In America we have spelling bees. English is, as far as the written characters themselves go, not a terribly complicated set of characters. How to spell complicated words is pretty much as far as we go in the measurement of skill in just the characters themselves. Japanese goes to the other extreme, as if they looked at their character set and went “okay, that’s complicated, but how can we make it more complicated? Let’s take a bunch of stuff from this other language, rename the characters several times, but also keep the original names.”
Yesterday I saw the word 御御御付け (“omiotsuke” as in “miso soup”) on some variety show were someone was being tested on obscure kanji readings and it occurred to me that in America we will probably never have a show where a bunch of famous people cheer someone on as they try to spell things, with random, raucous bursts of laughter, shock, and applause. Our language just doesn’t leave much room for it. Neither does our culture, it seems, as we seem to have designated Jeopardy to be the only show where actually knowing anything is still celebrated.
So I’m getting back into trying to learn kanji. When it comes to studying, everyone has their own little quirks for how they most easily learn. Fortunately in this case, someone recommended to me an Android app simply called Japanese Kanji Study that lets you choose a number of study methods. Kanji is grouped into sets based either on standard Japanese education or the more vaguely defined structure for the JLPT (wherein “this might show up” is the theme for those.) When I last took the JLPT kanji study wasn’t something I focused on, but with this app I’m somehow more eager to do so. I’m about 2/3 back through the N3 range, which has a lot more variety than I remember, but it looks like I’ll be able to check off my N3 goal fairly quickly. This is a rare app that a) costs more than $0.99 and b) seems worth the cost of unlocking all the features (I think it was $12.99). Compared to the price I’ve paid for physical study books that seemed much less effective for me, this seems like a pretty good deal.
Personally, I like to queue up a block of kanji and just force myself through it exclusively through the writing practice, failing repeatedly until I’ve burned them all in to my brain, then I’ll go back and review all the previous sets to see what I forgot. So far it seems to be working rather well.
I should also mention Aedict as being the best version of a Japanese dictionary I’ve found for Android, being unsurprisingly based on Jim Breen’s old wwwjdic web dictionary.