Remembering the Kanji II: A Systematic Guide to Reading Japanese Characters
Beneath the notorious inconsistencies in the way the Japanese language has come to pronounce the characters it received from China in the fifth century, there lies a solid and rather ample base of coherent patterns. Discovering these patterns can reduce to a minimum the time spent in brute
memorization of sounds unrelated to written forms. Volume II of REMEMBERING THE KANJI takes you step by step through the varieties of phonetic pattern and offers helpful hints for learning kanji that resist systematization.
About the Author
JAMES W. HEISIG is a permanent research fellow of the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture (Nagoya, Japan), where he has been since 1978 and which he served as director from 1991 to 2001.
Most certainly NOT all you need.
I'm a big fan of Heisig's first volume but this second volume takes his principle of "divide and conquer" just too far in my opinion.
Working through this volume means learning just a single reading for each of the 2000-odd kanji introduced in volume 1. What does that mean? It means that after studying and absorbing all the information in this book you will still have virtually no practical ability to read Japanese. This is because most kanji have more than one reading. Becoming literate in Japanese depends crucially on knowing multiple readings of kanji and on being familiar with a reasonable body of vocabulary associated with those readings.
One of the other reviewers states "I am reading compounds like never before". Great, but my question is- what are the chances that you are reading them correctly when you know only a single reading for each kanji? The only Japanese you can read with confidence after using this book are the one word per kanji that happen to be presented. It's a little like learning one word for each letter of the alphabet and expecting to be able to read English.
For my money the method employed in Kanji in Context (Japan Times) is much more efficient and what's more actually DOES take you a good way towards literacy. Kanji in Context concentrates on teaching kanji meanings and readings in the context of the vocabulary associated with those kanji. A consequence of this method is that you begin to acquire a native-like appreciation for how a kanji is likely to be read - even in previously unseen compounds. You are able to make practical use of the knowledge (i.e you are able to read Japanese) long before you reach the end of the book. Another good little book for starting to acquire that level of familiarity is "Decoding the Kanji" by Habein (Kadansha International)
The main value of this book is in pointing out those few kanji elements that act a reliable (more or less) guide to at least one "on" reading. But that is a small part of the whole and that information can be found on the web for free. Heisig's first volume is excellent for developing a familiarity with the kanji but volume 2 achieves too little gain to be worth it, particularly when better alterantives are available.
Good, but be prepared to put more of yourself
First off, you can download the intro to this book from Nanzan Institute's website. And if you know some Spanish, you can download the intro and a part of the second chapter of the Spanish edition, called "Kanji para recordar II", both from Nanzan's website and from the translator's website, Nipoweb.
So far, I've covered 55% of the on-yomi presented in the first 10 chapters. The chore ideas behind this book are:
-Focus on one thing at a time: You've already learned the writing, now you continue with on-yomi and later will finish with kun-yomi.
-Avoid (as much as possible) illustrating new on-yomi with compunds containing other on-yomi not learnt yet. This leads to duplication and even triplication of sample words, and even to the use of rare compunds to illustrate common on-yomi. However, for the most part, it works.
-Try to take the most advantage of the fact that most
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