to start; perhaps give it a read through and make a few SRS entries–or if you’re really ambitious, I suggest doing both. My Heisig deck forces me to write no matter what; the new Katzig method hones in on really understanding what the character means, though I know if I was feeling lazy I’d say “write it later”; which is why having the Heisig deck back it up is nice.

  3. Chris
    March 30, 2010 at 13:58

    By the same token, Rick Harbaugh’s brilliant dictionary is also the cat’s whiskers. Man, it makes studying characters so much easier.

  4. austin
    March 30, 2010 at 14:49

    I do think specific keywords are useful, even if they aren’t very exact. Specifically when creating compounds they give me something to hold on to. Take 立派 (りっぱ), nothing in those kanji suggest “splendid; fine; handsome” to me, especially with my keywords stand up and faction (and especially when my story for faction involves water zombies), but remembering りっぱ and “stand up faction” together isn’t too hard. And because I have specific words I know exactly which kanji to use.
    Specific keywords become even more important when words could involve similar kanji. For example 場, 所 (location, place) which can have pronunciations that are pretty close as well (じょう, しょ). So if I have the word 駐車場 (ちゅうしゃじょう) but I forget which kanji じょう should be, I can still get the word right because I know it’s a “parking car location” and not a “parking car place”.
    So I think it isn’t so important what they keywords for any given kanji are, but rather that you have something specific to attach to each one to make them easy to recall and connect into compounds.

  5. Saru Sponge
    March 30, 2010 at 15:28

    Brilliant! I’ll have to try the method myself.

  6. March 30, 2010 at 17:33

    I’m going to give this a try once I get my reviews back down to manageable again (had the kids this weekend so kanji study went on hold most of the time, though i did maintain immersion by d/ling a ton of kids shows, which my kids loved. My son said, about Heartcatch Precure “How do they make the girls so pretty?”) I’ll just start a new deck and do this for 100 kanji as a test. Will report back with results.

  7. ネセトル
    March 30, 2010 at 23:19

    The question still remains: what is the best place to get 漢字 definitions in Japanese ? is good, but it doesn’t have 定義 for every kanji. What is your source, Khatz ? Jimmy L. ?

  8. sanbyakuman
    March 31, 2010 at 01:12

    I like this method.

    I found with the regular Heisig style, I could go from keyword > imagination > kanji, however when presented with a kanji it was hard to do the reverse. In the end it turned out when reading kanji, I would go directly to the keyword, which I found was not a fun way to read.

    With this new method I associate the kanji with a visual story, not any keyword. This makes reps more fun, and directly associates kanji with feelings, emotions. It turns out that after a few SRS reps, I get a feeling for what a glyph means just by looking at it. This way reading is far more relaxed and feels much more natural. I also find with such a basis, learning sentences is far easier.

    A possible drawback is that this new approach is that perhaps you do not learn to write the characters so well as with Heisig (though I am not sure of this, anyone got any thoughts/experience?). But with the improved retention this is an acceptable trade off.

    All I can say is try it, along with any other crazy ideas you might have.

  9. shikantaza
    March 31, 2010 at 04:51

    Great stuff, this makes learning 漢字 much more pleasant!

    Though, like ネセトル, I would very much like to hear where people get their definitions in Japanese. The various 漢字字典 I’ve checked only give 読み while 画数, and 辞書 tend to give definitions only to specific words and no general information about the meaning of just 漢字. It’d be nice to be able to stay monolingual not only when doing sentences.

  10. shikantaza
    March 31, 2010 at 04:53

    Also, “… give 読み while 画数, and 辞書 …” should of course be “… give 読み and 画数, while 辞書 …”

  11. Steve
    March 31, 2010 at 05:11

    I’m a little confused as to how this is actually working…
    Are you ditching the keyword altogether and just pasting in a Japanese dictionary entry for the kanji? How would you read the entry? I think I might be missing something….

  12. March 31, 2010 at 07:04

    And I’ll add my voice to those asking khatzu where he gets his definitions from…not quite ready for monolingual but would definitely like to have the info on the cards anyways.

  13. Angeldust
    March 31, 2010 at 07:17

    My question would be: would you recommend this to a complete beginner? AND would you recommend this way to someone who hasn’t finished RTK 1?

    I honestly have a really hard time coming up with stories. I usually end up going to kanji.koohii cause my imagination is so terrible. But then I think I should keep plugging along. Mostly because when I see a kanji 95% of the time I know the Heisig keyword. BUt when I see the keyword, outside of my SRS, (no prob in the SRS) I can only remember the kanji for it about 70% or less of the time. For example, when I’m journaling I have a hard time putting kanji in my entries cause I can’t remember them when I think or see the keyword! Anyone have suggestions for how to fix this?

  14. Drewskie
    March 31, 2010 at 09:38

    Can I just use these comments as a platform for other experiments? I’ve been doing something along the same lines for sentences—not quite as major a shift, though. I would like to see if anyone has any thoughts / similar experiences.

    I’ve found myself very unhappy with contextual knowledge playing such a huge role in my success on a card. Some cards I just read straight through, but have no idea what they mean until I remember who said it to who when. Sometimes I even miss the readings until I remember the context, and then they all pop back into place.

    But it’s not that you can reject the idea that context helps. It just plain DOES. The hypothesis is that aiding the memory of a context will relieve the burden on your memory for a particular word or card, skipping straight to the “Oh, I remember this, now” feeling instead of staring at the card until you get there. It may backfire, however, and the knowledge will become utterly dependent on the context.

    So as a possible solution, I’m making the context the very first thing I read when a card comes up. That way my brain is already prepared with the right situation and people when the sentence is said, so it fits a little easier. Short-term it’s working well, and I actually enjoy these cards more than my old ones, but I don’t know if I’ll have any mid- long- term problems. Also, probably the most risky part is that I write the context myself in Japanese, so I have to resist every single inclination to write above my ability and talk in super-basics. I usually stick to the name of whatever piece of media it’s from, who’s talking to who (I don’t even use particles for that part, just a →), and a one or two word reminder of the situation.

    It’s a minor formatting change, but I think it’ll make a big difference. We’ll see.

  15. アメド
    March 31, 2010 at 12:36

    Not bad. I’ll try following this format for future kanji leanings. Which will be soon(kanj meanings wise)

  16. アメド
    March 31, 2010 at 12:36

    Not bad. I’ll try following this format for future kanji learning. Which will be soon(kanj meanings wise)

  17. March 31, 2010 at 13:24

    An idea, for those wanting to try this while working through RtK1 still:

    When you encounter a completely new primitive, make both kinds of cards, an original type card and a lazy type card.

  18. Maya
    April 1, 2010 at 11:16

    This isn’t exactly related to the lazy kanji method, but I wanted to share 1 more piece of advice related to learning kanji:

    One way to get creative ideas for stories is to look up your keyword (or the keyword for a part of the kanji) in the search bar on (basically a website where people submit funny/ironic/silly stories about things that supposedly happened to them).

    For example, for the 翁 kanji, the Heisig keyword is “venerable old man”; decomposed, this kanji has “public” and “wings” in it. So, after looking up “wings” on, one of the stories I found was:

    ‘Today, was my first meeting with business partners as I am new to the team. Instead of saying that I was looking forward to “stretching my legs” or “spreading my wings”, I told them I was anxious to start “spreading my legs”. FML’

    Applied back to the original kanji/Heisig keyword, I got this story: Venerable old man goes to a PUBLIC town hall meeting, and accidentally blurts out that he’s anxious to start “spreading his legs” instead of “stretching his legs” or “spreading his WINGS”…

    Slightly long story for a single kanji, but you get the idea. Hope this helps someone 😀 I think it’s a good way to get ideas you wouldn’t have thought of yourself.

  19. Drewskie
    April 1, 2010 at 15:35

    Haha, that’s an awesome idea, Maya! My “Venerable old man” story was kind of weak, actually. Now when that rep comes up I KNOW I’m going to think of the guy in my story spreading his legs. 😛 THANKS

  20. April 1, 2010 at 17:13

    Initial findings: I was rather frustrated on first trying this out because after entering in ten or fifteen cards I had run through them four or five times about seven or eight of them were still causing me to draw a blank when the card came up. I was ready to end the experiment then and there because it was simply too frustrating to work that way. Then I had an idea:


    The TEENAGER went to a _______ in the LITTLE HOUSE.


    Suddenly, recognition was way up. If khatz is right, that gentle repetition will drill this information in like a phone number (and back when I was a teenage boy, pre-cell phone, I was able to keep around 40-50 girls’ numbers in my head), then adding any sort of contextual hooks to the front of the card won’t hurt anymore than being able to see the kanji while you write it would. Now, what I need to determine is whether after adding the additional information to the card it is still less time-consuming and/or mentally taxing than my last experiment, which involved using similar minimalistic stories but was still keyword to kanji. I think I should have a good idea of that in a couple more days.

  21. April 1, 2010 at 18:23

    Bonus that I just noticed, for those of us who are still working through RTK1 and aren’t 100% used to breaking the kanji apart into components, is that the short sentence gets you thinking in terms of the primitive components making up the kanji.

  22. April 3, 2010 at 10:14

    It really only took three or four study sessions for me to decide this is the way to go. As khatz keeps saying, there is no long term data but my intuition tells me this is the easiest way possible to learn these. With the modification I made to the cards there is almost no work involved. The “stories” are so basic and stupid that they take no thought to think up, but they provide a bit of logic to link up meaning, components and kanji. I can go through kanji as fast as I want, ten at a time takes about ten minutes to enter in and study.
    Will I have the retention of someone studying really hard for hours and deeply visualizing the stories and then going keyword to kanji without the story on the front of the card? You know, the “vanilla” way they do it at kanji.koohi? probably not. However, the first thing to remember is that all we’re doing with this phase of learning is creating a “mental hook” for the kanji in our brain. The real learning begins when we start learning words and kanji in the context of phrases and sentences, where we begin associating readings and usage with them. And the truth is, I had burned out at about 800 doing it the old way, even with some adjustments to make it easier. I was keeping up my reviews, but only adding ten or fifteen new kanji every few days. This is so fast, however, I can easily see me building up to 50+ a day, in about 1/4 the time I was working to do 35 a day the old way.
    I know I’m learning, but I’m doing very little work both mentally and physically, and for me, with the chronic fatique and chronic pain I deal with that is very important. What I want is to get through this damn book so I can start building comprehension. I have tons of manga/light novels just waiting to be read and SRSed. And I love but it wasn’t working before as far as learning to read goes. But now…I can already feel like when I encounter kanji and look the word up, or if it has furigana it just makes sense in a new way. I encourage everyone to give this a try. Just set up a new deck, do the next 100 you are trying to learn, and if by the end of those 100 you don’t feel like this is a better method delete that deck and go back to your other one. Also, keep up the reviews on the other deck during this trial and if you continue. No point in wasting what you’ve already learned.
    Another word on immersion. I’ve mentioned before that I maintain full-immersion between 22-24 hours a day. Its been about six weeks. I found out this morning that I was speaking Japanese in my sleep. I don’t remember my dreams ever, unfortunately, but apparently I’m having some pretty serious japanese dreams. So, keep your immersion going absolutely as much as possible. With all the great music in that other thread, all the podcasts you can get so easily, all the great anime and dorama out there for purchase or download if your ethics are a little looser. it is really easy to set up your ipod with hundreds of hours of listening. I certainly couldn’t output much while awake, but my nonconscious processes are apparently doing something with all this input.
    kendo can’t wait to finish this kanji study and get into comprehension work. And with the Lazy Kanji Method plus Mod it won’t take long, and it won’t take much time out of my day either. I’ll bring more results as I encounter them.

  23. hoolan
    April 5, 2010 at 04:48

    Because the lazy method is based on reading the kanji then reading the definition it could be possible to completely do away with having a kanji deck at all.

    My thinking behind this is that you could just write out your sentences (or maybe just a few) and you will be recognizing the kanji and you will know the meaning in the context of the sentence. For the different meanings you would just create sentences using the kanji in that context.

    I don’t know if anybody is the same but the kanji I have learnt through sentences because they were just there have stuck a lot better than the Heisig ones and adding the lazy method to sentences maybe we can do away with the kanji deck and jump back to where all the fun is.

    • kai
      December 7, 2012 at 01:18

      I am really wondering about this as well, has anyone tried it?

      • kai
        February 28, 2013 at 03:12

        ok I tried it with a small number, 5 sentences per day for a month and I did not like the results. It worked, like I could read the sentences but every sentences felt fuzzy, almost like a guess at all times. Like ” uh I think the character is this and that character is that so that would make the word this, am I right, ah yes I am right”
        At first I enjoyed the idea of being able to read full sentences within the first week, but after a while it just didn’t feel real enough. It felt like I was cheating myself out of a lot of that firm grasp I could have on each Hanzi if I learned them with RTH or something first. So it just didn’t feel worth it for me to continue that method.

  24. pojo
    April 6, 2010 at 04:57

    Ironically I started out learning kanji the lazy card way but forgot them over time and decided to change to the normal way this time after visiting this site. It was admittedly way way faster to learn each kanji by having it on the question side but my problem was not being able to write anything. Like i learned 気 as an x underneath some scribbles and did fine because there isn’t really any other kanji that had an x at the bottom. But if I had to write it out i would be really screwed. But if i learned by creating it it means I know where each stroke goes which makes it able to be written and read.

    Also sure i could tell the difference between 詰 and 詔 even then thanks to SRS correcting me right away but theoretically I felt like if I ran into a character similar to one i knew out in the wild like 詒 I would be more likely to confuse it thinking I already know that one when really I don’t. I think i even learned those characters faster the normal way too because i would get them mixed up the lazy way.

    I guess I think the right answer for me would be to use the normal way to get through RTK1 and then probably switch things up after that but what hoolan said about taking out the kanji deck completely if your going to take it that far and just use sentences sounds good to me because by then order doesn’t matter and like Khatz said order is the main reason we learn kanji separately anyhow.

  25. April 6, 2010 at 05:58

    pojo, curious, were you writing them out each time? That’s part of the lazy method as khatz described it, so you are getting practice with writing. Also, my modification brings the Heisig components back into play so you wouldn’t learn that as an X at the bottom but as whatever that primitive is…

  26. ahndoruuu
    April 27, 2010 at 14:47

    I think I may try out this “lazy method”, as the biggest problem I have with Heisig is that the stories really feel like a chore…and some of Heisig’s references are really really obscure now (It may just be the fact that I’m 17). Actually, I’ve only gotten up to about 120 or so in the book, and continually find myself losing steam trying to remember Heisig’s stories, which I find far more burdensome than the kanji themselves. The book suggests going from keyword to story to kanji, but my brain, upon seeing keyword or kanji, instantly jumps to the other side. I was considering nixing the stories completely and just drilling keyword to kanji, which I can usually remember on a first encounter, but I realized my good memory may just be attributed to the fact that I’ve only learned just over a hundred kanji…and if I continued neglecting stories I’d end up getting owned later on. I think I’ll restart kanji entirely and switch to this method for about a month or so and see what happens. I really WANT to like kanji and I WANT to enjoy learning them but it’s just not happening the way I’m doing it XD

  27. mark viana
    June 3, 2010 at 15:22

    I love Kendo lol. He made a whole set of Lazy Kanji on Anki (with his modifications). I recommend them. So far, on my third day, I have learned 160 kanji.

  28. Jon
    July 10, 2010 at 01:28

    Working on Heisig as we speak. 450 Kanji in 7 days at around 35 per hour. Review cycles aren’t too bad, but I find that the SRS is doing all the work at the moment – Heisig is just a nice intro. I was using’s Brainspeed function and scoring 90% plus recognition (given two possible answers for each Kanji or keyword), but that is getting stiff. I’m now switching to Kendo’s Lazy plus Mod deck as it makes total sense – given what Khatz has said above.

    On the flip side, now that I am pushing the Kanji in I’ve been able to read quite a few street signs – with only a few days put in! – even if they don’t make sense sometimes (1 meaning blues). Also, I was flipping through some Zetsubu Sensei Vol. 1 and I realized I could get the basic meaning of a lot of what the characters are saying (BIG HIGH FIVE), so I’m feeling the love! (To anyone doing Heisig: Pick up some manga and when you take breaks do a skim through and see what you can recognize – even if it doesn’t make sense – your motivation goes way, way up and you go back to Heisig or your deck with a vengence! Totally worth it!)

    See ya all!


    P.s., Thanks Khatz! What you’re doing really helps (time boxing has rocked my world). Keep it up!

  29. Jon
    July 10, 2010 at 01:29

    P.p.s If your new to Heisig read the intro carefully then skip to chapter 11 and read the method. It clarifies things as he is a bit wordy at first.

  30. sterbacblu
    November 27, 2010 at 17:12

    Hey to Kendo (or anyone else doing this method)… Right now I’m about 400 characters in using the normal keyword to Kanji method. I feel I’ve got a good groove going on, but it’s sadly lacking the fun (which I’ve read is pretty important…) and frequency that I’d like it to have. I’m going to give this “lazy” method a try but I had a few questions and wondered if anybody could give some feedback based off their experiences.

    First off, I downloaded the Lazy Kanji deck by Kendo (thanks, Kendo! Thendo.) Next I realized I’d have to delete the stories since I’ve already become used to my own. As I did this I realized that in some cases, I didn’t even need a story anymore. For example, at one point “Buddhist temple” was land and measurement. Now it’s just Buddhist temple. I don’t need a story for it, it just is. That’s how I’ve been doing my stories too, so that they progress just like the book. So, using the same example, when I first did a story for “time” it didn’t involve day, land, and measurement, it was day and Buddhist temple. But, again, now it just is.

    So question number one, has anybody been doing the same thing in regards to removing the stories entirely after you are comfortable with a character? Therefore at that point you see the front of the card with the character, and then the back is the keyword. Is this going to burn me later on? Right now my first 200 cards are story-less, with the second 200 still keeping their stories.

    Secondly, I know some have already commented on this, but I’ll see if I can get some more opinions from those doing the lazy method: are you still able to write out the characters easily? This seems to be worry number one for me, since this method involves you having to look at the kanji. I mean Heisig says to go keyword to Kanji for that reason, Khatz has said he agrees with that, and it’s been working out for me pretty well. Well, sorta well. If I’ve learned anything so far, my handwriting is not only atrocious writing out the English alphabet, but also writing out Kanji. I remember being a child and having those sheets of paper that would have one line with AaBbCc and then underneath a blank spot for you to write it. It wasn’t a teacher saying “okay, write the letter A, capitalized” and you’d try to remember it out of thin air with no reference, it was looking at the character and writing it over and over, so I guess I could see how this system will still work even though you’re looking directly at the Kanji. Am I answering my own question here?

    I can see where this method will have a lot of benefits though, and as I write this I’m realizing certain things and getting excited. At some point I can add more keywords than the one given, then add the onyomi, etc.

    Anyway, thanks in advance, I look forward to trying this method out, and of course thanks to Khatz for the most important tool this site provides: inspiration!

  31. sterbacblu
    January 7, 2011 at 06:54

    As you can see from the date of my last post on this thread, my attempt to do Lazy Kanji started over a month ago. In that time I went through 300 Kanji using that method. I attribute my “slowness” from having to get my SRS back to a normal situation since I was inputting the Kanji I already knew and the related stories in bulk.

    Sadly, Lazy Kanji has not worked for me. I can see how this could totally work after learning primitives, but if you were to show me the primitive of “sow” or “fingers,” I could identify them, but ask me to write them and I cannot. Also my overall retention was horrible.

    Maybe down the road Lazy Kanji would be more appropriate, but for my initial learning, it is not working for me.

    I discovered a few “tricks” while doing this though, such as putting the sentence directly on the front of the SRS card, but using white text, therefore making it “invisible,” but available if need be by selecting the text.

    If I got anything out of this attempt though, is that my frustration of doing Kanji this way has led me to try timeboxing, and I love it. I use it for everything now.

    Last nite I began my process to get back into “regular” Heisig learning. I blew through 350 cards like it was nothing. Of course I already knew them (well, 91% of them it turns out) so that’s not going to be a daily average when I get into new characters, but timeboxing absolutely helped me get through it. It got to the point where I would be doing my ten minutes of “fun” and I would keep glancing over at the timer, excited to get back to the Kanji, but I didn’t jump back before the ten minutes was up because I knew I would get burnt out.

    So yeah, the lazy method didn’t work for me, but I could see how would for some people. Oh well, onward to the end of RTK!

  32. Lang
    February 12, 2011 at 02:22

    hey guys,

    So I’m learning the Kanji from the book RTK as suggested, and I got the Lazy Mod thanks to Kendo, and it’s just for me right now, more enjoyable and fun then doing it with the keyword phrase version first.

    Basically, what I’m currently doing is learning the Kanji in order from Remembering the Kanji book on the bus, subway, and stuff, and then going home and using the lazy kanji method to practice my writing and I guess remembering it.

    I find that it’s more fun, cuz I remember when I did it the other way like on Kanji Koohi, I always felt like kinda of stupid for not remembering it… I kinda of berated my self.

    But with the lazy method, I feel that even If I don’t remember what it meant, I still kinda of practiced by writing it out…

    So lets see what happens in a few months…

  33. Rum
    February 23, 2011 at 19:21

    I just started RTK.. Am almost 100 kanji in now. I’ve been using 2 different decks, doing the original heisig way AND the lazy mod at the same time. I figure it doesn’t hurt to do both. But both use only the keyword and not dictionary definitions. I wonder if I’m missing out by using only the keyword? Like.. the whole point of doing this method without learning the readings along with it is to learn the MEANING of the kanji, correct? But don’t we miss out some of the meaning by not learning all the “faces” of a given kanji? Is there a benefit of sticking to just one keyword? Are the keywords close enough to the real/main meaning of the kanji that we can easily pick up the rest when we start sentances?

    And a second, more unrelated question.. When you start reading books/manga/whatever.. Do you look up every single word you don’t understand? (which at the start, is pretty much everything!) Seems like a very heavy/boring way to read.. How does one approach this?

    Would really appreciate some help ^^
    Thank you!

  34. Maru-chan
    February 25, 2011 at 00:07

    Khatz covers all your questions. Just search through the website.

  35. jimmy carter
    May 19, 2011 at 11:17

    tryng this today. 😀

  36. john carson
    May 25, 2011 at 11:21

    “Lazy” and easy is a great idea. You’ll feel encouraged to do reps.
    I find this dangerous because heisig says it’s bad. He emphasizes the malignancy of this method; he states that Kanji —-> Keyword hampers retention.

    I don’t feel like doubting the almighty Heisig.

    However, what I took from this is that “easy” = fast and fun.

    This is just the same old method, but faster because it only gives the elements.

    suspend; hang; 10%; install; depend; consult



    It takes less than a minute to make a card.

    • ベン
      May 26, 2011 at 03:18

      Keep in mind that Heisig doesn’t take the SRS into account when touching on how strong your long-term retention will be.

      The Lazy Kanji model really fits if you’re going the AJATT route. Using vanilla Heisig, you’ll be stuck with weak Kanji recognition, but strong production abilities in the beginning. Using Lazy Kanji, your recognition will be better than your production for a while. This helps because even though you won’t be able to “read” the Japanese in your immersion environment, you’ll easily be able to pick out Kanji and recall their meaning/keyword – this further strengthens your retention.

      All of that said, they both balance out in terms of recognition and production in the end, and you wind up in the same state either way: you’ll forget the keyword eventually(replaced by proper understanding once you learn the multiple connotations of the Kanji, and their readings) but you remember the stroke order. I listened to an interview with James Heisig himself and even he doesn’t remember a single story he used.

      Anyway, that’s my 2 cents – take from it what you will. 😀

  37. August 20, 2011 at 01:45

    Yay!! Just finished RTK1!!!! 😀
    …I didn’t know where to post this, so I just picked here. 😛

    • August 20, 2011 at 02:16

      Congrats! I’m toying with the idea of learning Japanese, but I just started studying German, so I get it will have to wait a little.

  38. August 20, 2011 at 02:49

    Thanks! 😀

    • August 20, 2011 at 03:13

      How much time did it take you to finish the book? I’m curious, because I’d like to know whether learning kanji is compatible with studying both German and English. Well, mostly using English, but whatever. 🙂

      • August 20, 2011 at 04:11

        Well, the first 500 kanji took me an embarrassingly long time to do (so long that I’m not going to tell! :P) But that was just because I sucked, not because they were extra hard or anything. The remaining 1542 took me from mid May till now – roughly three months. 
        My pace varied. Some weeks, I’d do 25 a day, some only 10, and a couple weeks, I didn’t do any. But that was okay, I got here eventually. I’m sure you (and many others) can do way better than me. I bet it would also be great for studying English, seeing how the key words to the kanji are given in English. (In fact, I learned some new English words, and my native tongue is English! eg “promontory”. Never heard that word before!)
        Good luck to you if you decide to try it! 😀

        • August 20, 2011 at 06:32

          Thanks a lot for the explanation and the encouragement! 🙂
          Your dedication is impressive. Seriously, learning most kanji in 3 months must have been pretty hard.
          I can’t bring myself to study English vocabulary. Like, not even a couple of cards a day. Then again, I do a lot of stuff on the side.
          I’ll definitely tell you if I start studying kanji 🙂

          • August 20, 2011 at 07:17

            >Your dedication is impressive. Seriously, learning most kanji in 3 months must have been pretty hard.
            Thanks for your kind words, but I have to admit, it wasn’t that impressive… I think I’m starting to understand how Khatz feels when others say that he must be extremely smart. Like, there were *weeks* when I didn’t bother cracking the book open. There were also weeks where I’d only learn 10 new kanji a day.
            Like, let’s use last Saturday as an example. I spend about 2 minutes on each new kanji. That means that last Saturday, I spent 20 minutes studying. Now, let’s calculate my free time. Say I spent 10 hours sleeping (hey, I like to sleep!), 1 hour on hygienic things, 1 hour eating, and 2 hours on various chores; that means I had 10 hours of free time.
            Last Saturday, I spent 20 minutes of my free time on kanji. That’s 1/30th of my free time! There’s no dedication or determination in that. I probably spent more time on *The John* than I did learning new kanji!
            Although I don’t know much about you, Miss Language Learning, it sounds like you’ve already become fluent in multiple languages. You already know – and definitely more than I do – what it takes to learn a language, and you probably don’t need to hear my rant about how anyone can easily learn the kanji. It’s just that I think so many people are immobilized when they think about learning thousands of kanji, and I just think it’s helpful for them to hear that it’s not as hard as they might think. 
            >I can’t bring myself to study English vocabulary. Like, not even a couple of cards a day. Then again, I do a lot of stuff on the side.
            Yesterday, I was thinking about all the abandoned decks in my SRS. They were all failures. But then again, it appears that the sum of those failures has grown into something quite immense 😀

            • August 20, 2011 at 07:45

              Wow, thanks a lot for this post. You *are* extremely impressive :p (sorry!)
              I think I’m scared of studying Japanese because I took Chinese when I was a first-year college student and I completely flunked the final exam.
              The teacher was a native speaker but she sucked. Like, she expected us to know a lot of things that she didn’t even teach us. It’s a shame because I was interested in learning Chinese.
              Now, I’m stuck re-taking a language I hate—German—because of a stupid teacher. Oh well. I mean, I know Japanese is easier than Chinese, and I would have chosen Japanese if it had been available, but I didn’t have that option at the time.
              Don’t even get me started on how idiotic the college board is for making us study another foreign language. I’m already majoring in English, I think it’s enough!
              Right now, I’m trying to cram some German vocabulary right before I go to college in September, and I’m suffering a lot.
              I think studying German for a few months is just what I need to realize how much better Japanese would be.

  39. August 20, 2011 at 09:46

    (continued from that conversation… the reply box was getting too narrow for my liking :P)

    >Right now, I’m trying to cram some German vocabulary right before I go to college in September, and I’m suffering a lot.
    I’m not sure where you’re from, but I’m Canadian, and as you may know, Canada has two national languages: English and French. Now, I’m from English Canada, so for the first 9 grades of school, I had to take French class. (It was optional from grade 10 and onwards.)
    Both French and Quebec are beautiful, but I never really intended on learning the language. So, I spent 9 years becoming very talented at the art of Just-Getting-By. I have to wonder if maybe you could benefit from just doing what you can with German, and accept it as something on the fringe of your chores.
    If it’s making you suffer, you’ll end up performing poorly in the subjects that you are brilliant in (and I’m sure that is many!) as well as just causing yourself too much stress. You don’t have to excel in German, you just need to do well enough to garner a passing grade, and if there’s an issue of having to own up to a shaky mark (be it to your parents or to yourself), just tell them/yourself that by the end of the year, all that really would have mattered was getting the credit, nothing more. 
    Also, I don’t think you really need to wait until your German commitments are over to start Japanese. I mean, Japanese is like a playhouse to me. I get to go inside, leave the outside world behind, and play with my toys. Anime, kanji, music, chopsticks; they’re all here just for play and nothing more. Hey, you could one-up me and build a Japanese tree fort (and have a sign on the front saying, “No German [language] allowed!”):D

    • August 21, 2011 at 02:37

      A Japanese tree fort? That sounds so much better than German homework! I started learning German when I was about two. My parents wanted to make me bilingual, but it didn’t work. I then took German for about 10 years when I was at school. Now that I’m in college, I hoped that I’d get to pick what I want to study, but apparently that’s not the case. I mean, I’m already majoring in English, for God’s sake!
      I guess that studying Japanese on my own may be a good solution. At least I’d get to have my very own tree fort. :p
      You’ve given me a lot to think about. Thanks! 🙂

  40. Phil
    April 26, 2018 at 00:54

    Anyone looking for physical flash cards that are reasonably prices, check out Vis Ed’s blank cards:

    I use Vis Ed for any language I’m learning, though I’m branching away to test this AJATT style.

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