Books for learning Kanjis – review

As you move to advanced levels of study you might want to invest in an authoritative book that does more than list out Kanjis required to be memorized for an exam.

“A guide to remembering Japanese characters” by Kenneth G.Henshall (1998) lists 1,945 Kanjis beginning with the easiest “一” which means “one”. The Kanjis are arranged grade- wise. The entry for each Kanji mentions the total stroke count, onyomi (chinese reading) and kunyomi (Japanese reading). Each Kanji also has a brief account of how the picture came to represent a particular meaning. There is a mnemonic as well to help you memorize the Kanji. The stroke order however is not shown which makes things tough for those who want to practice writing.

Though I used this book for N1, I don’t remember finding the “mnemonics” useful in memorizing. It is interesting to go through the origin of the Kanji, but even this didn’t really help much. I remember going through the “basic rules of stroke order” mentioned at the end of the book and using it to practice writing the Kanjis. As I wrote I learnt to break the Kanjis into individual radicals and made my own mnemonic based on the meaning of the radicals. The book gives the principal meaning of all radicals.

More recently, I purchased “Kanji learner’s course” by Andrew Scott Conning. This book gives the stroke order too for you to practice writing. Also since the mnemonics here break the Kanjis into radicals, I personally found this book closer to my style of learning. Kanjis with the same radical such as  花、北、背、比 have all been grouped together making it very convenient for the readers to compare and make a note of any minute differences. There is a note for Kanjis that look confusingly similar .

Wonder if the more recent edition of Henshall’s have made any changes to address the problems mentioned above?

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