I recently bought the Tuttle Kanji Cards by Alexander Kask. These cards cover the 1,000 or so ?? taught in elementry school, and are split into a set of 440 and a set of 566 cards. The cards set me back about $15 each set.

Almost three years ago, when I left Japan to come back to the States, I could, just off hand, give multiple readings for almost all of the ????. I could read the newspaper. I had even read a few novels. I was very proud of my ability. I had studied hard and I practiced every day by reading anything I could get my hands on.

Now, three years and thousands of pages of reading in English later, I’m starting to lose my hold on even the few most core characters. I have let my reading go to pot. In the last three years, the most challanging thing I’ve read has probably been Harry Potter, and that has ???? for any character over second or third grade. I keep telling myself that I don’t have time. I probably don’t. What with working full time, going to school and getting ready for this baby, I am really busy. But too busy to read? Ever?

I think that I am probably the world’s biggest supporter of a top down approach to education. This means that I learn characters and words by reading and speaking: looking up and learning and memorizing words as I participate in real world, realistic, exciting activities that I want to do and that I have an interest in. This is almost the opposite of flashcard type learning, where you learn all the words and grammar seperately and then apply them.

That being said, in truth, I learned ?? by using flash cards. True, it goes against all my educational beliefs, but it worked. (Well, since I actually lost a major chunk of ?? memory once I stopped reading, I wonder if the flashcards really worked?)

The problem is, with almost 2,000 characters, who has time to make flash cards? That is where these cards come in. I didn’t have to make them.

The Tuttle Kanji cards each feature one of the elementary level characters. On the front is a large rendition of the ??, 4 ??, and a breakdown of the radicals in the kanji. On the back of the card is the stroke order of the character, the readings and meanings of the four ??, and readings for the character.

Let me say that the first things I totally hate about these cards is that all the readings are in romaji. Does Tuttle really expect that someone studying kanji hasn’t bothered to learn ?????and ????? Are there really such people? If there are, there should be a new law made. No mo romaji. Everyone in the world should write Japanese words using Japanese.

Having said that, the best thing going for these cards is that I didn’t have to make them myself. I also liked that the cards included ??.

turtlshel.org gives the Tuttle Kanji Cards a 2 out of 5. (Mostly because of the romaji. I would have given these cards a higher score just based on the fact that I didn’t have to make them, but while looking for images of the cards, I stumbles across a set that is all in Japanese with English meanings. And, the set includes all 2,000 or so ????. Oh how I wish I had seen these first.)