Reading it for the first time, this content can be difficult to understand. If you intend to become our student, please read it over multiple times. Explaining a complex method in simple words is not easy, but we will try.
There are two main factors that affect memorization, the importance that our brain associates with a word and its frequency.
The more important a word is/ commonly used, the more frequent it is, and therefore the easier it is to memorize.
Let’s take two Japanese words: NEKO=CAT and MUKADE=SCOLOPENDRA
In the mind, CAT is a well-defined animal and the moment you learn NEKO, the brain easily associates it with the image of a cat, memorizing the word. While with SCOLOPENDRA, not having a clear idea of the animal, the brain will have more difficulty associating and memorizing the word MUKADE. Of course, you can memorize both words, but with MUKADE you will have to make a greater effort.
This is an example of one of the most common words like CAT and a very uncommon word such as SCOLOPENDRA, but the same principle is true for any word. Our brain is like a computer that has to access folders and files. The more folders there are in the root folder, the easier it finds the files inside of it (common words). Then there are the subfolders, which are remote files that are difficult to reach (less common words). From the brain, CAT is recalled faster than SCOLOPENDRA, a common verb like WALK, faster than a less common verb like CLIMB. To recall from memory the name of a person we see every day takes much less effort than someone we hardly see or hear from.
Whenever the brain recalls a word it takes tenths/hundredths/thousandths of a second, the more the word is in the subfolders (the less common) the more effort is needed. The more effort it takes to recall a word, the more effort it will take to memorize it in another language. And finally, the more effort required to learn a word in another language, in our case in Japanese, the more difficult it will be to memorize the kanji that contains them.
Another, and more important factor for memorizing new words, is the frequency. When you study a word, the more often the brain recalls listening to it, reading it, writing it or pronouncing it, the more the word is reinforced in the mind, therefore, memorizing it.
As described above, memorizing NEKO takes less effort than MUKADE because the cat’s image is well-defined compared to the almost unknown scolopendra. Let’s give an example where a student learns these two words, but he doesn’t recall NEKO in the brain for an entire year, while instead recalling MUKADE every day. Which of these two words will the student have memorized better after one year? NEKO, the word learned and never again recalled (and probably forgotten) or MUKADE, the word learned and recalled every day for a whole year?
The more a word is recalled (more frequency) the better the brain can overwrite (memorize). The better the brain overwrites a word in Japanese, the easier it is to memorize the kanji that contains them. Even if in the mid to long term you forget the kanji of a well-memorized word, being able to remember them by doing a review is easier compared to words that haven’t been well-memorized.
The first rule, when studying kanji, is to have a good number of words stored in the mind with the kanji that compose them. If you forget the words, you will find it much harder to memorize the kanji, and you will forget them as well.
In KanjiGO, we give each kanji/word a numerical value from a minimum of 1 to a maximum of 5 for the most important words. The higher the value of a kanji/word, the more we will increase the frequency of showing it in the course.
A kanji/word with a value of 5, will be shown several times more than one that has a value of 4, and so on up to the least important kanji/word which has a value of 1.
For simplicity’s sake, let’s give some examples by indicating extreme values of 5 and 1, but let’s specify that there are also intermediate values such as 2, 3 and 4.
EXAMPLE. There are 100 words with a value of 5 and just as many words with a value of 1. If we show them a total of 5,000 times, words with the value of 5 will be shown 4,400 times, while words with a value of 1 will only be shown 600 times. Each word that has a value of 5 will be shown 44 times, while those with a value of 1 will only be shown 6 times. In this way, words with a value of 5 (important) will be better memorized than those with a value of 1 (not important) because there is a different frequency.
There are words with a value of 1 (not important/ uncommon), which contain kanji with a value of 5. In a similar case regarding the word itself we will give it a value of 1, but its frequency will be increased as if it had a higher value because the purpose is not to overwrite the word that has a value of 1 in the student’s brain, but rather the content of the kanji that has a value of 5.
In addition, high-value kanji/words of N5-N4-N3 will have a higher frequency than those of equal value of N2-N1. If you forget a kanji of N1 it is not serious, but if the forgotten kanji is N5 or N4, it is a problem.
This is only one part of the KanjiGO system that has been created. We have explained some basic rules of frequency, but the algorithm that we have created is much more complex and articulated.
Each kanji has two worksheets (lesson and test), and each given number of kanji has a listening test worksheet. In the lesson worksheet, there is a first block where you can find words that contain the kanji you are currently studying, and a second block dedicated to the review of words learned in previous lessons. In both the test and listening test worksheets, there are exercises to be completed with a final score. Based on the test results, the student can evaluate whether to move forward in studying the next kanji or rather to devote time to the review of previous kanji. The tests are fundamental to evaluate progress, and based on the errors you can evaluate which kanji to review.
Given the large number of worksheets (lesson and test), it allows the student to continuously read words (consequently of the kanji that contain them). In KanjiGO, each kanji/word has been placed at a certain point according to a mathematical frequency algorithm, with the goal of improving the ability to memorize it.
We have created a course with 2,100 kanji, more than 15,000 words with frequency values, thousands of tests with evaluation for each single kanji and hundreds of listening tests, for a total of over 6,500 worksheets. We have worked for more than four years to achieve it, and we know that we have created a very unique way of learning kanji.
Although the explanation is complex, we hope to have given you an idea of just how structured our study method is.