The Big Ass Superior Thread of Learning Japanese

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RevenantKioku

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These threads come in bunches, but I figured I'd just throw all this info out in one nice big post that will be updated.

Remembering The Kanji
Look below for important comments on Heisig's books.

My kanji writing is ridiculous after finishing the first book. I can do 2000+ kanji now. Can I read them all? No, but I can write those 2000 damn fine and have actually corrected Japanese people lately. Lawl.
This is the most important thing you can do to improve your Japanese. Trust me on this one. Get this book.


All Japanese All The Time
http://www.alljapaneseallthetime.com
Dude didn't live in Japan and got fluent in 18 months. I can't vouch for the truth of that or his sanity, but the basic underlying message is correct. You won't get better at Japanese by not doing things in Japanese. You also don't need classes or textbooks. See bottom of this post for more explanation of how I use this ideology.

Anki
http://ichi2.net/anki/download/index.html
A great SRS (Spaced Repetition Study) program. I use it daily to do my kanji repetitions and sentence repetitions.
Anki doesn't do anything itself, you have to make the decks. It does come with some examples, like the Heisig. But using the Heisig deck implies you're using Heisig's method. (Remembering the Kanji.)
DON'T JUST OPEN UP THE HEISIG DECK AND TRY TO STUDY.
HERE IS AN EXAMPLE OF THE BOOK'S FIRST FEW CHAPTERS.

Tae Kim's Guide to Japanese Grammar
http://www.guidetojapanese.org/
Excellent grammar explanation site. Approaches from a "don't think about Japanese sentences as English equivalents" mindset and really cleared up a lot of fog for me.

Dictionaries of Japanese Grammar

Both give clear explanations with multiple example sentences and show you a good amount of "You'd think you can do this, but you'd be wrong." examples as well.

Other Resources

Podcasts
Yomiuri Online Podcast: http://podcast.yomiuri.co.jp/

Online Dictionaries
Yahoo's Japanese-Japanese Dictionary http://dic.yahoo.co.jp/
Jim Breen's WWWJDIC http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~jwb/wwwjdic.html

Dictionary Software
JEDict (OS X only) http://www.jedict.com/

Kanji Sono Mama Rakubiki Jiten

So good, I bought another DS.
Amazon
Play-Asia

My Daily Schedule
I work and am busy as fuck. I also live in Japan, but that won't teach me everything.
1) Kanji reviews.
I write out the kanji entirely. Go from Heisig Keyword to kanji. Do not bother going the other way. The keyword really isn't as important as you might think. You'll realize this later.
Example:

Keyword is tempt. So I have to think of my story for this as I'm not really fast on this word yet. Okay. I imagine a really good looking prostitute tempting me with the most luscious mouth I've ever seen to give me head. Oh yeah, I generally use fucked up stories. But that's just me. I physically write out the kanji.

And I got it right! On the left is the mouth. On the right is "prostitute." Not one of Heisig's words, but he recommends you make things that work for you. The right part shows up often enough so I did this. The top is "license" and the bottom is walking legs. Thinking of countries where prostitution is legal, I think of licensed street walkers. And there you go. I remember the Kanji.
If I forgot it it gets a 0. This resets all progress on learning the character and you're back at the start. If I made a mistake, it gets a 1 and I see it again in 10 minutes. (Later on for ones you've been learning for a while the delay is a bit longer.) If I got it after a bit of thinking I'd give it a 2 and see it again in 7 to 12 hours. A 3 if I only struggled a little and I'd see it in 4 to 6 days. A 4 is for when I get the sentence instantly and I wouldn't see it again for 9 to 11 days. I got it instantly this time so a 4 it is.
The important thing is that these times scale (except for 0) based on how many times you have correctly done the kanji. This is the "spaced repetition" part. And it keeps it down so now I only really have maybe 60 kanji to do a day.

2) Sentence reviews
Sentence reviewing is kinda wonky at this point. Basically for me, I write out 1/3 of the sentences I'm reviewing. I read it out loud. If I can't do this, I fail the review.

Example:

Here is Anki showing me a sentence.
I couldn't remember the reading of 丁寧, but everything else was cool.

So, I graded this a 1. This means I made a mistake, and the sentence will be shown to me again in 10 minutes. I'm much more lenient on sentences than I am on Kanji. You don't want to have a 100% "THIS IS THE ENGLISH TRANSLATION." but only a basic idea of what it means. The goal is to eventually go to just Japanese only. That means, instead of the English "translation" there would be an explanation in Japanese that you already understand.

3) Daily things
I turn the TV on as soon as I get home and leave it on while cooking dinner. Don't live in Japan? Yomiuri News has a podcast. Monday through Friday. It's about fifteen to twenty minutes. Just listen to it.
I play all my games in Japanese now. I write down the occasional word that I don't know. I later look it up in a dictionary and get example sentences that are used in my sentence reviewing.

More on Sentences based Stuying
You can read a lot at the AJATT site but let me paraphrase.
The idea is this. What better way to learn proper Japanese than exposure to proper Japanese? So that's why you watch a lot of Japanese TV and movies(You know how to find it), listen to Japanese music, read Japanese books and manga and play games in Japanese. This way it is interesting, is material you like and you don't get bored.
So, studying off of sentences works like this.
To start, find a good J-E dictionary. I use the one built into OS X. Grab a word you found in something and look it up. Find example sentences. Put those into your SRS. The "question" will be the sentence with kanji and all. The "answer" is the reading and the example sentence in English. But when reiewing don't worry too much about remembering the exact English "meaning". Remember that it is a basic idea of what the Japanese means.
Later on, you copy sentences straight from movies/games/books. But since you don't have a English equivalent sentence, you want to explain it in Japanese. So you look up the words in a Japanese/Japanese dictionary. You get a little circular at times looking up definitions to definitions. But then it all helps to give you a better grasp.

OH NOES! HEISIG DOESN'T TEACH ME READINGS! THEREFORE I WILL SAY THIS IS HORSESHIT!
Wrong.
Look, to get a grasp on the kanji you need to read and write them. Right? Okay. Now how did the Japanese kids learn them? Rote memorization and daily exposure to Japanese. How old are you? How much time do you have to dedicate to writing out kanji? That's what I thought. Pick up Heisig's book or even the sample PDF. READ THE INTRODUCTION. Don't just jump into it.
The idea for this book is to use the imagination and the convenience that most kanji are made up from other kanji or other similar groupings of strokes to work with keywords to build up "stories" for remembering them.
The process works like this in your head.
Keyword -> Remember a visual story -> Remember the parts of the kanji -> Remember how to write the kanji.
Over time and studying with an SRS such as Anki, your brain gets down to Keyword -> Kanji. They become intimate to you and you know the Kanji and how to write it.
So what does this gain you? You can't read, right?
No, but you already have down a significant portion of 2042 kanji. You can write them. And after this everything becomes in-context learning. I just looked at a container of juice I have. 野菜 is on it. Now let's pretend I don't know what it means. But I look it up using Rakubiki Jiten. 野菜 is pronounced やさい. Oh hey, I know that word already. It means vegetables! And thanks to Heisig I know how to write those kanji too. All I needed was a use for them. And now if I need to study what this word means I don't need to bother learning how to write these characters I know them already. All I had to learn was how to read them together. And since in Japanese a lot of the readings depend on what's placed with what instead of bothering studying and guessing, learn right the first time and then you'll be able to guess with better accuracy as time goes on.

I will continue to update this main post with other materials I discover. Questions are welcomed. Veterans, resources you use, please.
 

clav

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RevenantKioku

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Another important thing. Get the fuck away from romaji as soon as possible.
It's not a "crutch" and it's not "well, just wait until I get down hiragana and katakana" because you can get them both down in a weekend and with some reviewing have it done in a week or two.
Romaji is like replacing your legs with dildos. You're just fucking yourself.
 

clav

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RevenantKioku said:
Another important thing. Get the fuck away from romaji as soon as possible.
It's not a "crutch" and it's not "well, just wait until I get down hiragana and katakana" because you can get them both down in a weekend and with some reviewing have it done in a week or two.
Romaji is like replacing your legs with dildos. You're just fucking yourself.
I got them down within two days over the summer back in 2006.

Wow that Kanji book is really expensive. Do you suggest any other alternatives?
 

Rentahamster

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Hey, nice list.

One of the resources I like to go to when I can't seem to find the meaning of something is the website http://www.alc.co.jp/index.html

It has a lot of obscure definitions for words and phrases (scientific and technical jargon as well). You can also toggle between settings where it gives you the furigana reading for the kanji used in the definitions.

In addition to those books you listed (which I also highly recommend), I found this one to be quite helpful as well when I was in past the beginner level but not quite advanced yet: http://www.amazon.com/Making-Sense-Japanese-Textbooks-Kodanshas/dp/4770028024/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1201425135&sr=8-2

It's by Jay Rubin, a Japanese Lit professor at Harvard. It's not a textbook or manual persay, but rather a series of chapters on certain quirks about the Japanese language explained in a way that my illuminate things for Western-thinking brains.

Also, this: http://pepper.idge.net/japanese/
 

Blackace

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The Dictionaries of Japanese Grammar are by far the most useful things I have among all of books of studies... get these if you really want to get a finer understanding of why sometimes you'd make sentences in certain ways and other times another.
 

Blackace

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RevenantKioku said:
Another important thing. Get the fuck away from romaji as soon as possible.
It's not a "crutch" and it's not "well, just wait until I get down hiragana and katakana" because you can get them both down in a weekend and with some reviewing have it done in a week or two.
Romaji is like replacing your legs with dildos. You're just fucking yourself.
can't be said enough learn the ganas. You open so many doors once you do that. A lot of things are written with furigana so you can learn a ton of kanji but just reading..
 

RevenantKioku

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Blackace said:
The Dictionaries of Japanese Grammar are by far the most useful things I have among all of books of studies... get these if you really want to get a finer understanding of why sometimes you'd make sentences in certain ways and other times another.
Yeah, it is great. I dislike that book 1 has romaji but it's so good I make an exception for it. The "Related Expressions" for grammar points has cleared up soooooo much for me.
 

Rentahamster

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Blackace said:
The Dictionaries of Japanese Grammar are by far the most useful things I have among all of books of studies... get these if you really want to get a finer understanding of why sometimes you'd make sentences in certain ways and other times another.
Yep. They're one of the best bang for your buck books out there. Not that expensive. You can probably grab both for around 50 bucks. http://www.amazon.com/Dictionary-Basic-Japanese-Grammar/dp/4789004546

Must-have if you're cereal about your Japanese studies.
 

clav

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RevenantKioku said:
Yeah, it is great. I dislike that book 1 has romaji but it's so good I make an exception for it. The "Related Expressions" for grammar points has cleared up soooooo much for me.
Do you have any premade Japanese stacks to use in Anki?

Would you mind uploading your files to Megaupload or Rapidshare please?
 

Rentahamster

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RevenantKioku said:
Yeah, it is great. I dislike that book 1 has romaji but it's so good I make an exception for it. The "Related Expressions" for grammar points has cleared up soooooo much for me.
IIRC, isn't the Japanese text right above the romaji?
 

RevenantKioku

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Anki comes with a Heisig deck for book one.
As for the sentences, the idea is that you do that on a personal level. Let me clarify that in the OP.
Rentahamster said:
IIRC, isn't the Japanese text right above the romaji?
Oh yeah, it is. But the fact that it's there at all annoys me.
 

Blackace

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RevenantKioku said:
Anki comes with a Heisig deck for book one.
As for the sentences, the idea is that you do that on a personal level. Let me clarify that in the OP.

Oh yeah, it is. But the fact that it's there at all annoys me.
let it go... :lol
 

RevenantKioku

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Blackace said:
let it go... :lol
My hate for romaji is strong! :D
I dunno, I just process things differently in my head when I see things like さけ and sake.
sp0rsk said:
I want a good Kanji deck for Anki.
How do you intend to study? I really 100% recommend Heisig. Three months, I can write 2000 kanji. So good.
Now I see words, look up the meaning and they stick a lot faster. And I'm slowly getting better at guessing readings.
 

Blackace

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RevenantKioku said:
My hate for romaji is strong! :D
I dunno, I just process things differently in my head when I see things like さけ and sake.
sure but it is there for a reason. And just read the Japanese text! :D
 

sprsk

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RevenantKioku said:
My hate for romaji is strong! :D
I dunno, I just process things differently in my head when I see things like さけ and sake.

How do you intend to study? I really 100% recommend Heisig. Three months, I can write 2000 kanji. So good.
Now I see words, look up the meaning and they stick a lot faster. And I'm slowly getting better at guessing readings.
I intend to study by shrug. Whatever gets my 漢字力 up. I'd like to be able to write, but I kinda wanna read first.

I'm to the point where seeing just the English meaning confuses me. I need something that shows me the Japanese then the answer in kana and then English.
 

Red Scarlet

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I'm gonna grab the anki thing, hope it's cool. But will it be at all useful to anyone like me that knows literally no grammar and just some (very) random words and the ganas?
 

RevenantKioku

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sp0rsk said:
I intend to study by shrug. Whatever gets my 漢字力 up. I'd like to be able to write, but I kinda wanna read first.
It may seem a little silly to do all the writing first and no reading, but it really, really works.

Breaking down and remembering the writing of the kanji and using that with visual/story memory like Heisig recommends really gets them stuck in your head. With an hour a day, sometimes more, sometimes less, I got book 1 done in 3 months. And like he talks about, you're not cramming your head with all this information at once. You're dividing and conquring. And once you know the kanji and can recognize them as more than a "blob of lines" the readings really start to take care of themselves. It blows my mind that this actually happens but it has so far on many occasions.
 

RevenantKioku

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Red Scarlet said:
I'm gonna grab the anki thing, hope it's cool. But will it be at all useful to anyone like me that knows literally no grammar and just some (very) random words and the ganas?
Anki doesn't do anything itself, you have to make the decks. It does come with some examples, like the Heisig. But using the Heisig deck implies you're using Heisig's method. (Remembering the Kanji.)
 

sprsk

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The thing is I already know like 400 kanji already. My actual vocabulary is >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Kanji reading skills, it's easy to remember them, as long as I know the readings.
 

RevenantKioku

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sp0rsk said:
The thing is I already know like 400 kanji already. My actual vocabulary is >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Kanji reading skills, it's easy to remember them, as long as I know the readings.
I knew about that much when I started RtK. Don't worry about that.
And with the vocabulary being above your kanji reading skills that makes this method all the better. Because when you see words in their kanji form and you know the kanji, it's easier to make it stick. My reading speed probably doubled after finishing RtK and that was before starting other vocab studying.
 

clav

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Note for Vista users for Anki: Set the program to run as Admin always (You can correct this using the Compatibility Tab under the program's properties).
 

Red Scarlet

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RevenantKioku said:
Anki doesn't do anything itself, you have to make the decks. It does come with some examples, like the Heisig. But using the Heisig deck implies you're using Heisig's method. (Remembering the Kanji.)
So I guess I'm SOL kinda then. :(
I chose the hesig thing though.
 

Jake.

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i can read/write kana fine but i know zero kanji and i can't speak or write (as in sentences) very well at all. i've kinda lost motivation even though i still have a huge interest in japan itself.
 

sprsk

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This doesn't show readings. Anger!

The word "I" comes up, and I write the kanji for watashi in the air with my finger and it's like NO SIR it's the kanji for われ and doesn't bother to even tell me that, I had to go look it up.
 

RevenantKioku

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sp0rsk said:
Yes! Good!
You'll be wasting your time.
Here's an excerpt from Heisig. First few chapters.
But basically, you want to actively recall the kanji not one of the possibly many meanings it has.

sp0rsk said:
This doesn't show readings. Anger!
Heisig doesn't teach readings in book one. Just writing. Like I said, if you're doing this without reading Heisig's book this wont work for you. I'm busy now but I can go into why this is a good thing in a while.
The keyword Heisig gives 私 is private. Ugh, people are jumping into this too fast. Let me clarify above.
 

clav

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Wait... so what is the best way to learn Kanji with the pronunciations?

I suppose I need to find the Heisig Vol. 2 deck for Anki huh?

Oh I see. It includes the Japanese Language Preparation (? I think) Test words for vocab and has Kanji for them, too. 4 is beginner's level.
 

Red Scarlet

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How do you practice writing? I did about 242 of the heisig before I stopped for today..pretty unspectacular so far.

Mature cards: 0 (0.00%)
Young cards: 242 (11.85%)
Unseen cards: 1800 (88.15%)

Correct mature cards: 0.0% (0 of 0)
Correct young cards: 28.6% (10 of 35)
Correct first-seen cards: 19.8% (48 of 242)

lol I'm awful.
 

RevenantKioku

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OH NOES! HEISIG DOESN'T TEACH ME READINGS! THEREFORE I WILL SAY THIS IS HORSESHIT!
Wrong.
Look, to get a grasp on the kanji you need to read and write them. Right? Okay. Now how did the Japanese kids learn them? Rote memorization and daily exposure to Japanese. How old are you? How much time do you have to dedicate to writing out kanji? That's what I thought. Pick up Heisig's book or even the sample PDF. READ THE INTRODUCTION. Don't just jump into it.
The idea for this book is to use the imagination and the convenience that most kanji are made up from other kanji or other similar groupings of strokes to work with keywords to build up "stories" for remembering them.
The process works like this in your head.
Keyword -> Remember a visual story -> Remember the parts of the kanji -> Remember how to write the kanji.
Over time and studying with an SRS such as Anki, your brain gets down to Keyword -> Kanji. They become intimate to you and you know the Kanji and how to write it.
So what does this gain you? You can't read, right?
No, but you already have down a significant portion of 2042 kanji. You can write them. And after this everything becomes in-context learning. I just looked at a container of juice I have. 野菜 is on it. Now let's pretend I don't know what it means. But I look it up using Rakubiki Jiten. 野菜 is pronounced やさい. Oh hey, I know that word already. It means vegetables! And thanks to Heisig I know how to write those kanji too. All I needed was a use for them. And now if I need to study what this word means I don't need to bother learning how to write these characters I know them already. All I had to learn was how to read them together. And since in Japanese a lot of the readings depend on what's placed with what instead of bothering studying and guessing, learn right the first time and then you'll be able to guess with better accuracy as time goes on.
 

RevenantKioku

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Red Scarlet said:
How do you practice writing? I did about 242 of the heisig before I stopped for today..pretty unspectacular so far.

Mature cards: 0 (0.00%)
Young cards: 242 (11.85%)
Unseen cards: 1800 (88.15%)

Correct mature cards: 0.0% (0 of 0)
Correct young cards: 28.6% (10 of 35)
Correct first-seen cards: 19.8% (48 of 242)

lol I'm awful.
Look at Heisig's sample PDF.
You practice writing by physically writing them out, haha.
 

Red Scarlet

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RevenantKioku said:
Look at Heisig's sample PDF.
You practice writing by physically writing them out, haha.
Oh oops, was thinking I could draw in it and it would grade. I will look at that tomorrow. Is it set up the good way? It says the English in blue and I guess the kanji then say if I remembered it or not.


..some of the words that are in English I've never heard of.
 

Hootie

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Definitely interested in this...thanks for making this thread! It's pretty awesome

The only thing is that I'm currently learning italian in HS, and I don't know if I want to also try to learn ANOTHER language on top of that.
 

iidesuyo

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I'm now halfway through this book



and I feel that my Japanese finally gets to a level where I can play Japanese games.

I didn't use a special method... just repeating Kanjis day after day after day.


The only thing is that I'm currently learning italian in HS, and I don't know if I want to also try to learn ANOTHER language on top of that.
My feeling is that once you've learned one language learning another one is not that difficult. I learned English first, then French and Latin, and now Japanese. Learning English was the hardest part in my opinion, even though the language itself is rather easy (when compared to French).

The problem is that your skills will become rusty when you don't use the language, but two weeks of intensive learning and you're back.
 
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The language is hard for me to grasp. It's hard taking Japanese on top of 12-15 hours of other classes. We simply do not have the time to go over everything in class either. It's Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for 50 minutes and we barely have enough of time to graze over 3/4 of the chapter. Kanji is almost impossible for me.
 

clav

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Absinthe said:
The language is hard for me to grasp. It's hard taking Japanese on top of 12-15 hours of other classes. We simply do not have the time to go over everything in class either. It's Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for 50 minutes and we barely have enough of time to graze over 3/4 of the chapter. Kanji is almost impossible for me.
Are you serious?

I'm taking 21 hours worth of classes per week.

On top of that, I have 12-14 hours of work per week, and I still have time for studying Japanese, hanging out with friends, playing video games, and more.
 

Zefah

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RevenantKioku said:
Look at Heisig's sample PDF.
You practice writing by physically writing them out, haha.
It's nice that you can write them and understand their meaning in English, but I don't see how that really helps your Japanese. It's absolutely criminal, in my opinion, that that book doesn't teach the Japanese readings. If you just want to know what individual Kanji mean and how to write them, then it may be okay, but that looks like it is a terrible book for learning Japanese. Like you said, you can write a bunch of them and understand their individual meanings, but you can't read a lot of them.

What I did when I first learned Kanji was pick up a bunch of Kanji "drill" books that actual Japanese school children use. Of course there is no English in them, so you might need to use a dictionary with the book, but they tell you the stroke order, readings, meanings, examples, usage, etc...
 
Jul 1, 2007
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HaloFans said:
Are you serious?

I'm taking 21 hours worth of classes per week.

On top of that, I have 12-14 hours of work per week, and I still have time for studying Japanese, hanging out with friends, playing video games, and more.
Well, excuse me for being a different type of person than you. I don't handle stress well and I refuse to push myself over that threshold.
 
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