Perapera makes its way to Chrome!

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Thats right, surprise! I have actually been working on this and a pre-release version is now finished and available to download on the Chrome extension site. You can get it here:

Perapera Chinese for Chrome

Yes its only Chinese for now, and some features are missing, but let’s not dwell on whats missing. The main functionality is there and the new themes as well. Features will be added one by one until it is on par with the Firefox version. Install now and you will receive all those updates automatically as they are added. We look forward to your feedback!

We plan to expand this site significantly in the coming weeks and months. Like our Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter to keep up with the latest updates!

Our 8 best books for learning Korean

I have been tackling Korean for a while now and I’m thoroughly enjoying the experience. Hopefully, this post will be helpful for those of you getting started with Korean.

Until recently, Korean was a rare language for Westerners to learn. The rapid economic development of South Korea and increasing interest in Korean culture in recent years seems to have led to more Korean learning materials being made available. Unfortunately, there are still less high quality learning resources than you would find for Japanese or Chinese. That aside, we did find some useful books that helped us to get started with this challenging but beautiful language.

Elementary Korean

Elementary Korean is the golden standard for learning Korean. It is the most thorough and all-round introduction to Korean that I know of. The logical structure makes it easy to follow. This book is on the expensive side but you get 384 pages of material and tons of practice exercises to boot. On the downside, there aren’t a lot of pictures to break up the content so it isn’t the lightest read but this book will give you a comprehensive base in Korean. If you only buy one textbook for Korean, get this one.

Korean for Beginners: Mastering Conversational Korean

With its tricky pronunciation, complex grammar and elaborate honorific forms, the Korean language can present a daunting prospect. This was the first book I used. It is a nice option if you prefer a gentle introduction to Korean. It’s also entertaining with plenty of cultural information packed in. The $12 price is reasonable when you consider that an audio CD is provided too. This must be the first textbook I have seen that makes use of emoticons. The times they are a-changin’! ^_^

Korean Grammar in Use

The next logical step after Korean for Beginners. It goes into the grammar in more depth but still in a digestible form. I picked this book up in Seoul so it might be tricky to buy online.

Korean Grammar for International Learners

This is the most comprehensive grammar book we could find. It includes all the grammatical forms in loads of detail. It’s also packed with example sentences which I love. For some mysterious reason, the cover of this book highly resembles that of Kanji in Context (a Japanese learning classic). The mind boggles!

Spoken World: Korean

For as long as I can remember, Living Language have always made top notch course materials. Spoken World, their latest offering for Korean, is no exception. Get this for learning conversational Korean. There are six CDs included with a separate course book. The dialogues are easy to understand and introduced in a logical order. You won’t get much grammar from this one but it’s a nice little audio course. Highly recommended.

Pimsleur Korean

Many foreigners find Korean a difficult language to pronounce correctly. The sounds are “different”, which can make listening quite challenging. In this respect, it was certainly much harder for me to get started than Japanese or even Chinese. Pimsleur is an expensive option but it undeniably covers the listening side well. The Korean speakers break down each syllable of each word which helps train your ear. Keep with this course and you will be speaking and understanding whole Korean sentences within days. Definitely a great option if your budget allows for it. If you prefer to spend less, get Spoken World Korean (see above) instead.

Klear: Korean Reader for Chinese Characters

A good introduction to the Chinese characters (hanja) used in Korean. This book teaches you the most common 500 hanja by frequency of usage in modern Korean. It’s a good choice if you want to learn to read Korean literature or you’re simply curious about the Korean hanja like I was.

Continuing Korean

I don’t own this one yet but it has positive reviews on Amazon. It is the follow-up to Elementary Korean.

What? You didn’t learn the Hangul yet? Good news. There is a great iPhone app to help (covered here).

So there you have it. Those are the best books we have found so far. Do you know of any other quality resources? Leave a comment in the section below!

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App Review: i-Sokki Japanese Vocabulary for JLPT

When preparing for the JLPT, one of the biggest problems learners face is the large amount of Japanese vocabulary. If you live in Japan or at least get enough Japanese input then the listening section of the exam is easy enough. You can cram on the grammar and learning kanji intelligently will greatly ease your pain. With vocabulary though, there’s no getting around it. You have to expose yourself to the language and put in enough time to learn it.

As I mentioned here, I am planning to take N1 this summer. I have always been lazy about the JLPT but I figure that the certification might come in handy someday. One of my friends mentioned that he was using a free app called i-Sokki (limited version) for drilling vocabulary for the exam. I downloaded it last week and I really like it so far.

I-Sokki is easy on the eye. It’s a nicely designed app. It comes with the vocabulary for N5 unlocked already. You have to pay to get access to the other levels, but at $1.99 per JLPT level or $4.99 for all levels, the price is reasonable. I’m mainly working on N1 words but, just in case, I’m brushing up on the N2 vocab too so I bought the whole set.

There are three different quiz modes for testing your vocab knowledge. All of them are multiple choice.

Japanese Mode tests from Japanese to English so it is probably the easiest test as you can intelligently guess a lot of words without truly knowing them.

Kanji mode tests from Japanese to the kana reading. I use this one a lot. One small gripe I have with the Kanji mode is that you can only see the English meaning after you have finished the review session. I would like the option to quickly remind myself of the meaning but anyway, it’s a minor flaw.

Finally, there is Reverse Mode which, as you might expect, tests you going from English to Japanese. I rarely use this one.

The app tests you based on your “familiarity” with the various vocabulary. I think they do a solid job. I’m using I-Sokki during the little moments when I’m sitting on the train or waiting for a friend. I look up new words in my Wisdom Dictionary (reviewed here) and read through the example sentences to help the meaning take root in my mind. This strategy is working well so far, although I passively know most of the vocabulary already. Depending on your Japanese level, your results may differ.

I-Sokki is not a perfect app. Sometimes I find the same vocabulary repeatedly coming up on the tests, so I’m confused how the algorithm works. Also, there is obviously no way that the app can know your starting knowledge so you have to review a bunch of known words in the beginning. The biggest downside for me though, is that the other words in the test are usually very different from the correct answer. The kanji mode, for example, will often show three ridiculous meanings that are obviously incorrect with one reasonable looking answer. This makes things too easy as you can guess the answer without even knowing it. In the JLPT, similar looking answers are displayed to confuse you. I wish this app did the same. One way to get around this is to mentally test yourself before looking at the four choices being displayed.

With the few caveats I mentioned, i-Sokki is a handy tool for studying for the exam. I recommend you pick up the free version and see how you go.

We like what we see, but we’re still trying to figure out this Google Plus thing. Follow us on there to stay in the loop. We also also do Facebook and Twitter.

How to learn any language

“To have another language is to possess a second soul.” 

- Charlemagne

Learning another language can be a lonely and frustrating process. Sometimes we need a gentle push to give us a break and boost our motivation. In this post, I am going to introduce a couple of books that serve as inspirational and practical resources for those who want to forgo expensive and ineffective language classes and go it alone in learning any language.

How to Learn Any Language – Barry Farber

If you must get a book on language learning, get this one. I have mentioned it before on this blog, but Barry Farber’s How to Learn Any Language Quickly, Easily and On Your Own has positively impacted my life in a huge way. I was lucky enough to read the book as a teenager. Without a doubt, my international exploits were made possible by Farber’s wise words. In all likelihood, I would never have gone to live in Italy, let alone Japan without reading this book. It is a classic take on how to study a language on your own.

I rarely read physical books these days (no room in my tiny Tokyo apartment!), so I was pleased to see a Kindle version had recently been released and promptly bought a copy. So why would I own two versions of this book? In short, because this book is inspiring and my other copy was getting pretty worn. Like other classic books, it is something you can return to again and again when you need encouragement.

The first part of the book is auto-biographical and details the author’s early life. Farber accounts how falling behind in Latin grammar class at school led him to learn Chinese. You get this comical image of a little American boy trying to speak Chinese with sailors stationed in Miami Beach during World War II. What started out as escapism from a class he detested eventually turned into a lifelong pursuit of Chinese and many other languages. Now in his 80s, Farber is said to have a working knowledge of more than 25 languages.

One downside of the book is that it was written in the pre-internet era. There is no mention of some of the great online resources that have cropped up in recent years. However, concepts like making the little moments count, using mnemonics and the multiple-track attack (using many resources at a time to attack the language from different angles) all hold true to this day. Another great insight is that if you are self-studying, you are free to buy as many books and resources as you need! The reason? It is still going to be cheaper and more effective than taking classes. I couldn’t recommend a book more highly.

The Way of the Linguist – Steve Kaufmann

Another helpful guide to learning languages via self-study is Steve Kaufmann’s The Way of the Linguist.

Kaufmann speaks 10 languages fluently. Some may think he is naturally gifted, but he is certainly no linguistic “genius” and makes no claims to be. Despite how that might sound, I mean that as a compliment. He has learned languages through a combination of hard work and lifestyle choice. Kaufmann has lived in various countries throughout an illustrious business career which he admits “would not have been possible” without learning languages.

On Amazon, there are a couple of negative reviews that seem to suggest that Kaufmann’s book is all about self-marketing. It didn’t strike me that way. I got a lot of practical value from it as I do from reading his language blog. He is much more realistic than certain others out there who make claims of reaching “fluency” in a matter of months, all with the goal of selling their latest eBook.

In a nutshell, Kaufmann’s learning approach focuses on getting as much input as possible by listening and reading content you’re interested in. I like this philosophy. Like detective novels? Pick one up in Chinese. Prefer tennis? Watch the latest Grand Slam on Japanese TV. Want to become an entrepreneur? Read stories of successful businessmen in Korean.

Some learners who wouldn’t usually watch the news in English somehow think they “should” when they study a foreign language.They are making the language into a chore.. Kaufmann encourages learners to do what they feel like doing. Find stuff you like and the language will follow. I agree. This is 2013! There are a wealth of resources out there, so follow your interests and find some content that you will enjoy.

What I like about Kaufmann is his willingness to air his views and speak on camera, in whatever language. Of course, anonymous users on YouTube sometimes pick at his grammatical mistakes or intonation. It is much easier to be a critic than to truly put yourself out there.

Like Barry Farber, Kaufmann is a strong advocate of self-study. He also laments the damaging status quo that exists in second language education. Despite the woeful results, schools continue to use the same methods to “teach” languages. Languages are learned, not taught. How tragic that negative classroom experiences are discouraging people from taking up foreign languages. It’s a lonely battle, but I admire Kaufmann’s personal crusade against the establishment. Every little helps.

I am not going to break down his language ability here (that is for native speakers of the respective languages) but I can personally attest that his French is excellent. You can get the Kindle version of his book here.

It all adds up! (Or how to master a foreign language)

Do you ever feel like all your time and effort studying your target language hasn’t amounted to much? Ever feel frustrated with your progress? Well, join the club! Once you pass the intermediate threshold, it gets harder to judge your growth in the language. You are entering what I refer to as intermediate fatigue. It’s one of the bumps along the road to mastering a language.

What’s intermediate fatigue? 

Intermediate fatigue is where you start to feel discouraged with your rate of progress in the language you are learning. You might even lose motivation too. I’ll lay out the possible symptoms before suggesting how to get through it.

  1. You are at the stage where you no longer need textbooks.
  2. You’re definitely not a beginner, but not yet advanced.
  3. You study online with the help of some amazing language extensions (shameless plug :) ), reading material intended for native speakers
  4. You listen to podcasts in your target language but get frustrated you can’t fully follow what is going on.
  5. You can slowly read books in the language but you struggle without a dictionary.
  6. You are frustrated that you still fumble for words when speaking to native speakers.
  7. You haven’t finished Heisig yet (that’s an in-joke for Japanese learners)
  8. You are constantly berating yourself with variations of “I should be better by now!”
  9. You have moved onto reading literature but still get stumped by questions from the restaurant waitress.
  10. You have no problem talking to your native speaker friend but get lost in group situations when he brings his friends along.
  11. You can follow the whole dialogue of comedy sketches but don’t get the punchline.
  12. You receive constant praise for your linguistic ability, but the taxi drivers don’t understand you. And so on…

Once intermediate fatigue sets in, all the gains you make in the language feel much smaller than before. Sometimes they will even seem nonexistent. But the important thing to remember is that you are progressing. All the time you spend picking up vocabulary and exposing yourself to new content in the language builds up into something much greater. Even if you don’t feel that you are improving, you need to suspend disbelief. Just when the fatigue seems to be at its heaviest, you are about to step up to the next level.

It all adds up! 

Always remember the snowball effect. As the renowned polyglot Alexander Arguelles reminds us, 15 minutes of study every day adds up to over 90 hours in one year. 30 minutes a day is over 180 hours! These are amazing numbers. Just imagine what is possible with just 45 or 60 minutes per day. In fact, Arguelles used this fact to study multiple languages at the same time, dedicating hours per day to keep them up. You don’t need to become a language monk like Arguelles, but a steady time commitment each day will build into a sizable snowball over time. It all adds up!

When I can, I like to sit down with my books for extended periods, but it’s tough to find the time. Life gets in the way. Being a true Tokyoite, I can be on-the-go for several days at a time. This makes it challenging to keep up my study regime. Sometimes it even gets discouraging but but there is no need to despair! All the time you invest will pay off. Language is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to remind yourself that it all adds up.

The little moments

Barry Farber is a talk show legend with a knowledge of more than 25 languages. He brilliantly describes in his book How To Learn Any Language about making the little moments count. What do you usually do when you are on the train or waiting in line? These periods are fantastic opportunities for learning.

Micro-study

I would estimate that over 50% of my language knowledge comes from micro-study during those little moments. Minutes spent on the bus and waiting for traffic lights to change add up to hours over time. Use them! Not only does it all add up but it also makes those moments more pleasant. As well as learning a language, you are improving your daily quality of life! Not a bad deal if you ask me. And guess what? It all adds up.

Farber is old school. He prefers to use index cards for his mobile learning (iPhones didn’t exist when he was learning the ropes) but I think that he would approve of helpful flashcard apps like i-Sokki and Anki. In any event, it’s much better than wasting your commute tweeting and looking at wedding photos on Facebook!

One more tip.

Still not feeling it? If you are lacking motivation, one good tactic is to look at old emails or letters you have written in the foreign language. It’s like looking at homework you did when you were a kid. You will laugh at your mistakes and wonder how you used to write so badly.

Reading old examples of your writing is a great way to show yourself how much you have improved. It reminds you that all the time you put in was worth it and motivates you to battle on. One glance at my gmail account is undeniable proof of my progress in Japanese. Give it a try! And remember, it all adds up!

I hope this post was helpful. Do you have any other tactics for beating intermediate fatigue? Let us know in the comments below!

For those of you who are interested in a wider discussion of mastering a skill (such as learning languages), I recommend reading Robert Greene’s latest work on mastery. It’s a very enlightening read.

Japanese names dictionary is back!

Due to popular demand, we have restored the names dictionary for the latest Japanese Firefox update. Sorry for the long wait. The add-on is currently awaiting approval by Mozilla so it should be released soon. Edit: The update has now been approved. Enjoy!

Cheers

The Perapera Team

We are planning further updates and Japanese-related posts in the near future. To keep up with the latest news and info, follow us on Google+ or like us on Facebook!

App Review: The Wisdom 2 English-Japanese Dictionary

I recently bought the Wisdom 2 iOS app because I had heard good things about the previous version and found a great deal for it on the iTunes store (Apparently it has been reduced to $11.99 from around $30 until the end of this month). I have been using the dictionary for the last couple of weeks and have to say that it has already taken a central role in my Japanese studies and my everyday life too.

Often, I find myself talking to friends or colleagues and have a word on the tip of my tongue that I just can’t remember. Other times, I wonder how to say a certain phrase in Japanese that I have never considered before or want to explain a concept to someone but my explanation is faltering from a lack of active vocabulary. Normally, if this was a language exchange or some other event where I would expect to practise Japanese, I would bring my electronic dictionary but it’s not exactly practical (or sociable!) to whip your Seiko out in the middle of a crowded izakaya. iPhone apps are much quicker and more convenient in those situations. That’s where Wisdom 2 comes in handy.

How I am using it

I haven’t really used Wisdom 2 for long study sessions although I’m sure it could be used that way. I think of it more as an on-the-go kind of dictionary that helps me look up words speedily when I don’t have a PC or dictionary at hand.

I read through the example sentences a lot and also like the fact that you can directly look up any unknown words from the example sentences by simply holding down the word. As this is a dictionary in the classic sense, there aren’t many study tools or review options for learning the new vocabulary. There is a fairly simple bookmarking function though (that incidentally backs up to iCloud) that allows you to save new words for later.

The dictionary

Wisdom 2 is based on the “Wisdom English-Japanese Dictionary 3rd edition” and contains more than 100,000 entries, which should be enough to keep you busy. Although it comes recommended for people like us who study Japanese, Wisdom 2 has evidently been made with Japanese learners of English in mind. If you are just starting out in your Japanese studies, you should be aware that the app’s interface is only available in Japanese so you should be at least an intermediate Japanese reading level before considering this.

What’s New in the latest version (Version 1.0.1)

According to the developers, here is of what’s new for the latest release (rough translation):

- Character size settings can now be modified more precisely.
- A clipboard search function has been added. By turning “Clipboard Search” on in the settings menu, you can now search text copied from other apps when you start up Wisdom 2.
- Problem fixed for display of invalid characters in the Japanese-English dictionary contents.
- Problem solved for iPhone/iPod touch when text selected for an extended amount of time remains displayed even after the selection has been cancelled.
- The viewing history is now also updated when a word is chosen from within the viewing history itself.
- The functionality for clearing previous searches has been improved.

All in all, Wisdom 2 is a valuable tool for learning Japanese. If you are serious about learning Japanese, then this app is a good choice. Check it out and tell us what you think!

Cheers

The Perapera Team

P.S Yes, an update is coming for the Japanese Firefox plugin and due to feedback from a fairly loud minority of users, the names dictionary will return. Watch this space!

We’re still trying to figure it out, but Perapera Language Tools is now on Google Plus. Follow us over there or on Facebook to receive updates on our latest linguistic endeavors.

Korean for lunch

After several false starts, I have finally begun to learn Korean seriously. During lunch breaks, I have been listening to Pimsleur Korean to ease myself into a daily study regime.

Pimsleur isn’t perfect by any means. As I wrote before about Pimsleur Japanese in my Japanese books post, the lessons in the third series got ridiculously formal and businessy. I remember being made to learn phrases along the lines of “I am very sorry Mr Tanaka but I will be 45 minutes late for today’s meeting!”. Pretty excessive for a beginner’s course, I think you’ll agree. This was before they had even taught you the informal Japanese that everyone actually uses! Also, some of the Japanese vocabulary you learn seemed a little weird at times and I am assuming the Korean Pimsleur will have similar pitfalls but I find that Pimsleur is a decent way of getting a spoken base in a language. It’s a bit like going to the gym. Put in your 30 minutes a day and you come away with something that you will remember later. That is more than can be said for many language courses.

I am still only one week in, but I am definitely noticing some similarities between Korean and Japanese, like how the sentences are structured. Some of the sounds can be quite tricky to pronounce but I love the intonation! How did I miss out on this language? It is really pleasant to get out of my comfort zone and learn something completely new and exotic. Although you would think learning another language would be a distraction from my Japanese studies, I’m recently feeling more motivated to learn Japanese too. It would seem that the two are feeding off each other.

A great app for learning to read and write Hangul

By night, I have been learning Hangul with a nifty little app called Korean Handwriting. It cost me $3. It is actually geared more towards Korean children than learners of Korean but it has been really useful so far. The lack of English explanations is actually quite helpful as it allows you to just focus on the various sounds and drawing the Hangul out on the screen. To be honest, it feels more like playing a game than studying although the little kid’s high-pitched voice can become a little grating after a while. Overall though, it has been a relief to find that Hangul writing looks a lot more difficult than it actually is.

So, the next step is to find some decent Korean books. I have looked around on Amazon but didn’t see many courses that stood out. Does anyone have any tips? Just my first impression, but it seems like Korean has very few useful resources available.

P.S We are sorry that there is no Korean Perapera yet. Please be nice to us. We want to make it too but we still have the same dictionary problem. We need a reliable open-source Korean-English dictionary to make this a viable project. If anyone fancies starting one then that would be great! Due to popular demand, the Japanese Perapera plugin will be updated in the near future with the names dictionary returning.

Perapera Language Tools is now on Google Plus. Follow us to receive updates on our language projects and other stuff we find cool.

The Kindle Paperwhite: A godsend for Japanese learners (if you’re in Japan)

Happy New Year everyone! I don’t know about you, but the New Year has got me motivated to get back to studying languages and reading more Japanese. I also plan to take the N1 this summer. I will touch on that in future posts. Another of my long-term goals is to become more literate in Japanese and to read books that Japanese people read.

I like reading Japanese news and blogs like Itai News on my PC and iPad but I have always wanted to read more Japanese content offline. It’s more relaxing with a book and looking at a screen all day makes my eyes sore. However, I hate looking up kanji and new vocabulary manually. It takes a lot of time and distracts me from the book I am reading. This and a lack of space in my tiny Japanese apartment has meant that, over the years, I haven’t bought that many books in Japanese. Up until now, there haven’t been many Japanese e-books available either. Well, I have finally found my solution.

Amazon’s answer to e-books in Japan

As you may well know, Amazon released the Kindle Paperwhite in Japan at the end of last year. I preordered mine and have been pleased with it so far. It’s a beautiful product and much lighter and easier to use than the previous models (My Kindle 2 looks like it came from a different century!). You get a Japanese-Japanese dictionary with it as standard which really lightens the load of looking up new words. Granted, the lookup function is not quite as good as Perapera (a tricky feat to be fair :) ) but it’s much better than trying to work out the readings and manually inputting words into an electronic dictionary.

One big downside at the moment is the Kindle Store in Japan. Amazon have apparently struggled winning over Japanese publishers who are hesitant to embrace e-books and see their cosy business model crumble. The lack of publishers definitely shows. Compared to the Amazon.com Kindle store, the selection of books is woefully lacking. Hopefully this improves in the future (knowing Amazon it probably will!). That said, according to Amazon there are already more than 10,000 free e-books available which should keep Japanese learners busy for a while.

Also, as far as I am aware, the Kindle Store for Japan is only available for people in Japan with a Japanese IP. I haven’t been able to find much information on this, but it would be good if someone could provide some more information on this. Anyone?

What am I reading?

So far, I have been reading the following free books:


Kokoro

I admit that I have not read a lot of Japanese fiction. I’m usually more of a non-fiction guy but figured I’d give this one a short as one of my colleagues highly recommended it.


Botchan

Another famous novel by Natsume Soseki that most Japanese seem to have read.


The Japanese Constitution

I downloaded this because I fancied reading the post-war original in Japanese but unsurprisingly, it is boring as hell.

I have also bought one paid book, Michi Wo Hiraku (The Path) which is a Japanese business classic that I have always wanted to read. The author, Konosuke Matsushita, founded Panasonic so I guess he knew what he was talking about.

So all in all, there are some negatives but I can still recommend the Kindle Paperwhite as a great tool for intermediate and advanced learners of Japanese. As I progress I will update you on what I am reading. I will also share in another post how I am using my Kindle to learn and review new vocabulary.

Two great Chinese readers

1. Chinese Breeze

This is a great choice for those starting out reading Chinese. The Chinese Breeze Graded Reader Series was recommended by one of our users in response to our best Chinese books post and I have to say that I am really impressed with it so far. It is published by the Peking University Press. I bought a load of these books during a recent trip to China although it is also available on Amazon and other sites. There are 8 levels in total with level 1 covering 300 characters and level 8 apparently going up to 3500!

The Breeze series is fun and conversational with the audio included on a CD so you can listen while you read. There is both a slow and normal speed audio track for each story which is pretty awesome for building up listening comprehension. One gripe is that there is no pinyin included so it can take me a while to look up the readings for some of the unknown words. Most of the stories are easy to follow though and are much more engaging than the stories in your average readers. It feels like you are reading a real story for entertainment rather than just studying.

2. Beijing Language and Culture University Press Series (Chinese name)

The second series of readers I want to cover is by the Beijing Language and Culture University Press. This series is also a solid choice for improving your Chinese reading although it is much more difficult and more academic than the Chinese Breeze readers. Each book is a series of essays on a given topic such as being a foreign professional working in China. I find myself constantly looking up the new vocabulary. On the plus side, the topics are also pretty interesting and the pinyin equivalents are given for the content covered.If you are looking for some challenging content to read this is a good choice but it is definitely not for beginners.

 

Learn Japanese kanji the smart way

The first book I ever bought for learning Japanese was a kanji book. This was long before I had visited Japan or knew any Japanese. Little did I know that my long battle with learning the kanji had just begun. To the beginner, there is something intimidating about the prospect of learning these characters. To many, memorizing 2000 seemingly random squiggles to reach functional literacy sounds like an impossible undertaking.

Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji proved to be a great start for me for learning the kanji. The idea of making stories for each character is a genius way to break down otherwise complicated compounds into memorable entities.

But there was one big hole in Heisig’s book. After 500 or so characters he drops the bomb when he leaves you to make your own stories alone. In my case,  I found it difficult to make my own kanji stories. Perhaps I was lacking creativity, I thought as I continued to struggle. Unfulfilled New Year’s Resolutions came and went and I cursed Heisig for not finishing his book. Other long-term Japan expats have told me they had similarly frustrating experiences with Heisig’s book.

Happily though, I found a great free online resource, Reviewing the Kanji. The Reviewing the Kanji site has kanji stories for Heisig’s book made by and voted upon by users. You can add the characters as you work your way through the book and schedule reviews. It’s a nicely designed site and easy to use. This is a great addition to the book. Suddenly, you have countless stories for each character at your disposal.

The combination of the site and Heisig’s book allowed me to vastly improve my knowledge of the kanji and their radicals. The readings had to be learned separately by wide reading (hint, hint PeraPera :) ) but I’m of the opinion that being familiar with the characters and their radicals is useful and these resources certainly helped me along the way.

Hope those starting out or wanting to refresh their kanji knowledge found this useful. So how did you learn the kanji? Any advice for our readers? We’d love to see other advice people have!