Updates for August 25, 2014:

+The site has MOVED. If you still see this page, please clear your web browser cache and go to

Feb 24, 2011

Reviewing the Kanji

While thinking more about Heisig's Remembering the Kanji books I realized I haven't talked all that much about reviewing methods for the kanji, so I wanted to talk a bit more about that. In learning with the Heisig method, you'll be associating each kanji with a single keyword. This keyword is rather important for tying together all of the elements into a mnemonic story, so when you're first learning the kanji you'll be focusing a lot on that keyword.

As it turns out, the keyword truly is the key to remembering and reviewing the kanji – but the keyword is not important on its own. This means that while it's important to be able to see the keyword and recall the kanji, there is nothing to be gained from recalling the keyword from the kanji (aside from being able to piece together rough meanings). So how exactly should you study? It's simple. A flash card system with the keyword on the front and the kanji on the back is all you need.

There are many ways you could make the flashcards, using actual pen and paper (probably not worth the effort), Anki, or the website Reviewing the Kanji (highly recommend). Studying should go something like this: look at the keyword and try to recall the mnemonic story associated with it, which should then remind you of each kanji's elements, then draw the kanji out (using one square on a piece of graph paper to keep the size uniform). Flip the card – if you drew it correctly, then good job! Hit next and keep going! If not, then hit fail and try again in a few minutes. Don't be discouraged by failure, it's the key to learning.

I actually kept all of my old kanji practice pages, so I'll upload a few so that you can see how it goes. It's important that you actually write the kanji each time, because you're not likely to get much writing practice outside of these reviews (because typing is so prevalent). By continuing to write each kanji as you review, you'll strengthen your knowledge and make it effortless to write them later on. The longer you review, the less you'll rely on the mnemonic stories. Eventually you won't even want to use the keywords, which signals a new phase in kanji review (which I will detail in another post).

A final note: If at any point you begin to feel overwhelmed with your reviews, simply cut back. If you have hundreds of reviews per day, set a cap of 100 or 50 reviews, and then stop when you hit that number. Your reviews will eventually come back down as long as you continue to steadily work through them.

And now, here are some of my kanji pages:

They're all a bit old, which means they are both better and worse than my newer pages. The top two are from when I was actually learning the kanji, the last one is all review from various sources. The easier it is to recall the kanji, the worse my handwriting gets. Oh, and because my scanner is so high class, it didn't scan the lines of the graph paper - but you should be able to see where they'd be.

Related Articles:

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, I do this as well. I have pages and pages filled with kanji. I tend to use flashcards while keeping a notebook handy to write down every kanji at least 2 times when I see it. So I bring the card up, write the kanji, see if I remember the meaning and pronunciations, and then reveal the answers. If I get it right or wrong, I still write it a second time after revealing the answer while saying the meaning or pronunciation out loud as I write the strokes down.