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Learning Kanji (Part 2)

Learning kanji (Part 1) reviewed a few books for those interested in learning Kanji. Part 2 reviews a couple more books plus other resources. In these two short articles, I have presented ideas and resources going more for variety than comprehensiveness. In some cases I have provided links to Amazon.com, but you can find the same and more books at other online sources and physical bookstores. Online you can try Amazon.co.jp and www.yesasia.com. If you live close to a Kinokuniya bookstore, I recommend paying a visit. There is nothing like leafing through a book and making your own judgement. Besides, the kind of serendipitous discoveries you can make in a bookstore are different from those you can make online. I like to browse both on- and off-line.

  • Subject Grouped 1016 Kanji in Context, ISBN 4-590-01043-7 This book includes the 1016 kanji taught to Japanese children in their first six years of school, plus several of their compounds. Unlike other books that group kanji by frequency or radical, this one presents them according to topics. Twenty chapters illustrate kanji by topics such as: Geography, Weather and Universe, Food, Drink, Cooking, Body and Health, Transportation, Law and Crime. Each chapter comes with three sections: Reference, Vocabulary, and Reading Excercises.
  • Kanji Fast Finder, ISBN 0-8048-3393-1
    You will love this book. It won't teach you kanji, but it will cut down how long it takes you to locate the 1,945 General Use Kanji in any dictionary, and in a big way. Trust me on this one: if you plan to use a dictionary, buy Kanji Fast Finder.
  • Kanji-a-Day is a website built around the needs of students of Japanese who want to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), but it is just as useful to anyone interested in the language and especially kanji. The site's features include: Kanji of the day, Kanji lists and quizzes, dictionaries (Japanese-English and English-Japanese), personalized kanji and vocabulary lists, and now also a chat room. The Kanji lists are divided into four levels, level four being the lowest. Counterintuitive, perhaps, but consistent with the JLPT classification of proficiency levels.
    The site requires you to become a member to access almost all its features. Membership is free, but they ask for more personal information that seems necessary. I mention this because the site has had a prominent "Website for sale" sign on it for a while, and there is no telling who will get your personal information once the site is sold. This said, I find that the functionality you get access to is worth it and this is definitely the best website of its kind I have found so far.
  • Electronic dictionaries
    There are many brands and models out there and most of them include similar functions: dictionaries (Engligh-Japanese, Japanese-English), Thesaurus, kanji dictionary with search by reading and stroke number, kanji stroke animated sequence and more. When functionality is comparable, choice comes down to look and cost. One word of advice. If you buy from Japan and you are not already proficient in the language, make sure you get your user manual in English. I had a friend of mine buy my Canon WordTank G50 in Japan, which saved me about 40%, but came with a Japanese manual. As a consequence, I got a lot less mileage from my electronic dictionary than I could have.
  • More on this subject at Learning Kanji (Part 1)