RTK Method - The best way to learn Kanji

Kanji, the ideograms in Japanese that were imported from China are one of the most frightening things to learn. There are more than 2000 kanji and you need to learn at least 1200 to have a certain fluency in Japanese. Many are totally lost and have no idea how to learn Japanese kanji, in this article we will talk about one of the best methods to learn that language, the famous method RTK - Remembering the Kanji.

RTK (remembering the Kanji) is a three volume book written by James Heisig intended to teach the 3007 frequent kanji used in the Japanese language. The Book is available in several languages besides English, including Portuguese. In Brazil it is sold by the name Kanji Imagine to Learn. James Heisig created his own method and managed to learn more than 3000 Japanese language characters in a few months. He shares everything in this book that we’ll cover in this article.

We made a recent video talking a little bit about RTK:

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What is the purpose of the book - RTK

The purpose of this book is to teach Kanji in a totally different way than JLPT. In this book they do not teach traits in the traditional way. Here they teach using Radicals and parts composed of ideograms to facilitate the understanding of even unknown ideograms. The aim of the book is to make sure that you do not forget the meaning and traits of Kanji using imaginative memory.

Rtk - remembering the kanji - imagine to learn

The aim of the book is to provide the Japanese student with a simple method to correlate the writing and the meaning of Japanese characters, so that both aspects are easy to remember. This method offers a new perspective for learning kanji, showing how to overcome the complexities of the Japanese writing system, pointing out its basic elements and suggesting ways to reconstruct the meanings from these elements. Even students of advanced Japanese usually use and know the method.

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The method requires the student to invent their own stories in order to associate the meaning of the keyword with the written form. The book presents detailed stories, and over time less detailed stories. This is to encourage the student to use the stories as a practice to create their own. The method seems to be quite random, but it requires that you really know the components and meanings of the ideograms before trying to create your own stories and reconstruct the elements. That is why the book is dedicated to explaining each radical and kanji that serves as a component.

Does using the RTK mean abandoning the JLPT?

JLPT separates kanji by frequency of use, while RTK values the strokes, radicals and kanji that are used as components. In my opinion, the order in which Kanji is learned makes no difference, because I always recommend the person to learn Japanese according to their own needs.

It is a fact that the best way to learn kanji is to use its radicals and components together with your imagination. It doesn't matter if you are going to follow the JLPT learning order or your own order. So we came to the conclusion that the RTK method can be applied together with any study method.

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The jlpt- nihongo nouryoku shiken - Japanese proficiency exam

Japanese students who are at a very advanced level try to use this method. Even if you have learned kanji using stroke order and its ON and KUN readings, it is important to learn kanji using the RTK method because each kanji has a story that will help you to associate other related kanji. We recommend using all methods together for a more comfortable experience.

RTK Method Examples

Let's see a list of the method being applied in a simple way below:

- This is the ideogram of affection, liking and love. It is composed of the kanji woman (女) + child (子), we can assimilate the love of a mother for the child or the son for the mother to remember the meaning and essence of kanji. A friend of mine has remembered it in a different way, he thinks that a man likes a young woman, since 女の子 means girl.

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- That's the big ideogram. It is composed of the person character (人) with a dash that represents the arms. She is taking up a large space with her legs and arms extended, so it means big.

- This ideogram means Gordo. He is the simple ideogram of large with a dash underneath. We can imagine a fat man tired with his tongue hanging out or with a lot of sweat.

- This kanji means cliff, I think that there is no need to reason why, just look and imagine.

- This kanji means stone, it is the junction of cliff (厂) + mouth (口). To remember and imagine this kanji we can imagine a cave under the precipice that is closed by a large rock. It is worth remembering that this ideogram is used for any stone size.

- This is the kanji of seeing and looking. It is the junction of the eye (目) and leg stem (儿) ideograms. This clearly shows large eyes attached to one leg, represents the ability to see.

Rtk - remembering the kanji - imagine to learn

Where to get the RTK Book?

This book is essential for anyone who wants to delve deeper into the meanings of Japanese ideograms and learn them in a more simple and fun way. We can find these books for sale at Amazon Brazil itself. We will leave the links below for you to buy if you wish, just click and buy.

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Unfortunately Volume 2 and 3 does not seem to be available in Portuguese, but don't worry, Volume 1 already covers more than 600 ideograms and leaves you able to naturally discover meanings and components of ideograms that you have never seen in your life.

It is worth making it clear that the book alone will not make you master knowledge of all the ideograms of the Japanese language. No book, course or teacher can make you fluent unless you dedicate yourself! Have you had a chance to read this book? Leave your opinion in the comments and share the article with friends.