In February 2010 I finally got the chance to go to Japan—a place I have wanted to go to since 2002. I reflected back on studying Japanese in high school and university: Kanji (Chinese characters) was something to be feared; it wasn’t introduced until chapter seven in one of the textbooks I used. It was initially intended to not intimidate students, but it had the reverse effect. This brings to me to why textbooks made by white guys for white guys suck: they teach you to fear kanji and rely soley on the kana system. It made us view the kana systems of Japanese as a crutch: kanji became this huge, intimidating monster, that, in the world the textbook presented us with, we didn’t really seem to need.

But then I started Chinese in 2005 and I realized there is no alternative to studying Chinese characters because, well, there is no alternative. It’s that simple. Many many years later, in Japan, I realized that they do use kanji—and quite a lot. It was also then that I realized, not having a fear of kanji, seeing a necessity to study kanji, actually made reading it a lot easier. Studying Chinese and using the Heisig method for learning characters helped immensely too, and with that background, I was easily able to understand my surroundings, despite having stopped Japanese classes in 2007.

Before I left to go to Japan, I bought: “開始在日本自助旅行 [Start Self-Traveling in Japan]” from a bookstore near my apartment in Taipei. I bought it because a) it was entirely in Chinese and b) it had travel Chinese<—>Japanese sentences and vocabulary.

[Mining these kinds of travel books, which I’ve seen plenty of people mention before, is a GREAT idea. There is a danger here, though. Sometimes they actually get it wrong. Unfortunately, I’ve seen Japanese sentences with the wrong furigana for kanji. So, be careful.]

Regardless, leaning a L3 though a L2 is a great way to work on both. I’ll touch on this more later as I get thorugh some actual results.