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Current status, and reviewing Kanji to English Keyword

Posted by drivers99 on February 5, 2010

Reviewing the Kanji

It’s been a few months since I “finished” Remembering the Kanji Volume I (RTK1), meaning I had started reviewing 2042 kanji. However, I let myself get sidetracked and fell behind on my reviews. I had about 800 expired “cards” at RevTK. The SRS (Spaced Repetition Software) at RevTK is a simple one called the Leitner system and “cards” are kept in “piles.” When you are tested on a card, if you know the answer, the card moves up to the next pile and is scheduled to expire and be shown to you again later. The time before it is shown to you depends on which pile it is in. If you don’t know the answer, the card goes back to Pile 1, previously called the “failed” pile, now called the “restudy” pile. (How nice.)

The problem is that by letting so many cards expire, I created a positive feedback loop (which is not actually a positive thing). In other words, the problem makes itself worse. Since I can’t review them all soon enough, my brain begins to forget things that should have been reviewed sooner. This also makes reviews take longer because I try to think longer before I get the right (or wrong) answer.

I managed to start digging myself out of the hole and breaking the feedback loop by focusing on the lower piles first. This way I can maintain a good memory of most of the cards, and the ones that are very difficult can be chipped away at over time. If I fail a bunch of them, I’ll just relearn them. This has been successful so far. Pile 6 had a lot of cards, and it’s probably the worst pile because the interval is probably about 1 month, but it’s been much longer for some of the cards. I am getting about 60% correct on those. I don’t mind failing the cards though because once they go back to pile 1, the memories are reinforced often and I usually get them 100% correct.

RevTK piles

My goal is to get most of the cards into pile 8. Either that, or once I catch up with the expired cards, I am planning on exporting the cards to Anki. Anki is great because I found out that with my iPod touch I can use the iAnki plugin to sync the cards and do reviews offline on the iPod touch. Speaking of Anki…

Kanji to English Keyword

Like I said, I’ve been bogged down in RevTK and a lack of focus. I have a few sentences in my Anki deck that I got from Khatz/AJATT’s sentence pack. I also did a little bit of looking at some manga and just looking up some of the vocabulary words that I find. One thing that has been bugging me a lot though, is that unlike what Heisig says in his Introduction to RTK1 (PDF):

Third, the kanji are best reviewed by beginning with the key word, progressing to the respective story, and then writing the character itself. Once one has been able to perform these steps, reversing the order follows as a matter of course.

I have not found this to be the case at all. For a great number of kanji that I see, all I see are the primitives. For example, I might see “shellfish” and “taskmaster” and be unable to recall what they are combined together. Or I might remember the gist of the story, with the shellfish being yelled at by the taskmaster for being a worthless little shellfish for some reason. The keyword is actually “failure” in this example.

failure kanji card

This makes it kind of frustrating when I go to learn vocabulary because I don’t have a comprehension of the kanji itself as a specific thing, just a collection of primitives. I have heard Heisig’s advice repeated in other places, or told that it will not matter once you start learning readings by studying actual vocab and sentences. It just doesn’t feel right to me though. I was told that I would be able to go from kanji to English key word, but I can’t.

So, I’ve decided to strike out on my own with an experiment. Last night I created a deck in Anki with all of the RTK1 kanji, putting the kanji on the front (question) side of the card, and the keyword on the back (answer) side of the card. In the last day I was able to review about 25% of them with very little effort. I suspect that in a number of days I will have completed the circuit in my brain to be able to go from kanji to keyword. If this is the case, then I also expect that it will improve my ability to go from kanji to keyword because I will be able to evaluate the answer I am thinking of because I will be versed in “seeing” the kanji for itself, and not as a collection of primitives. And if that is true, then it should make it easier to learn readings and vocab for the same reason.

The ultimate goal is to quickly move on to sentences. I’ll let you know how that goes.

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One Response to “Current status, and reviewing Kanji to English Keyword”

  1. You actually make it seem really easy along with
    your presentation but I in finding this topic to be really one thing which I feel I would by no means understand.
    It seems too complicated and extremely extensive for
    me. I am having a look ahead to your subsequent publish, I will try to get the hang of it!

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