Friday, August 3, 2012

My new project to learn the kanji

So, I've been using SRS with Anki to study languages since late 2009, almost three years. Mostly with Japanese, but French and other languages as well. It's been interesting.

I got suckered into the sentence-mining AJATT championed then, but apparently that site has abandoned that method in favor of something called "MCDs" or whatever. Sentence mining is interesting, but it's fairly labor-intensive to make new cards, which tends to lead to wide variation in study times. I think it's helped some with my particle use, but it's too hard for the reward I get.

I suspect that the best way to use Anki is to focus exclusively on reading comprehension, whether it's comprehension of the kanji or vocab more generally. Furthermore, I think it's best to use Anki to build on existing body of knowledge, rather than begin by introducing a whole new body of knowledge. And to introduce things slowly, rather than blasting through dozens of new flashcards a day.

So August 1, I started a new project to simply recognize individual kanji with basic definitions and meanings (in Japanese, not Heisig's method). I'll work up a deck and simply introduce 3 new kanji every day, including the 300-400 I already know. If I do three a day for a year, I'd be able to recognize 1000 or so by the end of next summer.

Rather than using the order of the kyōiku kanji, in which Japanese children learn them, or by levels on the JLPT, I'm crafting a more idiosyncratic order: first, all kanji by stroke count, up to six strokes; then, the rest of the kanji used as radicals (which can have up to 13 strokes). After that, it's either more kanji by stroke count or instead kanji by frequency of use. The Japanese Wikipedia Kanji Frequency List, discussed further in this thread, is a fascinating resource: 173 kanji make up 50% all kanji in Wikipedia, 454 kanji cover 75% of all kanji, and 874 kanji cover 90%. Here's a list of the 2,500 most common kanji in Japanese newspapers, used by jisho.org.

I've wanted to put together a learner's semantic dictionary of kanji compounds, which gives examples of kanji compound words in each entry that contain only kanji prviously introduced. But that's a huge amount of work, a years-long project, and I'd never get started if I waited to do that. =/

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