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June 19, 2004

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Melissa Fedak

I recommend this method, even though I didn't use this book. I just did it on my own with the materials I had

First I went through and gave meanings to all the standard radicals, sometimes the real meanings. Then, I went through a kanji book consecutively. For each kanji, I would use the meanings of the radicals it was made of and make up a story/image to arrive at the meaning of the full kanji. If there was a new element not in my radicals list, I'd make up a meaning for it and add it to my Master List of radicals (It almost always showed up again.)

I went through my book in sections by radical. Although this means you learn both common and obscure kanji at the same time, it comes in useful in strange places. (I was able to decipher the kanji for "cedar" on a sign so me and a friend stopped to see Japan's Largest Cedar.)

If two radicals are very similar-looking, I always made sure to make the meaning completely different so I could not mix them up. (For example, a box with a line down the middle is Binoculars for me but a box with two lines down the middle, I made the Eyes of God.)

What helped me a lot was drawing a picture of the meaning. I have a notebook full of kanji next to pictures combining all the meanings of the radicals. Sometimes, you come up with really strange or obscure pictures, but those are the memorable ones. Repetition is usually necessary, but it sticks in your head a lot deeper. Not to mention it's fun! I actually looked forward to free time in my schedule so I could make up new stories/images for kanji.

Even after just a couple months, my reading skills improved dramatically. And I can now glance for barely a moment at a complex/weird kanji and write it down in full without looking back. (Ah, Water that is Wrapped Around a Snake? Must be a Bubble.)

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