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I just can't keep the characters in my memory...

The title says it all: Characters that I learned at the beginning of a lesson, I forget before the last question. They just won't stay in my head, like my brain secretly hates Japanese and is pushing it out. I can't remember a single character at all right now, after doing a lesson this morning. I usually don't have too much problem with keeping foreign words in my memory, but now my brain just seems to be giving up. Please help me out!! Thank you all so much!


August 19, 2017



Maybe when you learn a character, write it down. Writing will help you remember the characters.


^^^^^ I'm a big proponent of handwriting stuff.

I'd also second piguy3 that expecting yourself to remember this stuff after 40XP is... overly optimistic, tbh. Give yourself a chance to actually grab hold of them! 40XP is not enough time or effort or whatever to seriously expect yourself to have learned stuff unless you're a memory whiz and probably also very experienced with languages.


That can become tedious however, since you might have to rewrite them a lot, so you could use other ways like mnemonics and stories.


I used a combination of mnemonics and writing with Chinese. Muscle memory is an extremely powerful tool once one has it, but using effective memory techniques greatly shortens the time needed to achieve it.


I absolutely agree with writing them out until it becomes muscle memory. The way I learned kana was to write the whole thing out, in Japanese order (gojuuon), every single day during every spare moment where could find a scrap piece of paper. The gojuuon in both hiragana and katakana was literally on everything in my apartment the first couple of year I started learning Japanese.

I recommend starting with hiragana and katakana practice sheets (there are several in PDF format online) then switching to genkou youshi (Japanese writing paper) until you feel like you have good sense of the proportions of each character. (Getting the proportions and "flow" of the characters right is important to legibility!)

Work top-to-bottom whenever you can. You'll have lots of opportunities to write left-to-right later -- it's better to get used to writing top-to-bottom early, and IMO starting at the top-right while sitting upright at a proper desk improves penmanship.

Do this everyday! If you don't have genkou youshi around and have to write left-to-right on ruled paper, that's fine. The important part is to write these out as often as you can until it becomes second nature to you.

This is the 五十音(ごじゅうおん) order of characters:

や ゆ よ
わ   を


I see the Spanish and French flag next to your name, so let's compare the two to Japanese. Any new French and Spanish words you learn are not entirely new, because there is the part you already know about them; it's the alphabet that they have in common with English, and makes remembering them easier than those in Japanese. At a level as early as 2 in Japanese, the characters may look like pictures rather than letters (well, at least that's how I saw them when I was at a similar level), and you will be able to remember them easily after a while of continuous practice, so I think you don't need to worry. I suggest that you learn hiragana and katakana from an external source (like Tinycards) to be able to remember them faster. Good luck!


Are you using iOS? When I was starting out, I used the app "Dr Moku's Hiragana Lite" - it draws pictures using the hiragana which help you remember them better. I have long since deleted it but I remember す was Superman, に was a kneeling samurai, む was integrated into a cow (moo!) etc.

If you google "hiragana mnemonics" you probably find similar hints.


You've got 40 XP in Japanese. 40^2 is more the range you might well find yourself in before you're comfortable. I'm sure others will chime in with modalities they've found more effective than Duolingo on the specific point of learning hiragana. Essentially, the problem with Duolingo's version is that it's too easy: too much multiple choice where you can use process of elimination.


Thank you!

Also, how many trees have you finished??


I think of "finished" with regard to a tree as "having worked through comprehensively, attaining an ability at at least a certain juncture to repeatedly complete timed practices throughout." By that standard, I think the answer is 3, although perhaps I am reasonably close on my Portuguese reverse tree.


Easy way: Use pictures to help remember the sounds. To me, a lot of the beginning characters look like stick ninja characters. I imagine them kicking and punching while making the particular sound they represent. Also, you can make other images and create a quick one sentence crazy story to help as well.

For instance な (na) looks like a person knocking a piece off the other symbol while saying "na!"

や (ya) looks like someone with a whip saying "yah" like a cowboy whipping cattle.

ま (ma) I imagined as a snake (cobra) going up to people and asking "Are you my Mama?"

も (mo) I imagined as the hair and curl of hair that one of the Three Stooges had. I don't remember which one actually had it, but I can remember Larry, Curly and "Mo" who I imagine to have the lock of curl.

し (shi) this one was slightly hard to figure out a picture for, but I finally decided it was a mermaid (the curl is the mermaid's tail) and a mermaid is a "she" she=shi

So, you get the picture. (No pun intended.) The crazier the story, the easier it is to recall. Its worth it to stop and take the few moments or more to come up with the image.

へや (heya) "room". I imagine the song Andre3000 sang back in the day. that "hey ya" song. i see him singing that and also adding in "this is a room!" or "I'm in a room!" to the lyrics.

can use a similar sounds sentence to trigger memory: おやすみ (oyasumi) "goodnight". "Oh yea? Sue me if you want me to go to sleep."

hope this helps


This is awesome! Thank you so much!


you're welcome!


I'm not learning Japanese, but create stories for the characters from how they look. See this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sspUdoV9Il0


Thank you. This was very helpful!


buy Heisig's Remembering the Kanji.

its a great book and it shows you how you can use your imagination to memorize all kanji characters in use.


I was in the same position when I began a few months ago, had problems remembering the characters. What worked for me was writing pages and pages of characters, at least 1 page for each of them み 1 page へ 1 page so on. And you do the same thing with Hiragana, Katakana and, most of all, Kanji. And for words that I think that I cannot remember I use visuals: kumori (cloudy) I imagine a grey cloud with eyes crossed, hare (sunny) I imagine a hare (rabbit) popping up in a field of grass on a sunny day... Also mnemonics are really good as well. And I do alot of strength training and I use flash cards! A cool app that I use is Kana dojo (this is only for Hiragana and Katakana).


Do a guessing quiz online or on paper everyday or use flashcards. It really helped me. But I also learned from books.


Yes i also forget a lot of them i can remember a few like this one 水 water/mizu or this 赤 red/aka but there are so many that it will take me years to remember everything and i also have a hard time telling the difference between characters that look similar


Stuff like this was happening to me too when I was a beginner, just drill and you will get used to it. What helped me the most were radicals.


honestly buy a cheap exercise/note book for like 50 cents and just fill up the pages. repetition helps!! and its good practice for writing the language. i like using a pre ruled maths book or make flash cards and carry them round with you everywhere practice on the go and what not

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