Personal life kept me away from this blog for a few days, but thankfully not away from my studies.  I’m still pushing pack kanji at 50/day, and making a plan of action for tackling Cracking the Chinese Puzzles by T.K. Ann. I have some concrete tips for building a study routine and for kanji-study in particular that have helped me stay organized and on track in the last few weeks. But in the interest of putting my money where my mouth is (and not my foot) I’m going to wait at least until I cross the 1000 kanji mark before stepping on my soapbox. So be patient…

However there is one piece of equipment that has proved its worth and deserves to be talked about: the Kanji Learner’s Dictionary from Kodansha. This compact J-E character dictionary is gold when you’re learning the kanji. It gives you the pen forms for the kanji, their exact meaning alone and in compounds, a short but comprehensive list of vocabulary for each, as well as the totally awesome SKIP method for indexing kanji. (I could do another post on the wonders of the SKIP method alone… once you try it you’ll understand why). Here’s an example page describing the character 水:


As a learner of kanji, the wealth of information here is amazing. I wish I had the time to look up every kanji I learn in the KLD, but unfortunately that’s not possible because of time constraints… why can’t Kodansha make an electronic version of this dictionary? I swear, it would be a hundred times more useful. But I digress.

What I typically do is learn a set of kanji from the primitives and keyword meanings given in Kanji ABC, then consult the KLD for those kanji that I have trouble remembering (about 20%, currently). For these troublesome kanji I see if the ABC keyword matches the large-type keywords from the KLD, and take a quick glance down the list of compounds and native-Japanese words. Usually there’s just enough entries to give me a better sense of the keyword meaning, and to inspire an imaginative story to help me remember it. At a 20% fail rate, there’s a lot of kanji I have trouble remembering. But so far, the KLD has saved my butt every time.


I should mention that I also own a copy of the NTC’s New Japanese-English Character Dictionary, which is like the KLD on steroids (over 8,000 characters!). I find I hardly ever open it up though… If I were doing serious J-E translation work, I imagine it would be incredibly useful. But for someone with the goal of learning Japanese to fluency, the Kodansha Kanji Learner’s Dictionary is all you need. I know in my case I’ll have made the switch to monodicts long before I’d use the NTC dictionary on a regular basis.

PS: This concludes my line of semi-advertising equipment posts.