Does Anki really help you learn Japanese?

Post # 1
Kanji learning method (with Anki and its own plugin)
Now that I have been learning Kanji for almost exactly a month and have the impression that I have achieved quite good results, I would like to tell you what my method looks like. Maybe it inspires others and takes away a bit of fear.

After your answers here (many thanks again afterwards) and a little bit of research of my own, I thought that buying the Heisig wouldn't do me all that good. Instead, I ended up using the same method I've used to learn Japanese words (phonetically, in hiragana) for the past two years: timpani. The whole thing, however, with a little method that combines Kanji and word learning.

As with the words in hiragana, I use anki, which I recommend really generally and unreservedly for learning facts of any kind. As an exception, I did not create the Kanji deck completely myself, but downloaded a freely available one with all Jouyou Kanji (only one direction: Kanji -> meaning, pronunciations).

It is very important that the Kanji in the deck are met with the (school) class in which the respective Kanji is normally learned. I am learning class by class: at Anki you can choose that only cards with certain tags should be offered. So I can gradually activate classes.

With each new learning day, I am offered 15 new Kanji in addition to the repeated Kanji (also adjustable). I reached 15 more or less by trying things out: 10 was not enough for me, at 20 it becomes too strenuous for me. Because only the tags of classes that I have already completed and the class that I have just planned are active, I only get new Kanji in front of the class that I am currently learning.

The classes give you very good milestones, which give you an approximate idea of ​​your own scope of knowledge ("I can now do all the characters a second grader can") and they are important for the intermittent activation of words (see below).

The learning itself works with donkey bridges for the most part when it comes to new Kanji. Not surprisingly: I'm trying to break down a new Kanji into parts that I already know. It is always better to use the largest possible parts (e.g. in 暗 I try not to look at 立 and 月 individually, but 音). That doesn't always work; Sometimes I overlook the fact that the Kanji is already known, or sometimes the embedded Kanji is added later. Then I have to correct my donkey bridge. But I have the impression that this linking of the Kanji with each other strengthens both of them.

Donkey bridges, where the meaning appears in the middle and is not simply appended to the end, are clearly better. Otherwise it happens that I remember the donkey bridge, but no longer the meaning%)

If I find myself forgetting a kanji again and again, I have to come up with a better donkey bridge. It also seems to be very important that I repeat the donkey bridge more often at the beginning, even if I recognized the sign more or less straight away. If I have seen a Kanji often enough, however, I soon no longer need the donkey bridge and the Kanji becomes "more intuitive". When the time comes is a matter of feeling.

I have to admit, for the most part I only learn meanings, hardly any pronunciations. I hope to get these associations while learning words.

So, and just to be able to use the Kanji for something meaningful, namely words, and not only to know, I wrote a plugin in Anki:

The fact is that my main deck, from which I learn my Japanese words, has so far only generated the cards Hiragana -> Meaning and Meaning -> Kanji / Hiragana for each word. In the meantime, however, I have also had Kanji -> Hiragana / meaning generated.

Now, of course, I don't know enough Kanji to be able to read all of the 1000-1500 words that I have on my main deck. So my plugin only activates those cards for which I already know all the Kanji that occur! I do it class by class: when I'm through with a Jouyou class while learning Kanji, I not only activate the next one in the Kanji deck, but also have all the cards activated in the main deck whose Kanji I now also know.

And that is really pleasant and strengthening again. The words composed of Kanji are then no longer gibberish, but consist of individual units that I know. In the case of newly displayed words in Kanji that I already knew, I can sometimes quite easily infer the word from the Kanji meanings. It's really fun to see the well-known Kanji now in a real context.

The words themselves now make a lot more sense: Before that was a collection of syllables, now "ningyou", which means doll, is in Kanji 人形, meaning "human" and "form". This creates a lot of "ooh" moments and makes it easier to remember Kanji and words.

I am quite satisfied with my progress. I got through class 1 very quickly because I actually already knew almost all of the Kanji from Japanese lessons, where we also had to learn a few Kanji for the exams. In grade 2 there were a few known ones, but many new ones. Class 1 + 2 are enough to show me a whole bunch of words in Kanji on my main deck. In 2 or 3 days of study, I should have finished class 3, which means I should have around 400 Kanji, and I am already looking forward to the words associated with it. So basically I learned about 200-300 Kanji in a month (I don't learn every day, but on average about every other one).

So don't get discouraged. I have the impression that it is very feasible to learn a few hundred Kanji in a relatively short period of time. And the reward is that you can now read at least some Japanese Facebook status without looking up%)
Oh yes, maybe I should mention that I only learn in one direction in everything that has to do with Kanji: recognizing the Kanji, and recognizing the meaning and reading of words. (As I study both ways as I read the words.)

But there is nothing against activating the other direction in both the Kanji Deck and the main deck, so that the Kanji are drawn based on the meaning and readings, and the words are put together based on the meaning.

Only, even if drawing the Kanji would probably strengthen them enormously, I really don't have the time at the moment ...
(This post was last edited: 10/5/11 10:48 AM by anyfoo.)