Renae Lucas-Hall's Reviews > The Kanji Code: See the Sounds with Phonetic Components and Visual Patterns

The Kanji Code by Natalie J. Hamilton
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it was amazing

This textbook is ideal for beginners, intermediate or advanced Japanese language learners. Japanese teachers will love this textbook as well! If you’re serious about learning Japanese of if you’re planning to live in Japan you need to read this book and integrate its principles into your studies. I completed a BA with a major in Japanese language and culture at university and I remember just how difficult it was to learn hundreds of kanji characters. Using flashcards, I used to write each kanji character on the front of a card and on the back was its meaning as well as the “on” and “kun” reading. I memorised these cards over and over again but now I know this was overly time-consuming and not the best way to learn all of those kanji. If I’d read this book at that time and applied all of its principles, I know I would have been able to learn so many more kanji characters a lot quicker and I would’ve enjoyed the process so much more.

The first chapter in Natalie Hamilton’s book is really fascinating. She has obviously spent a lot of time looking at the history of kanji, researching how people learn, and discovering how behavioural and psychological factors impact different people when they learn. Hamilton has also looked at the way Japanese, Chinese and Western students learn the Japanese language and the way the process differs in each of the three groups. Hamilton has obviously strived to find the best way to learn kanji. In this textbook she breaks down the whole process of learning Kanji, making it infinitely simpler for the learner, and in doing so all the characters become easier to memorise using what she calls “the kana code”, “the phonetic code” and “the visual code”.

The second chapter is when it all starts to make perfect sense! Hamilton recommends several ingenious methods that really do have the power to make your studies and your time in Japan a lot easier. You’ll be able to understand a lot more after you’ve read this book. You can forget about slaving away for hours on end rote learning kanji that you know will slip from your mind in a couple of days if you don’t see them all the time. In this chapter, Hamilton showed me how easy it is to instantly see the “on” reading in so many kanji simply by recognizing a katakana symbol inside a kanji character using "the kana code"!

I moved on to Chapter Three and I was blown away again when I discovered how many more kanji characters you can understand using "the phonetic code" if you learn the 150 phonetics Hamilton has set out really clearly in just a few pages. Chapter Four goes on to show you how you can learn hundreds more kanji just by visualizing or looking at the same trace elements in different kanji, the same geometric shape, the composition of the components, the structure of the lines in the kanji, and the components in a series within a kanji character. She calls this method "the visual code".

Hamilton explains all of this in her easy to understand book that is revolutionary in its approach. I do think you’ll grasp the principles in this book even quicker if you’ve done at least one year’s study of the Japanese language or if you’re familiar with the 46 katakana and hiragana symbols. However, I think most people who live in Japan get to know these pretty quickly so the next step, if you’ve reached that level, is to read this book and save yourself a lot of wasted time learning kanji if you’re only using more traditional methods.
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Reading Progress

March, 2019 – Started Reading
March, 2019 – Finished Reading
March 24, 2019 – Shelved

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