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Probably goes without saying that there are as many ways to learn Japanese as there are students. The only really hard-and-fast rule is that whatever you're doing, you need to do a lot more of it than you think.

That said, I've found that the kanji separately really helped my Japanese studying. If nothing else, it's kept me from falling too far behind the Chinese and Taiwanese students in class...

The book I used for the kanji is The Kodansha Kanji Learner's Course by Andrew Scott Conning. Can't recommend it enough.


There's definitely a lot of wanking about learning methods, but if you're taking an immersion class, you have to consider the amount of word study you're already doing. I'm just responding to the self-learner folks who want to start by "learning kanji", as if that's some kind of preliminary step to learning the language. I've met a bunch of those people, and it rarely works well for them.

(Though, it should be said that the reason the Chinese kids are better isn't that they "know kanji", but that many of the words are written the same way in Japanese. Substitute some of the kanji with hiragana, and they'll lose the bubble quickly.)

And even if they don’t know the words, they have internalized the learning methods to quickly ingest characters. Chinese classes go from learning barely 200-500 characters in a semester at the introductory level to that much in a week by your third or so year.

Wellll...I don't know Chinese and have never studied in China, so I can't speculate in that domain. But I wouldn't be so quick to infer specific techniques from their memorization speed -- they're fluent in a very similar written language, and it's much faster to learn things (in any language) when you're fluent. They also grew up in a...well, let's call it a memorization-intensive learning environment.

The only things I can say with confidence are:

  * focus on words
  * learning words becomes faster in *any* language as you gain proficiency
  * learning radicals helps you recognize kanji, and is a good thing to do
That's really my complete set of advice on the subject.

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