This is a gracious guest post by E Dub Kendo. In it, he introduces a sweet mod[ification] he made to lazy kanji cards to increase their effectiveness. Effectiveness and preference can and does vary by person. Nevertheless, I think this mod is a valuable improvement that definitely deserves to be part of AJATT “canon” 😉 .
Though I have no hard data, my hunch is that “Lazy Kanji natives”, i.e. people who go straight into lazy kanji with, say, less than 1000 characters’ worth of previous experience, will benefit most from this mod. Heisig did not pen RTK for naught — logical connections matter.
Due to a variety of factors involving chronic pain and fatigue, I found my kanji studies grinding to a halt around #700 in RTK. I just could not get motivated to keep going. Typing up stories, writing out kanji, and trying to remember keywords that meant the same thing despite having completely unrelated kanji was just too exhausting, and made my hands and wrists ache.
Then Khatzumoto-sempai came up with something that sounded like just the thing for me, Lazy Kanji, which turns the process of memorizing kanji into something more like repeatedly dialing a telephone number until it’s memorized. With renewed hope, I made an initial attempt at some Lazy Kanji cards.
However, what I quickly discovered was that it became too easy to forget about breaking the kanji up into its component parts and I was relying on rote memorization and visual memory. In other words, it was too slow, and even more painful than writing Heisig-novels. A little bit of thought fixed the problem though. A simple modification to the front of the cards could, with little effort, bring back all the benefits of Heisig’s mnemonics without nearly as much work.
So, here’s what the cards look like:
The TEENAGER went to a _______ in the LITTLE HOUSE.
The task looks like this. First, write the kanji. Attempt to write it just from glancing at the sentence, if necessary, however, it’s alright to look at the kanji. That’s why its there on the front. Then, look at the kanji and say the keyword out loud. The keyword can be any synonym that carries that meaning. So party, gala, shindig, bonnaroo (joking) — would all be correct.
Grading [Anki scale]: If I get the keyword and I can write the kanji just from the sentence, I mark it “Very Easy”. If I have to glance at the kanji I mark it “Easy” or “Hard”, depending on my feeling about it. Missing the keyword entirely gets it marked “Wrong”.
Adding the fill-in-the-blank sentence does two main things:
- First, it serves as a reminder to break the kanji up into its components, which is the strongest part of the Heisig method in my opinion.
- Second, it works as a bit of “context”, providing a mental hook which is easy to grasp on to and gives the brain something familiar to grasp at while learning something that initially looks like random squiggles to it.
But, because of the combination of SRS and blending writing and recognition, it is no longer necessary to use complex or wordy stories to memorize with. A simple sentence that links all the primitives together and to the keyword in some sort of logical structure is all that is necessary.
My deck, which contains all the kanji from RTK1, is a shared deck on Anki, and can be found by searching “Lazy Kanji + Mod”. Some of the “stories” are idiosyncratic to my strange tastes and sense of humor, but most of them are generic enough to be useful to anyone.
Having worked through all the kanji making the cards, and hundreds of them in late stages of review, I can definitely say that Lazy Kanji is efficient and far more enjoyable than the more traditional method. While your grasp on the kanji will NOT be as strong initially as someone who worked through the book the normal way, over time it will balance out. That’s the power of the SRS combined with motor memory and adult logic.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Fists? 1 Put ’em up!
- OK, not fists ↩