Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sample movie - Pulp Fiction.

Some people over at Fabrice's awesome site have asked me to put up and entire movie example. So I thought I'd oblige with a short movie - Pulp Fiction. I use it for KOKU (sounds like cocaine), which has nine kanji with that onyomi reading. I'll be using my primitives here and italicize them.

Revelation: 告
Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) had a revelation. After being shot at, he's convinced it was "divine intervention" that saved their lives. So the scene is when they're in the diner talking about it. Jules is shoving a big cow into his mouth as part of his breakfast.

Cruel: 酷
There are so many scenes to choose from. Let's pick the scene where Vincent (John Travolta) is on the toilet, and Butch (Bruce Willis) finds him there about to shoot him. Normally I'd use the essential image of "shoving a big cow into his mouth", but it doesn't quite fit in here. So instead we replace Vincent here with a cow who's mouth is hanging open in surprise (a stunning display of anthropomorphism, if that helps). Butch splashes the cow with sake.

Country: 国
This one was easy for me. Vincent just got back from Amsterdam - a foreign country. So in the scene where they're talking about the "little differences", Vincent shows Jules something he got overseas: A glass encased jewel that's dripping. Weird.

Overcome: 克
Butch just beat somebody to death in a boxing match and now he's changing in the taxi. Let's pretend this is the first time we see the combination of a mouth on legs. I'd say to imagine Butch as a very talkative(mouth) man, who is stomping his legs down (this will be the essential image to use later). The taxi driver, Esmeralda, reaches back and stabs him with a syringe.

Valley: 谷
I was reminded of the scene in the car, where Vincent accidentally shoots the guy. This is a good example of when you're instantly reminded of a scene, but you don't know why. When it happens, just go with it.
In this scene, Vincent is holding an umbrella in his mouth. He's kinda drooling saliva (visualized as two drops), too. Gross.

Engrave: 刻
Vincent is cutting out an acorn shape with his katana from the table in the restaurant scene (Jack Rabbit Slim's) with Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman). The restaurant is engraved in the past, I suppose.

Black: 黒
Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) is black. I just had to pick a scene with him in it. So I imagine him handing Butch a computer that's on fire as payment for throwing the game (first scene we see them both).

Cereal: 穀
So what is Brad eating for breakfast? Big Kahuna burger? No, he's having cereal now. Specifically wheat cereal. He's also wearing a tiara. Jules, the awesome samurai that he is, has him [explicit wind + crotch].

Stone: 石
Somebody simply trips over a stone somewhere. I picked the scene where Mia Wallace is telling Vincent her joke.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

How to use this method.

I'll admit that I've written most of my posts for people who are familiar with Remembering the Kanji. Well if you're a beginner and you just want to know how it's done, this post is for you.

Resources
Everything you need is in this file mirror. It includes the following:

A list of kanji sorted by onyomi.
A list of components that make up the kanji (a file for components that are kanji themselves, and one for components that are not).
A font that is needed to view the kanji component list.

This list of kanji includes the 2045 kanji presented in James Heisig's Remembering the Kanji, and will be your main guide to learning kanji.

Memorize the components
After downloading the files, you have to at least be familiar with all of the components listed in the "kanji basics" and "kanji components" files before using my system. I've given them all suggested meanings already, but I'd recommend you change them to suit you best. (If you do change them, be sure to assign them meanings that are tangible and easy to imagine. Make sure objects not too big or too small.)

Start learning
Use the kanji list file and start learning kanji. Memorize one group of onyomi at a time and give that group a good movie (more on how to choose movies later). Be sure you use a Spaced Repetition program to review, I recommend anki for this purpose. As for how you would go about memorizing the kanji, I'd recommend you read these posts in this order for a complete understanding of how it works:
What is the Movie Method?
Ordering of the kanji, is it that important?
Sample movie - Pulp Fiction.

I was able to finish in at a rate of 50/day. But this is a little extreme. So don't worry if you do less than that a day, the important thing is to be doing it. And be sure to keep up your reviews.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Learning multiple onyomi with characters.

This a very simple procedure. When kanji has multiple onyomi, you incorporate a character from the movie associated with the reading into the scene. For example, when I remember two readings for "child" (the one with the kunyomi 'ko'), I learned it primarily as 'SHI'. So I put the kanji in my location and learn it. But it also has a reading of 'SU'. When this happens, I simply have to take a character from my movie for SU, and incorporate it into the scene to remember both readings. Simple and effective.

A different way would be to remember the kanji in both movies, but it's a bit weird remembering two locations for each kanji.

Added: So when I refer to a 'character' that you incorporate into the SHI movie from the SU movie, I mean a movie character. As in, a character played by an actor.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The two tiers of location.

When using two tiers of location to remember kanji, it becomes easy to learn them independent of each other while still maintaining the advantage of location based learning. The first location, the movie, is what allows the grouping of kanji by onyomi. The second location, the scene chosen within the movie based on character meaning, is a completely new innovation that allows kanji to maintain independence from each other while making it possible learn the onyomi and the kanji together.

The three most well known methods for remembering the onyomi are the Kanjichain method,
the Kanji-town method, and James Heisig's second book Remembering the Kanji II. I will compare my method with Kanjichain and Remembering the Kanji II only, because Kanji-town is essentially the same as Kanjichain.

Kanjichain, a step in the right direction
The idea of using "chains" to group kanji together was a great idea for many in the community. While the author intended for his method to be implemented to learn the onyomi with the kanji, it was not practical in application. Because of this, there are many people who use the kanjichain methodology after completing Remembering the Kanji.

There are two fundamental differences between my method and the Kanjichain method. These are: location vs. chaining and independence of kanji vs. dependence of kanji. While there is no doubt that using chain associations to group kanji together by onyomi is effective, I do doubt the the overall effectiveness of kanji being dependent on each other. Links can degrade which will lead to the loss of the rest of the chain, it can be time consuming to review kanji that aren't at the beginning of the chain, and it can be difficult to create an effective story that contains all of the necessary elements for kanji. (If anyone would like to comment and give their experiences in chaining or tell me how wrong I am about it, please do.)

By using location extensively, it is no longer impractical to learn the kanji in groups of onyomi, because the location is the only reason I am able to break down kanji into so many components. I'm not trying to remember a list of the components, just a scene. By adding a second tier, the location within the movie, everything "unlocks". It is no longer necessary to maintain a large and bloated mnemonic, and the onyomi are impossible to forget.

Remembering the Kanji II, signal primitives, and Christine_tham
Heisig's infamous second book, Remembering the Kanji, was a total letdown in comparison with this first book. It was entirely a brute force method to memorize the readings. But having never used it, I cannot say how effective or fast it is. It uses "signal primitives" to indicate readings, starting with pure groups that signal a reading, and advancing to groups with more and more exceptions. If you want a crash course in the phonetic components after completing Heisig's first book, this is it.

However, on the topic of phonetic components, I would say that doing my method to learn the kanji will give the ability to read phonetic components normally reserved for natives and scholars. Christine_tham, in the Reviewing the Kanji forums, has stated that one need only learn the first thousand joyo kanji with the ability to guess the readings of the rest. Ignoring the obvious stupidity of this claim, I will counter that I know the entire joyo list with their onyomi readings, and can guess the reading of an unknown character with the same accuracy she claims to have.

With all that said though, phonetic components are only good at reading faster. If you actively study them to the level of knowing EVERY one, it's just insane and won't help much. I already have a decent ability in reading phonetic components after completing this method, so I doubt I'll need to study them much more. But if you want the insane understanding Christine_tham advocates, it would take only a very small amount of extra studying to attain it.

Conclusions
When it comes to learning onyomi after having completed Remembering the Kanji (congratulations to all of you, by the way), I cannot say if my method would be faster than the three methods already out there. It's also important to note that side benefit of learning phonetic components will not apply to people who are not using this method to memorize kanji. While I will say that my method will probably be slightly more reliable for memory, I cannot endorse it for learning the onyomi exclusively unless somebody actually tests it and reports positive results. This is because the deciding factor for learning onyomi after completed Remembering the Kanji is not effectiveness, but speed.

Update: I said before that learning the phonetic components was exclusive to people who used this method for learning the kanji and not just the readings. However now that I think about it, I really can't say for sure. It's possible somebody dedicated could learn the phonetic components after completing RTK and reach the same level as I claim. I would encourage somebody to try and report how it goes.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Ordering of kanji, is it that important?

Until now, the assumption behind how Remembering the Kanji worked was in the order the kanji were presented. By systematically learning the very simple kanji that make up the complex kanji, one could make everything easier to remember.

"It will soon become apparent that the most critical factor is the order of learning the kanji. The actual method is simplicity itself. Once more basic characters have been learned, their use as primitive elements for other kanji can save a great deal of effort and enable one to review known characters at the same time as one is learning new ones." Introduction to James Heisig's Remembering the Kanji

I do not want to belittle the effectiveness of the order he presents, but the true brilliance of his book was the systematic deconstruction of the kanji. Being able to see any visual component of the character and immediately recognize it as something familiar. I myself can attest to this, having memorized kanji in an order that was of no benefit and sometimes even contrary to my efforts, since using this method requires learning kanji in groups of onyomi (learn all the kanji pronounced KAI as a group, for example).

The process to learning kanji out of order is a simple one, but requires preparation. The student must learn the visual components and assign them meanings before beginning any study of the kanji. The components to memorize are the basic and simple shapes that cannot be composed of other kanji, of which I have counted 209 so far. Memorizing these is an easy task, because the average Japanese student will be familiar with quite a few shapes already, and because the student can choose the meanings to suit their needs. I have a list of these components, and will gladly share it if I am able to find a place to host it.

Because the Movie Method places emphasis on locations to place images, instead of stories, it becomes a simple trick to learn kanji out of order. Combinations of kanji that appear together will earn an essential image that is reused in every kanji that it appears again. For example, in the kanji
for 'morning' [朝] there are four components (vs. Heisig, which would only give two). When I first saw this kanji, I had never seen the specific combination of components on the left before. But by breaking it down and creating mnemonic images based on groups of primitives, I created an essential image (for me, it's a stereotyped sun as a pillow with two large syringes sticking out of it) that I can reuse in other kanji. By doing this I may have four components, but it becomes moot because I only need to work with two essential images. It becomes apparent that the reason this works is precisely the same as why Heisig's order works. We both recognize common combinations of components, but we recognize them at different times. Heisig acknowledges his primitives by assigning them concrete meanings beforehand, I acknowledge them by assigning them concrete images in an informal way as I go along.

Here is a more complete example using Heisig's assigned meanings for the basic primitives. In the movie Ocean's Thirteen (my location for KAN) there is a scene where a character is packing his things in his car to leave a hotel. When he opens the trunk [幹], he has to use one hand because is syringed sun pillow is under his arm (his luggage, I suppose). Inside the trunk of his car however, there is an opened umbrella with potatoes pouring out onto the street. [I have learned that 'potatoe' is actually 'dry' as one of Heisig's primitives and as the kanji meaning. Memorizing all the components before knowing the kanji can be a little weird when explaining things.]

This entire scene is played out in my mind in only a fraction of a second that I created in mere moments. I only present it here as a logical story for understanding, because when I create stories I only think of how I can incorporate the component images into the scene that's already set up to play out. When I use scenes in my head to remember kanji, I need only add my kanji components to the scene that's already playing out, even if it's totally illogical.

Need some concrete examples?
Sample movie - Pulp Fiction.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

What is the Movie Method?

The Movie Method has it's roots in me trying to find a way to use Remembering the Kanji in a classroom setting. I had the idea that one could memorize all of the basic components that make up a kanji beforehand (as opposed to the restricted order of learning them systematically, as in Remembering the Kanji) and apply the mnemonics to remember kanji in an easy way. It was going to be a simple method where I would memorize the kanji and learn the readings using the vocabulary mnemonics.

After putting my method to the test, I began to realize how difficult it is to create a mnemonic image with so much information. Having an image for the onyomi, kunyomi, and kanji elements ended up being very convoluted and hard to maintain. It could take up to fifteen minutes to create a sufficient image for a single kanji that had up to eight different parts making it up. It was when I furthered my study into how the kanji worked that I realized how misguided this attempt was. I realized the kunyomi readings were best learned as vocabulary words, and how many kanji could share a single onyomi. It was in this spirit that I decided kunyomi were best learned and associated with kanji later and decided to focus on the onyomi.

Before even studying Japanese, I had a fairly good grounding in traditional mnemonics. Since the easiest thing in mnemonics is learning lists of ordered items, I had been exposed to chaining items and forming associations. I didn't like it. Eventually I dropped using chains and began using Dominic O'Brien's journey method for ordered items, which used location extensively, and his location based town method for remembering vocabulary unordered (which I adapted to my own use in the previous post). These to me were clearly more powerful than chaining/straight sound association. With these techniques in mind, I formed the idea of using a location to signal the onyomi pronunciation of a kanji.

Every year there is a competition held called the "World Memory Championships". In this competition, contestants will memorize lists of words, faces with names, random strings of numbers, and the order of cards in a deck, among other things. The champions, including Dominic O'Brien, will all tell you that having a location is essential to memorizing information. When memorizing cards, they place mnemonic images in a journey. When memorizing faces, they choose a location based on who the person remind them. When memorizing numbers, they place mnemonic images representing the numbers in a journey. Brain scans reveal that when using these mnemonics, the parts of the brain associated with spacial navigation will become very active. It should be no surprise why I choose to use location extensively in remembering the kanji.

By combining the idea of breaking down the components with the idea of using a location to signal pronunciations, I had a workable method for learning onyomi with the kanji. I compiled a list of components that couldn't be made up of simpler ones or kanji, and memorized them over a week on a trip to California I took. But what locations should I use? The answer became evident when I sat down to memorize my first group, ka. I was reminded of Fight Club. The first kanji I learned, "add", I put where Brad Pitt was giving his lecture on "you do not talk about fight club". The location within the movie would serve to indicate the meaning, which made it unnecessary to incorporate the meaning into the kanji mnemonic, and the movie itself would provide the onyomi pronunciation. This makes it impossible to forget the onyomi if you can remember the kanji.

By using locations the way I do, it becomes much easier to remember the components of the kanji. Using stories are no longer needed, as the only thing you have to do is place the components together in an image and play out a scene in your mind. These are far easier to come up with than trying to think of stories.

Having memorized 1825 kanji (so far) at the rate of 50/day using this method, I am quite happy with my results.
Update: I have completed memorizing the Joyo list as of 8/7/08. It took me fifty days total to finish.

Ready to try it out? Take a look at this post.