Sunday, April 21, 2013

Heisig 2 - past 2000 characters

Hi all

The last you heard about my progress studying book two of the Heisig method [of learning to read & write Chinese] was in January, where I admitted that I had started studying the book again, after failing to get off the ground a few months before that.

Back in July 2012 I kinda started the book for the first time, but because I didn't get into a regular habit, the days between picking up the book kept increasing, and after a while I just shelved it. Literally.

So why was this year's attempt more successful? Mainly because I went with the flow more, put less pressure on myself, and took time to enjoy it more. And three months later, I'm still progressing nicely, according to plan.

So this is how it looks:

  • I had to accept that although I did Book 1 in three months - that was right for that book at that time. This book is different, and this time is different. So this year's goal suits this year's circumstances.
  • Thus I have set myself the goal of completing the book by the end of 2013, which amounts to just over 4 characters a day. That doesn't seem like much, but given that I'm also doing podcasts and other full-sentence flashcards, this is on top of that. It's enough. 
  • I completed the first 500 characters of Book 2 (making it a total count of 2000) on 9 April, which is about 5 characters a day - not bad.  I don't do it every day, I'm still not fully into the habit, but it's regular enough.
  • I'm much better about revision than I was with Book 1, which is part of the reason I'm taking longer to finish the book. I am OK with that :)
  • I use TWO METHODS to revise: (a) I keep going back in the book, sometimes the most recent chapter, sometimes even earlier chapters; (b) I also started using an Anki flashcard pack (downloaded off the site's free collection of packs) - which tests Chinese-to-English. I began that in late Feb, setting it to introduce five 'new' characters a day, so that it will also reach the end of the set by the end of the year. Of course, I will always be slightly further ahead with the book than with the flashcards, so actually it is a pure revision mechanism.
  • Although I complained in January that the characters in this book were much more complicated, actually it's not that bad. Of course, on average, they are more complex than Book 1, but they're really not that bad. So far.
So that's where I am.  Is anyone else reading this post also doing Book 2? Or anyone who has already finished Book 2 that has comments or suggestions? Would love to hear from you.


  1. So I have to invent my own mnemonics:

    (1507) terrify = mouth - below
    (1505) swollen = flesh - middle

    I would have expected that I get more "stories" in Book 2.

    1. Hi there. You're absolutely right - book 2 is largely filled with keywords, although there are stories provided for a number of the more complex characters.

      I think their logic is that by the time you've done the 1500 characters in book 1, you know how to to generate stories. I personally have - by now - found my own way to make stories. They make sense for me, and use my own style of imagery. So even in Book 2 when stories are given, I often find myself making my own stories ... ones that work for me.

      But don't underestimate the value of having a series of keywords provided to you, as book 2 does. I finished book 1 before the second one had been published, and I messed around with maybe coming up with my own keywords because I didn't want to wait. That got really messy, and I ended up waiting for book 2 anyway :-)

      May I ask - did you do book 1 recently, or a while ago?

  2. I am still on book 1, up to 650 characters so far.

    I started early October probably. I have been using Anki since the start, but tried a few different practice methods. First I set it to 0 new characters per day, but still did revision daily and only added new characters "every now and then" when I had time to add in big chunk of characters (basically an entire chapter). Then I revised for a few days, until I added another big chunk.

    It felt like a good idea at the time, but adding that big chunk become harder and harder to do.

    In December I switched to adding 4 new characters per day instead. Except for a few rare days when I miss it completely I am keeping up. It is not very fast, but I still feel like I can keep this pace forever.

    1. Hi Jon

      Well done on making it to 650 - you'll reach 1500 sooner than you imagine, I'm sure :-)

      I know what you mean about adding items in bulk - I tried that as well. I would learn a bunch of characters during the week, then add them to Anki over the weekend. Problem was that it resulted in heavy-duty chunks of Anki demands. Some days I had too many cards to revise, some days I had so few. So I came to the same conclusion as you ... keep them coming as a few new cards a day, and you'll have a smooth demand for your time, and that is much easier to stick to!

      Let us know when you finished book 1. I hope the other posts I have written on various tips & tricks to making the visualisations fast (and long-lasting) very useful.

  3. Hi there. I'm on just over 1,000 in Book 1, and I also use Anki to revise.

    I use a deck shared by someone else on Anki, which has been really useful not only because it has saved me producing my own deck, but also because it comes with the stories made up by the person who uploaded the deck. I don't always go with the stories, but they are a very useful starting point.

    My main concern at this point is moving to Book 2 without a similar, pre-made Anki deck to work from. Have you found an Anki deck for Book 2?

  4. Hi Alex

    It is possible the deck I used for revising Book 1 is the same as you - it was also a shared deck. However, I really recommend you should be making your own stories at the 1000 mark, and only looking at other stories when you really are at a loss. The reason I suggest this is because it's important to find the work your brain thinks.

    In future - 2 or 3 years down the line - you will see a character, and have to remember the meaning. If you're using others' stories, then you will find yourself trying to *remember* that story. If you used your OWN story, one which evolved from the way YOUR brain thinks, then you'll find (I found this too!) that when you try *create* a story then, it will be very close to what you *created* 2-3 years before, and the meaning will pop up.

    So find your groove, find the way YOUR brain thinks, and build stories consistent with that.

    Try this article for helping you find that groove:

    And to see why it's dangerous to use others' stories, I think you will enjoy this article:

    1. Oh, and as for your second question, I have found a shared deck for Book 2, yes. But it has no stories - which (as I said) is probably better for you, even if you find that a little disappointing :-)