Continued from page 1
You can download pdf files of substantial sections of each of books in this series for review here:
James Heisig – Remembering Kanji Book 1
James Heisig – Remembering Kanji Book 2
James Heisig – Remembering Kanji Book 3
Kenneth Henshall's A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters
Now, I should first state that, personally, I have not used this method in my own kanji study. However, while looking at ways to accelerate my kanji assimilation ability to joyou level (the 1,945 kanji set taught up to end of high school in Japan) and beyond, I came across Henshall's method as other major alternative to traditional repeat-until-you-go-mad methods.
Henshall also employs mnemonics, creating a sentence to plant image of kanji deep in learner's brain. The difference is that where Heisig takes a fast-and-loose approach with meanings assigned to individual elements of each kanji in reaching his goal of creating a memorable mind-picture, Henshall traces history of these elements in great scholastic detail.
In my opinion (and reason I personally chose Heisig over Henshall for my own study), academic strength of Henshall's analysis is its biggest weakness as a memorization tool: If you have an excellent memory, or if you already know kanji anyway and are interested in their etymological roots, then Henshall will give you a depth of knowledge that will impress even your native speaker Japanese friends. However, if you do not have an almost-photographic memory, and mastering kanji in a sensible time period is your priority, you will probably find that this detailed and obscure analysis does not provide compelling memory "hook" that Heisig's method does.
Other Mnemonic Kanji Study Methods
In addition to these two main players you may also want to consider 2001 Kanji by Father Joseph R. De Roo (although its availability is questionable) or Kanji ABC by Forester and Tamura as alternative approaches.
If you are a visual learner, skip on to Part 2 and discover methods that can work best with your learning style.
Stephen Munday lives in Japan. His most recent project is a website where you can get your name in beautiful Japanese calligraphy. This article is (c) Stephen Munday 2005. Permission is given to reproduce this article in whole with the URLs correctly hyperlinked.