It’s said that there are about 50,000 kanji in existence. Thank god we only need to know a thousand or two of those! Does that make you feel any better? Probably not. Learning the kanji is the hardest part about Japanese. I think it’s even more difficult than learning them for Chinese since Japanese places multiple pronunciations on each character. It’s like twice or three times the work!
Ok. If you’re still here, good. You’re ready to learn Japanese kanji. However, I’d recommend you learn the hiragana and katakana first if you don’t already know them. Let’s proceed.
We don’t all have a lifetime to sit and ponder on one kanji a day. Atleast most of us don’t, I think. Here’s my top 5 methods for learning the kanji faster. There’s no order to them. Just try to do them all at once for the best effect.
5 Methods For Learning Kanji Faster
1. “Remembering the Kanji” books by James Heisig.
These books aren’t actually a must-have, but they’ll probably make your life a whole lot easier.You’ll have all the information you need to learn the 1,945 kanji designated by The Japanese Ministry of Education for common use.
Heisig presents a method for learning how to associate the meaning and writing of 2042 kanji, including all the jōyō kanji. There is no attention given to the readings of the kanji, as Heisig believes that one should learn the writing and meaning first, before moving on to the readings in Volume II.
I’ll admit that it’s a challenge of mental endurance to get through these books, but it’s a surefire way to learn the kanji. Don’t skip the first book and start on Volume II even if you’re not a beginner to kanji though.
If you haven’t already, go read my articles on SRS. Part 1 and Part 2. You can input all the kanji you’re learning in Heisig’s books or any other kanji you find into an SRS program to help you learn and retain them. This is really important, I think.
3. Kanji Poster
Get a kanji poster. Or multiple kanji posters and put them up around you where you spend a lot of time. I have one right next to me at my desk here. I can just turn my head and see all 2042 of them and mark all over it with dry-erase markers to help me keep track of what I’m working on. This is really nice to have if you’re serious about learning the kanji. I use the one from kanjiposter.com, but there’s another one you can read about here.
4. Sticky Cards
This is a pretty simple but effective method depending on how far you go with it. Get some sticky notes and put it on an object in your home or car or whatever, and write the kanji for that object on it. The more you see it the better.
This one is so simple we sometimes forget to even do it. Put your knowledge to work and read more. You don’t have to read a lot at once. Just try to keep some Japanese reading material near you all the time so you can atleast read in your down time. Just pack a manga or novel with you when you go to work or school. You never know when you might get a chance to read during the day.
Well, that basically sums up my methods. What are your methods for learning the kanji? I’d like to hear from you too.