Sunday, July 22, 2012

I have begun Heisig Book 2. Kinda.

If you've been following my posts, you'll know that I have been preparing for a while to study the second book in the Heisig & Richardson series about learning to read & write Chinese. And I've been re-discovering good things too!

I set myself a goal to begin on 1 July (after fully re-studying Book 1), and to finish by year-end. Although I did the first book in about 3 months, I decided not to get carried away this time.

The bad news: I'm already behind schedule.
I thought I would begin at about 10 characters a day, expecting to slow down as I needed more time to revise. As of last night (21 days in) I had learned just 170 characters. I have also done a lot less revision than I should have done by now. Damn.

The good news: I am 170 characters further than when I started 3 weeks ago. (Even slow progress is progress, right?)

Here are some of the things I've noticed along the way:
  • It is definitely going more slowly that Book 1 - but that isn't a surprise, right?
  • The average number of strokes in the first couple of hundred characters looks to be about 10, which is quite a bit more than the first book
  • My retention in the early weeks of the first book was nearly flawless - it was easy enough to remember the stories because the images were clear & obvious
  • I'm not suggesting that there is a massive step up from the first to the second book - it's all about progressing slowly from character 1 to character 3000
  • I'm mainly behind schedule because of work-based time constraints, and not because of a lack of interest in completing book 2
  • There are some really strange keywords (the preface even explains this was necessary in order to ensure each character has a unique keyword), like: "father's sister" (maybe it would be easier if my father had a sister :-), "smidgen" (OK, I can cope with this), "cinnabar red" (erm ...), "flouds" (you'll get there, don't worry), "paulownia" (uhm ...), "vermilion" (sheesh ...), "succor" (hello dictionary), "brick heated bed" (seriously?)
  • I got a little confused by 1559 ("widowed") until I realised that the 'head' primitive is actually written in traditional (not simplified) style
  • And I smiled when I saw their copy-and-paste screw-up in character 1663 ("sow" - verb)
  • It's so nice to finally get to know characters intimately that I have only come across in sentences in my flashcard pack
  • It's clear that the authors have learned from Book 1, and they are improving Book 2 with this. For example, certain sub-primitives are getting different images to what they were allocated in the first book - I like what they've done here with Eiffel Tower and Disneyland
  • And finally, I have created a Harry Potter themed image in all my Heisig work ("snitch" - I know it's not the way the authors intended it to be interpreted, but it made the story/character very clear for me)
So I'm really enjoying myself. Time constraints prevent me from doing any more time than I'm doing at the moment, but I'm enjoying the progress - and the fact that I'm already recognising characters from around, shows it's already adding value.


  1. Yes even slow progress is progress. It’s good progress. Slow but steady. As I said before Rome wasn’t built in a day and language learning isn’t really any different. Besides it is book 2 you’re busy with after all. So just keep at it and you’ll get there.

    Consulting a dictionary: that is definitely something that happened to me too with a few words during book 1. I actually had to install an English dictionary on my iPhone as I had to look a few words up before I could study the characters. I remember "ford" as a verb. "Hamlet". Etc.

    Yes, I definitely don’t know "flouds", nor "paulownia" nor "succor" either :). Vermilion I know as I used to do oil painting.) "Brick heated bed" – could they be referring to ganbanyoku?

    I have just one question. "And finally, I have created a Harry Potter themed image in all my Heisig work". Not sure what you mean by this? As in every character you’ve studied thus far in book 2?

  2. Hello Peckish

    I know what you mean about needing an English dictionary at hand! (It's not as bad as it sounds, of course, but your English will definitely improve with Book 2. Mine has!)

    No, it was just one character that had a meaning with an image from the Harry Potter series. This surprised me, because I would have thought that I had come up with something Potter-esque before, but I guess not.

  3. Ah, and as for the brick heated bed ...

    Your link produces these characters: 岩盤浴 in Japanese kanji, and apparently it's a spa thing. But when I look up 炕 (kàng) it gives me "kang (a heatable brick bed)" or "the brick-bed in northern China". So I'm guessing they're different, but probably linked in mechanics.

    Thanks for the suggestion!