mjj (flemmings) wrote,

On not learning kanji

Couldn't sleep Tuesday night, so went and played with my kanji cards for a couple of hours. Playing with the cards has become a bit obsessive lately (= since Sunday when I unearthed them from the study.) Bought 20+ years ago when I was first learning this stuff, and abandoned IIRC because I decided at some point pre-1990 that I *had* learned this stuff. I was, of course, wrong.

I mean, these are the just first 1000 touyou kanji. I can read them all (though I should have paid more attention, because the cards give more variant possible readings than either of my texts.) But my game now is to look at the readings and definition on the back and see if I can write them. And ah hahahahahahaha--- no.

It's like learning the kanji all over again because this time I'm concentrating on being able to /see/ them, something very non-visual me has real trouble with. I used to use Learning the Kanji for that, and still recall some of those mnemonics even now. But I stopped after maybe 500 kanji because I wanted to learn the *readings*, which LtK doesn't give you till book 2. The one time I was actually writing kanji a lot, at school in Japan, it was a playing the piano type thing. My hand knew which way to move, but I never had the head knowledge to make up the lack when my hand forgot.

Now I'm discovering how much of my kanji knowledge comes from reading, which means often I learned or remembered a kanji only as part of a compound word. Hence the lacunae in my reading-- I know the on-yomi but not the kun, and occasionally vice-versa, or I never learned the base meaning of a character because I only ever met it in a compound. The 融 of 金融, f'rinstance, means melt or dissolve, but I always associated it with finance. Similarly the 経 of 経済, which kanji the primer would have you believe means longitude. (You can see what kind of articles they gave us to read in school. Financial Times is us.) And then when my reading took a turn into the 100 Demons ghostly type of thing, I thought of 経 as a sutra, and was actually surprised to be reminded that keizai/ economy uses sutra's kyou.

So I continue, studying my kanji for maybe the fifteenth time. 'To remember a thing you must first forget it.' For the young, ten times is probably enough. For me, it's more like fifty. No matter. I shall continue my prof's experience-- an hour a day for a year, review review review, which I should have done in 1990, and see where it gets me.
Tags: japanese

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