Saturday I received all 4 of the “Remember the Kanji” books. Three of the books are designed to help a Japanese learner master kanji and one is focused on learning hiragana and katakana. I will be posting reviews on all of these books once I have had a little more time to evaluate them. I started reviewing the book on learning kana and it reminded me of something I think is important in learning Japanese; reviewing the basics.
The Japanese language, or any language for that matter, is kind of like building a house. In order to have a strong house you need a good solid foundation. To learn the more advanced grammar rules of Japanese you need to have a good understanding of the basic ones. I first realized how important this was as a study abroad student in Japan. To decide what Japanese classes students should be put in, we were required to take a test that included various grammar patterns, kanji, as well as writing an essay. Since I hadn’t studied nearly at all during the summer, my Japanese ability wasn’t at it’s best. In turn, I ended up in a Japanese class was covering material I had already learned.
At first I was a bit annoyed. I felt I was wasting my time in Japan relearning things I had already studied. Luckily, the class progressed at a pretty fast rate and we eventually got into some material. The thing that surprised me though was how much my Japanese had improved by gaining a stronger grasp of the the basics I had already studied. The review helped set them more firmly in my mind and I didn’t have to “think” about how to use them.
I think there are two very simple methods to making sure you understand the basics. The first is to make sure you study them well and repeatedly until you have a very strong grasp. Practicing them in conversation is a very key part of this.The second part is to occasionally review material you feel very confident with. I am always surprised the things I realized I have forgotten when I do this. I also find that I can usually “re-learn” a structure or word much better after I have been using it it for a while. When I first learn something it is foreign and I struggle to grasp it. When I review it I am learning about the details of something that is familiar to me.
I encourage you to make sure you have a firm understanding of the basics and occasionally review them. You may feel that you are wasting your time, but you may be surprised what you will learn. The better understanding you have the better your Japanese will be.