Answering Victor Berrjod


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Victor asked to see some of the goldlisting of the Heisig book recently described in practice. I picked a relatively early point in the book to show – this is the 10% mark – and please note in this particular book the headlist is on the right and the first distillation on the left.  No frames were actually distilled out on this page but you can see the stories getting shorter.

About David J. James

53 year old accountant who loves languages, literature, history, religion, politics, internet, vlogging and blogging and lively written discussion. Conservative Christian, married to an angel, we have three kids, and live in Warsaw, Poland. I can help you with company set-up, bookkeeping, payroll, tax, audit and due diligence all over Poland and the region.

Posted on 01/11/2011, in Answers to your questions, Gold List Methodology, Languages and Linguistics, Learning Japanese and Chinese and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Maybe it’s too early to answer this, but do you plan on goldlisting book 2 and 3 as well? And how about the readings for the book 3 kanji? And more characters after them? For Chinese at least, more characters are necessary, so do you have a plan for that?

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    • My own plan, Victor, which is subject to revision if it turns out not to be the optimal one, is to learn all the kanji in book 1 and then to use book 2 to facilitate the learning of the yomi, but in any case my study using readthekanji.com and also other books besides Heisig (I have a couple of passable Polish ones) is still going ahead at the usual relaxed pace. I daresay there is some way to goldlist book 2 but I haven’t looked at it, Victor, for the simple reason that Professor Heisig’s own recommendation is to finish book one before starting book two. This also kind of adds an element of gameification to it, you finish one level and as a reward progress to the next level like in the computer games, and psychologically it is strangely motivating.

      I am not certain that there is a great deal of point in moving on immediately after that to Book 3. I would rather take Hoenig and his 2178 Chinese characters for Mandarin and then do a similar job on that. I’m very interested in knowing how much overlap there is between the Joyo kanji and the 2178 Hoenig characters. This is not immediately apparent as one does not immediately know that a modern Chinese character is something you know the non-simplified version of, as sometimes they are really quite different. Hoenig claims his 2178 characters are enough to read 95% of Chinese, which is fine.

      The issue with taking the same method to Hoenig is that the reading comes together with the character. It may be possible to GL over more than one line with the content of Heisig one in the first line and another story teaching the pronunciation Harold Goodman style, possibly linked in some contrived way to the first, would be the second line. And by line, in this case I mean area, a group of lines. The 25 line rule or the 20 line version – neither work all that well for these kinds of books, although there are some Japanese learning books which can indeed be processed to long term memory in the usual goldlist way. They’re not as clever as the Heisig content, though, and there’s the rub.

      Do I need more than 2178 Chinese characters and 2400 Japanese characters? Well, what would be quite interesting would be to take the next kanji in Heisig book 3 and see how many of them were in the Hoenig 2178 and not in the first 2400 of Heisig. There are exams that can be taken on Kanji knowledge that go up to 9,000 kanji, but you have to go to Hungary if you are in Europe to take those exams, it is not like the Noryoshiken that can be taken in nearly every country.

      Even though Mandarin is one of the hugest languages in the world, isn’t it better to spend the immense effort needed to get from 95% written understanding to 99% or 99.9% on learning something like Korean, Arabic or Vietnamese? You’d get half way to Korean and more than half way to the other two in the time you’d need just to get from 95% to 99% Mandarin. I’m far from sure that’s a great use of time. 95% literacy is gonna knock their socks off anyhow, so the most I’d probably do after that is work more on oral and listening fluency, but basically I’d free up time to do the next language at that point.

      It would be a different answer if I were going to live and work in China, or retire to a heavily Mandarin speaking area like Singapore, but I don’t have any such plans as attractive as the idea may be.

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  2. It ought really to be on the left but it kind of happened that way because I started it without being too sure how I would develop it. If I had started again from scratch I would have used the left for the headlist as I usually do. Because there are so few items to a page, there is only really room for one distillation instead of the normal number (3). But you don’t need to distil it down that much anyway – the idea of book one is to understand the elements and remember the stories so that you can write them with proper stroke order and recognise them and also find it easier to reconstruct them going into the language, but this isn’t the last we see of them – after doing this book we still have book two with the readings to go, and so we don’t need to distil this one away to nothing, as it were.

    Glad you like the method. In part three of book one (from frame number 509 onwards) Heisig starts letting you do all the work, so a method like this is a great place to record your own story that you make up after he just recounts the primitives.

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  3. Wow, thank you! This was exactly what I had in mind! I will adopt this method myself.

    Is there a reason for having the headlist on the right, by the way?

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