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Recognizing vs Recalling Symbols

Hi everyone!

Recently, I came across Japanese being released on Duolingo, and I was thrilled to try it! I've been studying for 4 days now and learned a few skills.

My biggest frustration for now is that I am gradually learning to recognize hiragana, katakana and even first kanji symbols, but I experience trouble recalling them in my memory. E.g., when I see Japanese symbols, I can tell where "ka" is, but if you ask me to write it or even imagine the glyph, I'll fail. Of course, this is even more frustrating with kanji.

How do you cope with this? Do you practice writing outside Duolingo?

June 7, 2017



That's called writing memory, just write it tons of times on paper until you stop making mistakes. That's what everyone does.


I actually began doing this for hiragana and katakana, but I'm more frustrated with kanji. Should I search somehow for every new kanji introduced on Duolingo so that I can learn the right stroke order? Or should I try some altogether separate resource (books, sites, etc.) to practice kanji in some official order?


To give you some more resources, the two most recommended books (as far as I have seen) are:

  1. Remembering the Kanji by Heisig. I think you learn the meaning of all the kanji by memomnics with some sort of stories. I haven't used this myself, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't really teach vocab either, which is in a way more important than just knowing what a kanji means, since vocab made up of kanji is not always derivable from the meanings of the kanji. Furthermore, knowing vocab also makes it easier to remember the different readings of a kanji.

  2. The Kodansha Kanji learner course. This teaches you not only the meaning of the kanji, but also gives you all the readings and vocab made out of the kanji (which is super useful, because just learning readings is rather difficult and not very useful). I do think the order of the kanji is not really suited when you just started with Japanese, because the order is more based on what the kanji are made off than their meanings (which might be useful, as it is hard to remember kanji when you haven't seen their radicals before), but this makes it that you will learn for example the kanji for brocade (錦) before food (食).

There are also very many apps and sites of course to teach you kanji! I think wanikani is in general considered pretty good, as it uses spaced repetition and teaches you the radicals, kanji and it teaches vocab as well. It is also a bit gamified like Duolingo, so if that is your thing it is pretty useful I think. The downsides are that you cannot choose yourself how many reviews/new kanji you want to learn a day, so you cannot learn it faster than a set time (I think it teaches you about 2000 kanji in like a year). You also need to pay, but there is a coupon code (which you can just google) which will give you 50% off. Alternatively, you could use memrise, or import a kanji deck to anki (you could even import the wanikani deck into anki).


I also like books such as "The First 100 Japanese Kanji: (JLPT Level N5) The quick and easy way to learn the basic Japanese Kanji." There are good youtube videos for learning kanji also. JapanesePOD 101 has a variety of good videos about learning kanji and kana. Many are free.


Honestly, this is a growing problem even with Japanese natives. Most of them still know how to write just fine, but some of them are only able to recognize most kanji, due to computers making it easy to write them (they don't have to put as much effort in creating the kanji as they had to before).

Writing them a lot would definitely help.


This video definitely shows some native speaker writing fails: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJNxPRBvRQg


That video actually made me feel better.


I love Yuta's videos.


I like the Kanji Study app. It's partially free and has no ads. It's enough for you to decide if you want to use it. It has practice writing on the screen. You write with your finger. It doesn't have stroke order for kana, but it does have it for kanji. I haven't used it too much at this point. I learned the kana in school years ago and I can still write most of them. Do the read mores if you decide to use it. They help a lot.


I adore this app! The version I have does have the option to both view and test yourself on the stroke order for kana, which is a hair glitchy, but still a huge help. I've been using the kana quiz daily and have noticed a significant improvement in my recollection ability and speed. It's definitely worth a free download to test out the quiz for anyone who, like me, feels they were a little slow to pick up the hiragana!


I learned how to write kana just before starting Japanese Duolingo. There are a couple good books for this that show stroke order.



There are really good Katakana and hiragana decks on Tinycards. I started them, but I thought that they were probably better used as a supplement to DuoLingo. (I'm on the web, so I can't learn Japanese yet) :'(


The 2 things that helped me the most with hiragana and katakana were an app called Kana Mind that uses spaced repetition to help you remember and even more so just writing them over and over. I got a small white board and wrote one over and over. Then I'd look at the chart and find another one I couldn't remember and write that one over and over. That's called Rote Memorization. Just be sure you know the correct stroke order or you'll be learning to write them wrong.


Forgive my ignorance. I understand that stroke order is helpful for kanji, as it makes the etymology clearer, thereby making things easier to remember. But what would be the concrete impact of having it wrong for the kana?


If you see many characters have a little "tail" on them like せ or い. It's hard to see as well when typed. If you write it in the correct stroke order that tail just comes naturally. If not you have to force it. It originates from ink brush strokes, when you pick up the brush.


The idea of learning three scripts for a language sounded impossible to me and was the reason I gave up on Japanese several times. I tried many methods but none worked for me. I downloaded several practice sheets and videos to help me out, especially the ones which claimed I can learn Hiragana in 3 hours. The result was always the same, I gave up immediately.

After several trials and failures, I decided to use Memrise. Before learning Japanese, Memrise wasn't that great of a resource to me. It taught me vocabulary through repetition while I wanted to learn grammar. With my urge to re-learn Japanese, I re-discovered Memrise.

Memrise is a great way to learn kana and kanji. They use spaced repetition and using their app or website just like the way they suggest (with other activities like Speed test, Classic Review etc.), you are bound to learn it quickly.

I began learning Japanese by merely recognising characters. I hadn't written until I mastered the art of recognising. After completing a short Memrise course or two, I was able to write Hiragana on my own, with a little help.

I'd go slow with Kanji. I have a few ways to go about with Kanji which include Memrise and some books and courses. I plan on mastering Katakana the same way before I learn Kanji. There are a lot of great resources out there but if you are looking for a course which guides you, you can try the MLC Kanji Course. They have lots of free resources to help you other than Kanji. they also have similar Hiragana and Katakana courses. :)
Hiragana | Katakana

I think recognising is an important step towards recalling, you will be able to remember the kana and kanji in a matter of time.

[EDIT]: Yay! I am pleased to see the Japanese flag on my flags list. :)


There is an app called Write Japanese. It's free (with ads) or only $1.99. It helps you put the sound and writing together and I really like it.


Tbh some people don't bother with writing at all when learning Japanese because, as has been said, so much communication is done with computers you will not often find yourself in a situation where you need to write without being able to look it up. I've learned probably upwards of 1000 kanji but I can only write maybe a hundred from memory. I will say writing them will probably help you learn them faster but other ways of recalling them by reading real things like books or newspapers (both for children if you're a beginner) goes a long way to help outside of exercises on duolingo where you get used to the sentences you can expect.

This is a very personal thing however as some people really do feel the need to practice writing to become more proficient. Personally writing practice turns me off from the language completely but not everyone will find it the tedious bore I do. Heck being able to write beautifully is a hobby and a skill in Japan so obviously some people enjoy it in one way or another. I just wanted to point this out in case you found yourself in the same boat and were worried about it holding you back.


If you need to learn the stroke order I really recommend "write it japanese" I use it for Korean and japanese (and has many many languages such as Arabic, Hebrew and....Klingon!) it teaches you the stroke order, there is no spaced repetition but I find it a great app. I learned the two alphabet in less than a week. Korean took me a couple day to master both writing and reading with no help!


http://realkana.com/ Here, this website will help you with character recognition.

Learn Japanese in just 5 minutes a day. For free.