The Feedback Loop Applied to Learning Kanji

by David · 2 comments

Last week I introduced the feedback loop –  a concept for improving the way learning is  approached. Context always makes things clearer, so in this post I’ll be showing you how I have used the feedback loop for optimising my approach to learning Kanji.

You may or may not have noticed, but the diagram below is slightly differnt from the one I posted last week. I inserted ‘goal’ because I believe It’s important to have clear definied goals when learning. A clear goal allows us to easily design and optimise the methodology.

Feedback loop 2

How I use the feedback loop to learn Kanji


–  Learn 2,048 of the most common Kanji as quickly as possible


– Create mnemonic memory aids to rememebr the charectors

– Write out  each Kanji five times

– Write out each Kanji from memory using the English equivalent as my trigger.

– Review learnt Kanji daily with Anki



This methodology worked wonders for me. I went through the loop a few times and got to the point where I was learning fifteen Kanji daily, but then I realised that learning Kanji was taking too much time. I love learning Kanji, but there are a bunch of other things I also love learning. For me, spending more than two hours a day learning Kanji isn’t practical.

I didn’t want to decrease the intensity –  I actually wanted to increase it. However, in order for me to do this I had to change something becaue I wasn’t prepared to spend the time it was taking.

Change of methodology

I turned to my methodology with the feedback available to me to see if I could make any adjustments. However, I must say I found it difficult. Everything seemd essential. It’s easy to complicate a matter, as for simplyfying, that takes some thought.

I decided to take a look at the goal I set to see if that would help me decide.

–  Learn 2,048 of the most common Kanji as quickly as possible

I questiened whether the goal was specific. I combed through for ambigious words.

At first it all seemd pretty precise –  but then it hit me!

What does it mean to learn? What did this mean to me?

My methodology was designed for a person wanting to write,recognise and recall Kanji from memory.  I asked myself if all of this was important to me. The answer was no. My priority is being able to recognising Kanji so I can start reading.

Of cousre I want to be able to write Kanji –  I want to do everything, but right now it just isn’t a priority.

recalling from memory always takes time –  it’s just the way memory works. My expereince has taught me that recall comes easily with a lot of exposure.

I redefined my goal.

– Learn to recognise 2048 Kanji.

Which meant a change in methodology,  which now looks like this:

– Create mnemonic memory aids to rememebr the charectors

– Write out  each Kanji five times

– Review learnt Kanji on a daily basis with Anki

This is the methodology that I now use to learn Kanji.

I could reach my goal quicker by eliminating the need to write out Kanji, but I quite like writing Kanji 🙂

Using the feedback loop will turn you into what I call an active learner.  A person aways tweaking their approach to learning for optimal results and best performance. Yes, yes, yes! 😉

Can you see yourself using this method? What would you use it for?  Perhaps you already use something simlar and want to share?

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  • Prize

    Great post David! You’re right, it’s not going to be the same approach when you’re learning something. Not only does what you’re learning change, but you also change as a person so you have to take that into account. Your methodology will change because of many things.

    A big factor for many people is time and that will determine how they go about it. I believe that intensity increases automatically the more you enjoy it. If you enjoy it, you’ll do it more. Then again, time comes into play. It’s hard to increase intensity when you don’t have much time, even when you like what you’re doing a lot.

    My plan is a lot similar to yours actually. I start off by learning at least 10 kanji. I can learn more, and I usually do, but 10 is my minimum. I’ll write down each Kanji 5 times, not because I want to practice writing, but because writing helps me internalize the story I’m thinking about and the primitives as well. After that I’ll quickly review all of the kanji I’ve just learned and visualize the stories in my head once more before I go on to review. I review all of my current cards + new cards on Anki. Well that’s pretty much it.

    If I don’t know a keyword I write it at a the top of my notepad. I’ll give it a different mark depending on why I missed it. A single star signifies I had a slight clue but I didn’t know a second primitive or something. Double stars means I had no clue whatsoever, and double dashes means I didn’t know the meaning of the english keyword.

    With double stars I usually end up re-thinking the story, and if I can’t think of a good one I’ll head over to my good ol’ trusty friend to get some ideas. If I didn’t know the meaning of the english keyword I look it up and put it in the SRS to look with the keyword at the same time. Having definitions really helps.

    Well, that’s my method of Kanji David. Quite similar, indeed but it works and it’s fun. At times I find myself losing track of time because I’m having so much fun learning new Kanji. Well anyways, bye! Great post.

  • Great post. You definitely want to evaluate whether your methods are good or not on a daily basis.

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