Heisig Method Paying Off


While still studying the Heisig Method of learning Kanji, I have learned 700 Kanji (actually 699 as of writing), which is about 1/4 of all Joyo Kanji required for basic literacy in Japanese.1 700 kanji doesn’t mean much yet, though. The Heisig Method is unusual because you learn the kanji in the order of the components, not in the order that you learn in school. What this means is that you sometimes learn obscure kanji first, and useful ones later.

Anyhow, at first I wasn’t sure if this method was useful, but now I am starting to see the payoff.

At first, I learned the kanji in isolation, but now I know enough Kanji that I can start writing words with them. Words like 木曜日, 慌てる, 怖い, 正午, 曇る, 多摩川, 上京, and 着る.

It’s not much, but it’s a start. The best part though, is that I can easily remember how to write them. This is what makes the Heisig method so effective: it gives a simple method for remembering kanji.

Still, in one year, I’ve learned 1/4th of the kanji which is less than I hoped. With the baby coming in 8 weeks, I probably won’t be studying much for a while. But I’m happy to see the investment was worth it so far. 🙂

1 There are more than 2,200 kanji used in Japanese, but for basic literacy, you have to learn the 2,200 Joyo Kanji at least.


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

3 thoughts on “Heisig Method Paying Off”

  1. I started using Heisig after reading about him here. I’m about 200 behind you, and it’s mostly reading, not writing – I’m using Anki cards.

    Also, I have fun explaining them to my wife. “Did you know how the kanji for ‘disturb’ is written? It also means ‘obstruction’. “


  2. Hi Doug,

    good job on learning the kanji. I also happen to be in the same situation. I learned about 700 Kanji with Heisig but then I dropped it. This was about 3 years ago. Recently I started learning them again and it was easy to reactive all the Kanjis I learned back then. Somehow they where imprinted in my brain. I just had to uncover the old stories behind them. Now I am learning about 15 a day to get them all in my head by December.

    Good luck with your newborn!
    Keep it up


  3. Hello,

    Steve: I’ve explained the method to my wife a few times, and she still doesn’t quite get it. She learned Kanji the Japanese was, and the Heisig method is totally different, so it’s hard to see how it works. However, she is happy to see the results thus far and has been very supportive. 🙂

    Christian: Thank you. I hope to keep it up, even a little, after the baby is born (the first few months is pretty exhausting). But I have that same feeling. There are certain kanji I learned early on that I can still recall very easily a year later. Pretty amazing how it works.


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