4 years ago I wrote a post listing the kanji I said were not necessary to do in RTK. Shortly after I released my personal deck (the Jalup RTK mod) which has all of the kanji removed. All types of disagreement appeared on that post, from “hmmm…” to “you’re crazy.” I thought it might be about time to take a look back on what I discussed there, and whether I still hold the same point of view. Ideas change, and I don’t stick to old ideas just because that’s what I originally thought to be good.
The major 2 complaints that were repeated the most
1. The kanji you remove are the building blocks of other kanji, which affect how the whole story block system works.
2. These kanji aren’t unnecessary and are still used in Japanese.
These are big things, so I don’t take either of these points likely. So 4 years later, with all of the learner feedback I’ve heard, have my thoughts changed?
The problem (and amazing ability) of RTK is that it has the extraordinary power to propel a Japanese learner to victory or defeat. This dangerous power is where my philosophy lies.
Most people that go RTK do it in their early Japanese studies either before ever touching another beginner textbook or at the same time while going through one. Everyone can agree it is a massive undertaking. I’ve recently said that the secret of success is winning the race to immersion and being able to get to what you can enjoy. The beginner phase is what stands in your way of this, and the longer it takes and the more frustrating it is to get past it, the less likely you will ever make it to fluency.
Too many people quit Japanese studying as a whole because they get stuck with RTK. This is what I want to avoid, so by trimming down the kanji of RTK, I’m trying to minimize frustration and time.
So rather than “unnecessary” kanji, maybe “unnecessary right now” might be more accurate.
The more you get into literature and specialized reading, the higher the chance you will actually see them (some still remain extremely rare though). But as a beginner, intermediate, or even advanced learner, your interaction with them will often be minimal.
In RTK, despite usefulness, they still hold a “connecting building block role.” Ultimately, you have to weigh the value of removing some kanji blocks in exchange for getting through it quicker overall.
Course of Action And Alternatives
I think you need to figure out your feeling about doing RTK and decide if you think you can go through it slowly without being frustrated or whether you need to move through it quicker to be able to get where you want to be. My personal view is still that removing outweighs the negatives but I think there are 4 equally good alternatives:
1. Remove them yourself, after you learn them and decide which ones aren’t worth it to you.
2. Remove them but add them back later after you’ve already entered immersion and have cleared the beginner/low intermediate phases.
3. Don’t remove anything, and give the full RTK a try, keeping everything if that works for you. If you find yourself getting discouraged, feel no remorse in switching to the slimmed down version.
4. Don’t remove anything but completely hold off on RTK until you enter immersion and are already enjoying Japanese media.
To aid in this, I have added all the missing kanji in a separate deck which can be merged with the main one effortlessly (thanks to Jacob H).
How did you do it?
Now that a lot of people have actually used the RTK mod, it would be great to hear what route you took? Did you find the removed kanji a good method for you? Or did you add them back in?
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.