Remembering the Kanji 2


James W. Heisig

Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. 4th edition, 1st printing, 2012 . vi+397 pages

[Also available as an Apple iBook.]

Following on volume 1 of Remembering the Kanji, which deals with the meaning and writing of the Japanese characters, volume 2 takes up the pronunciation of those characters, providing the student with helpful tools for memorizing them. Behind the notorious inconsistencies in the way the Japanese language has come to pronounce the characters it received from China lies a solid and rather extensive of coherent patterns. Identifying these patterns and arranging them in logical order can reduce dramatically the amount of time spent in the brute memorization of sounds unrelated to written forms.
   Many of the “primitive elements” or building blocks used in the drawing of the characters also serve to indicate the “Chinese reading” that particular kanji use chiefly in compound terms. By learning one of the kanji that uses such a “signal primitive,” one can learn the entire group at the same time. No less than 481 Chinese readings belong to such “pure groups.” Another 650 kanji belong to groups with one exception or to mixed groups in which the signal primitives have two readings. 237 more character readings can be learned by associating the kanji with ordinary words the student is already familiar with. In this way Remembering the Kanji 2 lays out the varieties of phonetic pattern and offers helpful hints for learning kanji in an efficient and rational way what might otherwise appear completely random.
A parallel system of pronouncing the kanji, their “Japanese readings,” uses native Japanese words assigned to particular Chinese characters. Although these are more easily learned because of the association of the meaning to a single word, Heisig creates a kind of phonetic alphabet of single syllable words, each connected to a simple Japanese word, and shows how they can be combined to help memorize particularly troublesome vocabulary.
Unlike volume 1, which proceeds step-by-step in series of lessons, volume 2 of Remembering the Kanji is organized in such a way that one can study individual chapters or use it as a reference for pronunciation problems as they arise. Individual frames cross-reference the kanji to alternate readings and to the frame in volume 1 in which the meaning and writing of the kanji was first introduced. Ample Indexes at the end of the volume are devoted to hand-drawn kanji, the signal primitives, the Chinese readings, and the Japanese readings, as well as a comprehensive cross-reference list to the material contained in volume 1. If you are one of those tens of thousands of students of Japanese who have used Remembering the Kanji to learn how to write the characters and are eager to know what can be done to systematize the study of the readings, this book was designed for you.

Heisig provides a path to learning the bewildering complex of similar sounding Chinese pronunciations, which is essential to attainment of literacy and which so often bars the way to even the most diligent student…. Together, the 3-volume set of Remembering the Kanji by James Heisig has already become a modern classic, and for those who choose to follow the path that Heisig has so carefully mapped out, Volume II stands at the crossroads on the way to Japanese literacy for the self-taught learner.

James Pannozzi

postage included