A Relic from 10+ years ago - 2000 kanji in 3 months

It’s not just language learning, it’s all about the clickbaity silver bullets.

Guess it draws more attention than “This ONE language learning hack MIGHT make you learn some languages faster MAYBE BUT NO PROMISES also linguists KNOW THIS already and have for DECADES”


This one simple technique of HARD WORK and years of EFFORT and DEDICATION potentially yield results and LINGUISTS ARE STUNNED


I’ve done Remembering the Kanji, all the way through, plus the extra thousand kanji in RTK3. It has its strengths and weaknesses compared to WaniKani, which is what ultimately led me here, so I could learn both.

Describing it as “connecting random words to random shapes” misses the point. It’s more of taking a few months out of one’s Japanese journey to get familiar with the kanji, learn to tell them apart, and making each one a unique concept in your brain with its own file that you can start tagging with other information about that kanji.

It’s a bit like how little kids study the alphabet before phonics and reading. It’s hard to think of a word as “circular shape with a gap on the right plus triangular shape plus shape with a right angle” but once your brain sees that as “C - A - T”, it’s a lot easier to learn what it spells. Likewise, looking at a word and having it register as “study - exam” puts you in a lot stronger position to learn “school” than the 18 strokes of jibberish it looked like before studying any kanji.

Put another way, you know that tab in WaniKani’s vocabulary lessons where it says this words is made up of such-and-such kanji and shows their names and asks if you can guess what they might mean together? Well, after finishing Heisig, your brain will show you that tab for any Japanese word you look at. It’s pretty cool!

Of course, what it doesn’t show you is the tabs with the reading and meaning, which is what ultimately led me to try WaniKani. Heisig takes a stab at teaching readings in RTK2, but it’s pretty hit or miss. There are some good insights (especially what he calls “signal primitives”) but for me they work better as hints to help learn other methods than something to be systematically studied in their own right.

WaniKani does a much better job of building kanji to readings to vocabulary. Heisig gives you the radicals to kanji part and then kind of turns you loose to use that how you will. Heisig, on the other hand, covers stroke order and writing of kanji, which WaniKani ignores (less important now that so much is on computers, but still part of a well-rounded kanji education).

In and of itself, WaniKani is also better at providing mnemonics. Heisig starts off providing detailed ones, then gradually starts leaving coming up with them more and more to the learner. But… there is an amazing community over at Reviewing the Kanji who have a page for every kanji with dozens of user-submitted mnemonic stories for each. If there is anything equivalent for the WaniKani method, someone please point me to it! The Crabigator’s kanji stories are usually pretty good, but when they don’t work for me, I don’t have a good source for alternatives. For radical-kanji I can always fall back to how I learned it from RTK, but for kanji-reading mnemonics, I could use more resources.


[Userscript] Community Mnemonics 2 (WKCM2) maybe this one?

Usually my issue with RTK is the latter part of my statement, that you won’t be able to actually use the
knowledge you gain on its own. You will need parallel or after the fact studying to get that. And learning japanese gets a lot easier when you can apply your knowledge while learning

I did this as well: RTK with an Anki deck with the goal of just recognizing the kanji and a meaning. It took me 4 months to get through 2200 kanji, and then another 6 months to drill them all to the point where I had 95% at “mature” in Anki.

Unfortunately, at the end of this 10 month effort I had very little to show for it. Being able to recognize kanji didn’t actually teach me any words or how to convert what I was looking at into syllables. I would still stare at Japanese text and have no idea how to read it. It was kind of a weird state where I could get the very high level gist of what the writing was about, but couldn’t even sound out the words.

Some people will argue that doing RTK like this creates a mental framework that you can use to hang your learning from. Sort of like clearing a proverbial parking lot on which to build your skyscraper of Japanese. In practice, I feel like I actually got very little benefit from it. The best I can say for it is that it gave me an understanding of how kanji work, that is, how they are put together and how they are used in the language.

My experience with WaniKani has been much better and I would recommend it to anyone over the RTK approach I first used. I am learning how to recognize and read actual words, as well as getting a sense for the phonetic components of kanji.

My one complaint is that WaniKani’s radicals are not as concise as RTKs some of the time. RTK makes it a point to combine previous radicals into new super-radicals when they become necessary. I’ve definitely run into mnemonics in WaniKani that try to make a story out of like 6 radicals and it turns into nonsense like “When you’re inside the ground with a gun and a drop in on your head in winter”… which makes absolutely no sense. At least in these cases I still have the RTK mnemonics to fall back on.


And sometimes they later teach you a radical name for (a part of) that combination. And then you get confused when the old kanji shows up again because you memorized it as individual parts, but now your brain only sees the new radical.

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The idea behind that user script is what I am looking for, though when I tried it, the items I tried said there were no mnemonics for them. Maybe I set it up wrong, or picked a bad sampling.

I tried this method and stopped after learning the meanings of 500 kanji. It didn’t feel like I was making any progress at all and I lost my motivation. Couldn’t read anything.
Coincidentally, right now I’ve pretty much learned as many kanji with Wanikani as I had back then with RTK (520 guru’d kanji). The difference is: I can actually read some stuff now! :partying_face: I’m not sitting here casually reading japanese newspapers or anything but I have almost no problems reading the kanji in beginner textbooks or graded readers at N5-N4 level. If I’m lucky I can even guess what some simple sentences might mean in native materials. To me this is a huge motivation to continue and improve more.

Of course RTK was an advantage when I started Wanikani. I could breeze through many of the kanji because I already knew the meaning and only had to remember the readings. But personally I wouldn’t do RTK again and instead start Wanikani in the first place.

Edit: clarification


I used RTH for a trip to China way back in the day and I found it somewhat useful in a practical sense. At least, I knew which menu item meant “duck” so I could point to it when ordering. :wink:


This post makes me feel a lot better about my use of RTK way back in the day – I’ve always felt like I never got much out of it (and even said so to someone yesterday), but now that you mention it, at the very least I got a good grasp of radicals, forms, and other concepts that are making my WK journey go down that much smoother. I still have a lot of problems with RTK (and definitely dropped out of college before finishing it!) but …yeah, I guess some of that stuck!

I definitely agree with you about RTK! (see my previous post)

I do wanna add that for me, WK’s snowballed goofball radical piles can help me, mnemonically! When things get that ridiculous, it’s easier for me to look at the pieces and have a narrative that I can follow, and keeping that little short story in my head where I get to the “punchline” of the total meaning works! Obviously that’s not gonna be the case for everyone but to me it’s a pretty good method.

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Wait, you mean I can’t learn REAL JAPANESE by watching one 6 minute youtube video???


Sure you can!

…I mean, you won’t learn much Japanese, but it’s real, I guess!


No, you learn it by watching a two minute video

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I agree, for me WK’s memes work for whatever reason. If it said “When you’re inside the ground with a gun and a drop in on your head in winter” I’d just be like Lil Yachty Drake GIF - Lil Yachty Drake - Discover & Share GIFs
Though I do agree with @Held’s point that learning a complex radical and going back to a simpler kanji can be confusing.


About that time I binged through a Facebook Kanji game, can’t remember the name at all… It was also just English meaning and Onyomi. Sometimes I saw a Kanji like 鶴 and new it is crane with the input from this game I think. It’s not useless, maybe a good start.

I tried RTK 5 or 6 years ago. It’s really seductive because you feel like you make a lot of progress very quickly in the beginning. I “learnt” 100 kanji in the first week. The old Kanji (koohi?) forums the existed at the time too also contributed to this where you read the stories of people finishing the book in a few months. I think I got to like 1000 or so and got overwhelmed by reviews and gave up :sweat_smile:

I will agree with others here though and say the Heisig does have some much better names and concepts for radicals than WK. Maybe it was a conscious effort from the WK makers to avoid using those as much as possible due to copyright issues? But everything else about WK compared to RKT is far superiour for me so far.


I’m trying to figure out if I can get a 不同ブドウカン (non-standard system) pun out of that.

Whenever I see those “Fluent in 3 months” spiels and they talk about all the things you get in 3 months. “Kanji. Vocab. Grammar. The kind of natural Japanese that Japanese people speak.” I always think

Act now and receive an IQ boost, street cred and the envy of your peers! Operators are standing by!