Tuttle Kanji Cards

Book Review



Tuttle Kanji Cards:The First 440 Kanji


Alexander Kask


Charles E. Tuttle Company, Rutland,  VT



Reviewed By:

Frank Fogg

Review Date:

July, 2000


Tuttle Kanji Cards:The First 440 Kanji provides the user a method to learn one of the systems of Japanese writing using the flash card method. The deck consists of 440 cards plus an additional supplemental guide. All of this is packaged in a small box about twice the size of a standard playing card deck.

The individual cards are about 1 inch by 2 inches, not particularly large by flash card standards, but they contain a wealth of data. The cards are numbered based on the number of strokes necessary to write each character.One side contains the Japanese character and information, while the other has the English equivalents and translations.

On the Japanese side of the card, the character is the largest and most noticeable feature. An annotation states how many strokes are needed to write the character. Four of the most common uses (compounds) of the word are shown, and the radicals (if any) along with the English translation are shown. Finally, both the Kanji/Kana and Nelson reference numbers are displayed.

The English side of the card contains the meaning of the character, along with it's verb and adjective forms if relevant. The numbered translations of the four most common usages on the front side of the card of given. Finally and perhaps most importantly, the stroke order is shown (this shows how to properly write the character.) There is also a pronunciation key for each element, however, I did not find this useful since my objective was merely to learn to read and write Japanese.

Since this course is in a flash card format and not particularly large, it is easy to carry along a few cards or even the entire deck to practice anytime and anyplace. It is also surprising how quickly the material is absorbed using this method. By the way, if you don't know this already, learning these characters also gives the student a head start on developing proficiency in the Chinese language as well, since many of the Kanji characters are based on Chinese characters.

The only improvement this resource needs is a four way divider in the package. The large number of cards makes it difficult to keep them organized in any desired order. I accomplished this by using four small rubber bands to divide the cards up for storage, but felt the divider would have been better. Since I do not have experience in speaking Japanese, it is impossible to critique the English pronunciation key. Perhaps a cassette tape will be included in later versions.

Kids seem to love this method of learning Japanese. Of great use and interest to them are the step-by-step instructions on how to properly draw each character. They are fascinated with the myriad of characters and spend hours reading the cards and copying the symbols.

The Tuttle Kanji Cards are of high quality and provide a relatively inexpensive and painless method for anybody  to improve or refresh their ability to read the Japanese kanji. They not only teach the characters, but also the useful compounds of each word. An advanced  set is also available for the student desiring to advance to the next level. They are a valuable resource alone, or in conjunction with another Japanese language course.

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