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newyorkeric

Remembering Simplified Hanzi 1 and Remembering Traditional Hanzi 1

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yonglin

I kind of fall asleep when I think about this method, and I indeed do admire anyone who can put up with doing it for more than a week. Personally, I think all the rage just stems from the myth "Chinese only uses 3,000 characters so when you've learnt 3,000 characters, you can read it fluently".

It also seems extremely depressing and a waste of time to study only characters for months: after months of intensive study of Chinese you should be able to hold up a decent conversation, and watch and understand most TV dramas. I've never felt that the number of characters (字) I know is the limiting factor in understand Chinese, but the number of words (词). (I think we've had this discussion about 4,317 times on these forums before.) Many vocabulary in modern Chinese have very little to do with the original meaning of the characters (e.g., understanding "在乎“ from knowing "在” and "乎").

So if you actually want to learn to speak Chinese one day, I'd argue that learning characters in this way is nothing but a waste of time.

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JimmySeal
after months of intensive study of Chinese you should be able to hold up a decent conversation, and watch and understand most TV dramas

What do you mean by "intensive study" here? 8 hours a day? That's the only way I can imagine anyone reaching that level after a few months of study. Heck, at that rate, most people could finish these books in 5 weeks.

People have some glaring misconceptions about these books. Have you been following this discussion and read leosmith's posts, or did you just jump in at the end?

I'm going to reiterate something I just posted on another board yesterday. It's about the Japanese version, but I am certain that it applies just as much to Chinese.

The most important facet of the Heisig method, to me, and something that separates it from most other methods is this: One and only one unique name for every character. When a character has a name, it has an identity; it has a place in your brain.

People say this learning characters in terms of English words is inefficient; they get in the way of thought processes. Not true, I say. Just like a friend's name isn't always the first thing that pops into your head when you look at them, neither is this true for kanji that you've learned well. But if you need a name for your friend or a character, it's there.

唐 may not mean T'ang in all the compounds that contain it, but if you can remember that the word 唐突 consists of "T'ang" and "stab," and you have mnemonics connecting those words to their writing, then you know how to write 唐突.

Similarly, if you are trying to read 唐突 after having previously learned it, all you need to do is find the word in your head that consists of "T'ang" and "stab." Of course, most compounds are more transparent than this, and easier to remember if you have done Heisig's method.

With sufficient study, the sounds of the characters are tied into these very firmly rooted memories, and eventually replace the English keywords as the more dominant information.

I can assure you with utmost certainty that this method is not a waste of time.

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yonglin
What do you mean by "intensive study" here? 8 hours a day? That's the only way I can imagine anyone reaching that level after a few months of study. Heck, at that rate, most people could finish these books in 5 weeks.

From my own experience, it seems reasonable to say that you can start watching TV dramas and understand the story (not necessarily every word, but hey I don't even do that in English even though I'm attending university in England), take away some of the "ancient" kinds with very convoluted speech, after about 400 hours of structured study of Chinese (not including things like chatting on msn or qq or whatever, which isn't really that mentally demanding). If I got my calculations right, that's equivalent to 2.2 hrs per day for 6 months or 3.3 hrs per day for 4 months, not eight hours.

(Of course, every person is different, but we may perhaps assume that most people who attempt learning Chinese in the first place have some previous experience of learning a foreign language and know that they're not "hopeless cases".)

People have some glaring misconceptions about these books. Have you been following this discussion and read leosmith's posts, or did you just jump in at the end?

I have read the entire thread and I did look at the extract someone posted as well. :) It seems to me that it would be an excellent reference book if it included (1) the pinyin and (2) some sample words (词) in which the character is used. I find it particularly strange how one could understand how characters such as 然 or 于 are used in modern Chinese without being provided with some sample words/sentences.

My feeling is that a language is best acquired if all language skilled are developed simultaneously, since they all complement each other (the exception would be if you learn a language only for reading, for which I can see how this learning method might be beneficial). I could also see how one can make a case for focussing on passive language skills (reading, listening) in the initial stages and gradually move over to practicing the active language skills (speaking, writing).

I would, however, find it extremely interesting if someone could point to an empirical study showing that this is the most efficient way of learning Chinese. Until then, I'll stick to more fun methods. :)

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gato
It seems to me that it would be an excellent reference book if it included (1) the pinyin and (2) some sample words (词) in which the character is used.

That sounds like what the William McNaughton book does:

See http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0804835098/ref=sib_dp_pt/103-0535625-6701436#reader-link

Reading & Writing Chinese: Simplified Character Edition

William McNaughton

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JimmySeal

I would think that this book is too much of an undertaking for an empirical study to be done on it, but I can tell you from personal experience that it works, and that it's worth it.

Timothy Richardson (now the co-author of these books), wrote his doctoral dissertation on Heisig's method as it applies to Chinese learning. You can read it here:

http://www.fask.uni-mainz.de/inst/chinesisch/hanzirenzhi_papers_richardson.pdf

These books aren't for people who are in a desperate rush to use Chinese. Since most people probably take 4-7 years to learn to use the characters proficiently, it's worth spending a few months with these books if it makes the whole process more effective and less painful.

The book also says nothing about avoiding all other Chinese studies for the duration of the book. Other people have advocated it, but not either of the authors. I think watching dramas and movies is a great way to complement studying from these books, and studying Chinese in pinyin until the books are finished would not overly interfere with their progress.

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JimmySeal

Another person recently made this analogy about Heisig's methods and I think it's rather eloquent so I wanted to share it here:

--------------------------------

Here is my analogy: mastery of kanji is like a skyscraper. Everything is connected by floors and elevators and departments etc. It's a beautiful thing of logic. The average learner comes to an empty lot though without any plans and trys to build the skyscraper. They maybe start the interior decorating of the 15th floor. Then they wire a bit of the 3rd floor. Then they put in a few of the exterior windows, Etc. Everything is falling apart since it's not connected, a lot is in the totally wrong place, and it's all exposed to the elements and quickly erodes. The construction is a disaster.

Heisig provides not only the plans for what is to come, but lays the foundation erects the frame from which THEN everything else (readings, compounds, verb/noun usage, transitive/intransitive usage) is hung.

I got a degree in construction management, and even I, like the average non-builder, am always amazed at how fast building progress seems during framing. One day there's nothing, and the next a towering column of steel. It's impressive. But I know the majority of the work then comes inserting everything else. But here's the key: that frame is the most difficult and dangerous work. After it's erected, everyone else works in comfort knowing exactly where and how to place their work upon it. The concept of "framework" is of course derived directly from this.

Heisig has drawn blueprints for what most view as an impossibly complicated process. He says it's not at all and shows the user how to start with the foundation and frame, and everything else just slips inside: "remembering the meaning and the writing of the kanji--perhaps the single most difficult barrier to learning Japanese--can be greatly simplified if the two are isolated and studied apart from everything else."

-------------------------------------------

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mykal

I have used Heisig's "Remembering the Kanji, Volume 1" to help me remember Chinese characters. Given the various differences in characters the characters don't always map directly to Chinese, though for me, the greatest benefit has been learning the radicals that Heisig uses at various points to make remembering future characters easier.

Having those at my disposal has made learning new characters much easier. I also find it easier to learn new words because I often recognize the characters that make up the words I am trying to learn. When this occurs, I don't have to worry about remembering how to write the word, and I can just concentrate on learning how to pronounce it.

Finally, I would have to say that the hardest part about the method is coming up with decent stories and having a way to review what was learned. For RTK, Vol 1, I actually found a program that already had decent stories for each character. Using the stories from the program, I spent most of my Spring Break studying and finished the book with about 80-90% retention. For those characters that I didn't remember, I found that I could still remember the story behind the character upon seeing the character. I currently use a site called Reviewing the Kanji for maintenance of the Kanji that I know and am looking forward to diving into the Chinese version of the books.

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leosmith
It also seems extremely depressing and a waste of time to study only characters for months: after months of intensive study of Chinese you should be able to hold up a decent conversation, and watch and understand most TV dramas. I've never felt that the number of characters. I know is the limiting factor in understand Chinese, but the number of words.
I find it particularly strange how one could understand how characters such as 然 or 于 are used in modern Chinese without being provided with some sample words/sentences.

Once again, the Heisig method accomplishes the same thing as traditional methods of learning to read. It just does it in a different order:

Normal road to literacy:

1)learn words & their characters

2)read simple literature

3)repeat steps 1 & 2 many times

4)read normal literature

Heisigs road to literacy:

1)learn characters (Heisig)

2)learn words

3)read simple literature

4)repeat steps 2 & 3 many times

5)read normal literature

My feeling is that a language is best acquired if all language skilled are developed simultaneously

If you don't want to spend all your time learning reading/writing first, whichever method you choose, you don't have to, right?

It seems to me that it would be an excellent reference book if it included (1) the pinyin and (2) some sample words (词) in which the character is used.

If one didn't use the Heisig method, I think it would be a terrible reference book, even with the added info, since there are so many reference books out there that were designed to be reference books.

From my own experience, it seems reasonable to say that you can start watching TV dramas and understand the story (not necessarily every word, but hey I don't even do that in English even though I'm attending university in England), take away some of the "ancient" kinds with very convoluted speech, after about 400 hours of structured study of Chinese (not including things like chatting on msn or qq or whatever, which isn't really that mentally demanding). If I got my calculations right, that's equivalent to 2.2 hrs per day for 6 months or 3.3 hrs per day for 4 months, not eight hours.

To get to the 95% mark, I'm guessing one needs 5,000 to 8,000 words, good pronunciation/recognition, etc. That's gotta be 700-800 hours for me. But like you said, we all learn at diferent speeds.

I could also see how one can make a case for focussing on passive language skills (reading, listening) in the initial stages and gradually move over to practicing the active language skills (speaking, writing).

Yes, many people prefer these passive learning techniques. But many people fail miserably at them too, myself included.

I would, however, find it extremely interesting if someone could point to an empirical study showing that this is the most efficient way of learning Chinese.

Me too.

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gato
Once again, the Heisig method accomplishes the same thing as traditional methods of learning to read. It just does it in a different order:

I think what people are asserting is the boredom factor, which can lead to a high dropout rate. I assume that people who used the book for Japanese already knew some Japanese before starting the Heisig Method since Kanji is just a subsidiary part of Japanese (there is a lot of Japanese reading material written without Kanjis). They would have had some background/context for what they were studying. From what I read in the Heisig method boards, some already were conversationally fluent in Japanese but had trouble remembering the Kanjis.

However, if a beginning Chinese student starts with Remembering the Hanzis as a first book, he/she would be in a very different position. Without the context/background for the language, I wonder how many people would be able to sustain the months of steady memorizing that's needed to get through book.

Maybe the question the ask is are there any Japanese students who used RTK as their first book in Japanese and was able to finish it? If there are a lot of such students, then I'd be more convinced that this method would be workable for Chinese, as well.

Note, again, that I'm saying, like many diet plans, whether the method is effective largely hinges on the dropout rate.

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JimmySeal
Maybe the question the ask is are there any Japanese students who used RTK as their first book in Japanese and was able to finish it? If there are a lot of such students, then I'd be more convinced that this method would be workable for Chinese, as well.

Actually, I have a friend who arrived in Japan two years ago knowing no Japanese. Within a month, he started this book. It took him about 14 months to finish it, but he was studying Japanese through other methods all along (though faithfully avoiding other kanji studies).

Before his first year was out, he was conversationally fluent in Japanese. That's of course not a testament to Heisig's contribution to his learning, but it does show that he wasn't sitting around learning characters the whole time.

It's certainly true that a lot of people give up on this system before they finish. But Heisig never claims that his method is effortless. It requires work, and endurance, and motivation, much like other approaches. What makes it different is that much less work is wasted from forgetting new knowledge repeatedly.

To this end, it's important to have people around who have done the method and can vouch for its effectiveness. Denis Fabrice has created a website (http://kanji.koohii.com) that takes most of the hassle out of reviewing and has created a forum where people can exchange advice and motivate each other. I think that has been tremendously valuable for seeing many people through to the end of the book.

Note, again, that I'm saying, like many diet plans, whether the method is effective largely hinges on the dropout rate.

I don't really think this is true. The dropout rate is a good measure of something's ease, and RTH doesn't claim to be easy.

A lot of diet plans go along the lines of:

---------------

"Be the weight you always wished to be!*"

*plan requires eating nothing but 500g of spinach a day for the rest of your life

---------------

This method has a clear beginning and an end.

I think it's better to compare this to military boot camp: a lot of people give up before it's through, but for the ones who see it through to the end, it's an effective way of creating hardy soldiers.

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muscle
So if you actually want to learn to speak Chinese one day, I'd argue that learning characters in this way is nothing but a waste of time.

This statement seems misplaced. The book is about writing characters by hand, not about speaking. I could make a similarily ridiculous statement (no offense) by saying: If you want to be able to actually write Chinese characters by hand one day, I'd say that learning to speak is nothing but a waste of time. :roll:

I really envy those people who can come up with stories to remember the characters. Are you guys making detailed vivid images? I found myself with horrible, skeletons only. And during review, there are many keywords I look at and nothing jumps to mind. I can't seem to create a trigger in my head to get the story flowing back to me. And I also tend to think of the wrong story and then I write the wrong character. Even though I know the real character perfectly, I just can't create the links and triggers for a number of them.

The method assumes no prior knowledge of the language, and that would make it seem applicable to all. However, I think a modified approach might be more suitable for those who do know the language and just want to remember how to write. Yes, it is a little harder to learn the readings with the characters at the same time, but for those who already know the majority of readings, the pronunciation would make it easier to recall the character that you actually are being tested on. Perhaps a combination of pronunciation and meaning. That way if you remember the character from either the pronunciation or the meaning, or if the meaning clarifies the pronunciation for you then you would be sure to write the correct character and not another one.

I always hated it when I wrote the wrong character during my review. Then I would have to mark it as "failed" and it would go back to my increasing large stack of uknown characters. Now if I wrote the right character incorrectly, then that is a true mistake, meaning that I could not write the intended characater. I don't mind moving those back to characters that need review.

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trien27

I have read Remembering the Kanji. The method used is very funny and very incorrect. But as a Chinese, I find the Kanji hard to remember using the "frame" method. Try using your nose as a mnemonic to remember the character yun 云 "to say". That's only half effective? A nose has no connection to words: I thought I said it with my mouth (口 / 嘴巴)? Not with the nose 鼻子?

These guys wrote about the Japanese language. Not familiar with the Chinese language, and try to write a book on Chinese characters? What a laugh. Someone mentioned DeFrancis, who calls the Chinese language a myth. I wrote to DeFrancis and called him a myth. DeFrancis only writes most books in Pinyin. He assumes things and make them seem factual. He did write one book in Chinese? Someone even argued with me that he's a reputable professor of Chinese. BS. I call it BS to assume things and call someone's language a myth. Just like those who say they believe in God and keeps arguing with atheists, saying things like Atheism is a religion?!

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JimmySeal

@trien27

I'm having trouble understanding much of your post. What do you mean when you say RTK is "very incorrect?" The mnemonic stories aren't supposed to be accurate etymologies.

@muscle

I really envy those people who can come up with stories to remember the characters. Are you guys making detailed vivid images? I found myself with horrible, skeletons only. And during review, there are many keywords I look at and nothing jumps to mind. I can't seem to create a trigger in my head to get the story flowing back to me. And I also tend to think of the wrong story and then I write the wrong character. Even though I know the real character perfectly, I just can't create the links and triggers for a number of them.

I find that a very useful technique, when you can use it, is to tie pop culture references into your stories. For example, for the character 判 - judgment, composed of "half" and "saber," I thought of the episode of Seinfeld in which Kramer and Elaine are fighting over the ownership of a bicycle, and they consult Newman, who declares the only fair thing to do is to cut the bike in half, so naturally, my story went like this:

"Newman makes a judgment to slice a bike in half with a saber to give one half each to Elaine and Kramer."

Another useful trick I picked up from Heisig's stories at the beginning is to invent silly names to help create a trigger when you see the keyword. I was having trouble connecting 芸 to the word "technique" since there were other similar keywords, so I came up with this story:

"A magician, the Amazing Niquie, uses his famous technique to turn some flowers into rising clouds with a wave of his hands."

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Shadowdh

I have been following this thread pretty much as a layman... I dont have much knowledge when it comes to teaching methods and I certainly dont have the technical expertise or level in languages that many here do but from a laymans point of view I have to say that this book for me seems to be cumbersome at best and adds a step to the learning process thereby increasing the number of steps to successful learning... it also seems a bit round about and unwieldy in that you need to learn stories to write the characters...? (did I get that right) and once you have learned how to write them then you go back over all 2000 (or what ever number) and have to learn the pronunciation... and not only that someone mentioned you learn one unique name for each character...? I may have misunderstood the gist of that comment but isnt it the fact that many Hanzi have multiple meanings in english and if you learn one meaning only (or name) then wouldnt that cloud later learning of different names for the same character or by names do you mean pronunciation?

I prefer to learn the character, pronunciation, meaning and usage all at once, start basic, building a good foundation for that framework to go on and then build your tower... you certainly dont start in the building trade by building that skyscraper, rather you start with smaller buildings and then move to the more complex later... but then maybe I have misunderstood the ideas, as I am prone to do, old age and all...

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novemberfog

I too have been reading this thread as a layman--I learned my second language through trial and error mostly, no method helped at the end of the day. I am having trouble understanding the reason for this program actually. Perhaps if I had to pass a language proficiency test or if I had to briefly read reports to extract information only, well, I think this method would be useful.

I am curious, what is the author's stance about learning characters outside of the RTK program? For a beginning student the book probably goes along well because RTK will move rapidly ahead of a regular intro level course. But what about learners at a higher level who will be coming across new words and characters in their regular studies? Does this have any negative consequences on the program? I am curious about this.

If I have to keep going back and reviewing than really it is no different from flashcards with pinyin/english on the other side. For me, the biggest trouble I have is remembering how to write the characters on demand. If I am sitting in a meeting and someone is talking and I want to take notes I first hear the words, and then in my mind I recognize the sound and map it to a word, which I then have to map to characters. Perhaps my understanding of this program is flawed, but I don't see how this program would help anyone but language students trying to pass the JLPT or HSK or what not.

Would it be correct to say that this program is for beginner students mostly?

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gato
I too have been reading this thread as a layman

No need to say that you are a layman since I think we are all laymen here, though I could be wrong.

If I have to keep going back and reviewing than really it is no different from flashcards with pinyin/english on the other side. For me, the biggest trouble I have is remembering how to write the characters on demand.

Heisig method is just a systematic way of learning Hanzis/Kanjis with mnemonics that associate the shapes of the characters with stories. The idea is that the vividness of the stories would help one remember the shapes. The intent is indeed to help you remember how to write characters on demand.

Would it be correct to say that this program is for beginner students mostly?

I think this method doesn't really fit into a beginner/advanced spectrum because it addresses solely the memorization of character shapes. It doesn't address other language skills that are needed, such as grammar, vocabulary, or pronunciation. Thus, even someone who's fluent in the language but has not memorized the characters well enough for writing purposes can benefit from the method.

Actually, I'm doubtful as to its effectiveness for beginners because it is simply too demanding to expect someone with no prior exposure to Chinese characters to memorize 3000 characters in 4-8 months.

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JimmySeal

As gato just mentioned, this book isn't specifically targetted at beginners or otherwise, but rather at anyone who would like to be more familiar with the characters and be freed from the endless frustration of forgetting things due to having learned complex characters through rote memorization.

As novemberfrog pointed out, beginners do have the benefit of not needing the characters right away in order to advance their Chinese studies so they can dedicate part of their time to this book without largely conflicting with their other Chinese studies, but as gato also pointed out, there is the question of how many beginners can throw themselves into a program like this to learn 3000 characters for a language they're not even sure they like yet. It's a bit of a toss-up.

I am curious, what is the author's stance about learning characters outside of the RTK program?

The author's stance is that learners should avoid other character studies until they finish the book, at which point they are free to go about character studies any way they see fit. Heisig's book is an attempt to strip the characters down to the minimum information needed to initially become familiar with them, and to present them in an order that is conducive and efficient to learning their shapes. Learning other characters out of order and trying to attach readings and meanings midway through the book is deleterious to the process as I can attest.

I am having trouble understanding the reason for this program actually.

---

For me, the biggest trouble I have is remembering how to write the characters on demand.

The idea is that if you focus heavily on just what is essential for storing a character's shape in your head - the meaning and writing - they will forever be more easily accessible in your memory and this will ease the rest of your Chinese language learning path. This also improves reading and writing speed since, again, the characters are more familiar and organized and easier to retrieve. I'll quote from co-author Timothy Richardson's dissertation on Heisig's method here:

Among the more important general concerns about mnemonics are the following, together with my abbreviated responses:

Concern: Mnemonics clutter the mind.

Response: Aitken (cited in Kilpatrick, 1985), for one, thought so: “Mnemonics I have never used, and deeply distrust. They merely perturb with alien and irrelevant associations a faculty that should be pure and limpid” (p. 65). I have two observations: One is that without mnemonic elaboration the beginning CFL learner often seems to have a memory for characters that is not so “pure and limpid” as it is obscure and turbid. It might be argued that since mnemonics provide organization and meaning that do not exist in their absence, they unclutter, rather than clutter, the mind. A second observation is that mnemonic elaborations seem to fall away as more direct memory links are established through practice (Hulstijn, 1997; Kasper, 1993).

By organizing the characters' meaning and form through mnemonics and a cumulative method, the learner becomes free to then learn readings and other meanings without having to worry about simply recognizing the character in the first place.

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novemberfog

Interesting. I'll have t think on this and perhaps when the books are published I might ive it a shot.

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HerrPetersen

I have completed Remembering the Kanji I, without knowing any Japanese at all. And I still don't. Now I have started to learn Chinese. (before starting to learn Japanese I met my chinese girlfriend) Aside form learning basic grammar with an Assimil-book my learning procedure goes as follows:

1.) Learn around 500 Words with meaning and pinyin.

2.) Check for non-Remembering the Kanji words and learn them with Heisigs method.

3.) Learn to read and write the 500 words.

I have just completed my first cycle and I will continue to use this method even though I was a little disappointed to see, that

a) there were quiet a number of Hanzi that needed adaption from the Japanese version (especially the process traditional-->simplified)

B) there were quit a number of Hanzi that were not done in RtK (maybe RtH is a lot better for chinese)

The total number of Hanzi I had to learn was around 150, which took me 2 days with Heisig's method. If somebody is interested as to what 150 those are I can post a spreadsheet I created. (including Heisig stories in german language)

What I have to admit is that my reading of chinese characters is extremly slow (but with a near 100% correctness) but I can already feel that the speed is improving.

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HerrPetersen

As for Heisigs method being boring, I would like to summarize my boot-camp:

First I got a hand on the book interested by its claim to teach you 2000 kanji. I started and got absolutly hooked. I remember being able to write 博 on one of my first days and thought: whow, this looks already pretty cool, then after the first week or so I deciphered "pearl river bridge" (aka Heisig key-words "pearl creek bridge") after three weeks (with around 2+- hours of studying) I was able to read some sign in a chinese restaurant and impress the waitress (she was especially impressed with the knowledge of the radicals). So until word 1000 or so the motivation was really high. After that, a little trouble started with reviewing and forgetting old words. Due to university obligations I had to freeze the project after around 1600 words. With on and off, around a year later I finished the project with the help of the great "Reviewing the Kanji" site.

To summarize: At times it was hard, but overall I didn't have to force me but I much more was eager to learn. So my suggestion is: if you are not quite advanced at least give it a try, it sure worked for me. I especially recommend using a flashcard programm with spaced repetitions like mnemosyne, anki or pauker.

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