Why You Must Learn Kanji

For a lot of people, kanji is about on par with natto.   A huge sticky mess, difficult to consume, and not nearly as tasty as it is troublesome.  Plus it makes your breath smell like the wrong end of a dog, which is rarely a good thing.  I mean natto, that is.  Kanji does nothing for your breath.  Anyway, me personally, I never wanted to spend years studying kanji; I just wanted to speak well enough to communicate (read “drink beer”) with people.  Funny how things work out. Continue reading “Why You Must Learn Kanji”

The 3 Phases of Learning Kanji

So you’ve set out to master Japanese and decided to learn kanji.  Well, before you march further into the ranks of people who have devoted their lives to learning this arcane form of communication, it might help to step back and take an overview of the entire process.

Phase 1:  Learn the Individual Kanji

Well, there’s only 2,136 joyo kanji, so how hard could it be?  Riiiight.  Over the years, people have proposed lots of different ways of learning them.  Learn only the meanings and forget the readings (Heisig Method).  Learn them in context of words, write them, don’t write them, create mnemonics, make them into funny pictures, dissect them into their component parts.  Somehow you’ll need to find a way to sandwich them into your brain.

Continue reading “The 3 Phases of Learning Kanji”

Growing Old in Japan

When I finally looked in the mirror after a month of eikaiwa teaching, my first thought was—who the hell’s that? My signature dark and flowing locks, which had once glowed with the radiance of a dozen hair-care products, had gone white almost overnight. While it’s true that I might have had one or two gray hairs before, my class load was clearly making me look like Keith Richards before my time. Continue reading “Growing Old in Japan”