The Origins of the Heisig Method

peckishlaowai Posted in Heisig, Learning Mandarin,Tags: , , ,

Over the weekend a tweet about an interview with Professor James Heisig caught my eye.
Professor James Heisig is the co-author of Remembering Simplified Hanzi: Book 1, How Not to Forget the Meaning and Writing of Chinese Characters alongside Professor Timothy Richardson.

This post will be short and sweet but I wanted to do what was within my capacity to do, to highlight this great article which you can read here: Interview with Nanzan University’s Prof. James Heisig by David White.

You may or may not be aware of my Heisig adventures. In my opinion, if you’re interested in learning hanzi (simplified or traditional), or Japanese kanji, you can (and should) consider the Heisig method to do so.

To get back to the article, I enjoyed reading this because it was amazing to read about Professor Heisig’s life and how he had devised his method of studying Japanese kanji which led to further books on how to study and remember hanzi later. I love hearing people’s life stories especially if it is about them crossing borders into a foreign country and living there for an incredible amount of time. (I wish it had been me who had the opportunity to have an in-person chat / interview with someone like that.)

I, for one am very grateful for the Heisig method and the part of the article that resounds best with me, is the bit in bold below:

‘I was once waiting in Kansai airport and there was a guy sitting next to me reading Remembering the Kanji. I asked him, “Is that book any good?” and he replied “Yeah, it’s like my bible, I take it everywhere.“‘

(I did say in a previous post that my Heisig book had been my closest non-human companion for the duration of my Heisig studies.)

And just so you can get an inkling of the personality of this author I have quoted, the rest of his words too:

“So I said to him, “I hear the author’s a real whacko,” and he said “What do you mean?” and I replied, “Well, I hear he’s just nuts, he’s really strange.” And he said, “Well, I wouldn’t know that from this book,” and I replied, “Well, you better be careful what you read!” and he said, “Well, there are a few strange examples in the book. So this guy is really crazy?” And I said, “Yeah, absolutely. He’s been crazy all his life.” Later, he asked me to watch his bags while he went to the bathroom, and so I took his book and signed it when he was in the bathroom.”

Amazing story. If you’ve been a student of the Heisig method or are considering this method for studying hanzi (or kanji) then read the full interview with James Heisig by David White. Enough said. Read it.

When 来 doesn’t just mean come…

peckishlaowai Posted in Learning Mandarin,Tags: , , ,

Since I’ve finished my Heisig book, I’ve had more time to give my listening skills some practice. This has been great for me – in particular I’ve been focused on lessons all related to food in some way or another. I’ve stumbled upon a few interesting discoveries – the most important discovery being that 来 doesn’t always mean come in Mandarin. I’m specifically talking about 来 (lai2 / to come) as a substitute for other verbs.

See point 3 here on if you need an example, else please read on.

I discovered this as I was listening to a ChinesePod podcast about ordering food for the group. It happened early on in the conversation when people were “arguing” about who should be doing the ordering and one person finally said that they’d order. (Please forgive my mind’s thinking – but if this conversation had been in English and this line been said a bit later perhaps while enjoying a very delicious dish and if the sentence was shorter with 我 as a pronoun, then there may have been some raised eyebrows around the table… if you know what I mean…)

Anyways, I give you two examples of how 来 replaces another verb from that dialogue:

bù bù bù, wǒ bùhuì diǎn, háishì nǐmen lái ba.
No, no, no… I’m no good at ordering. You guys better do it.

wǒmen lái ge gālíjī, zěnmeyàng?
How about we order curry chicken?

Now anyway, it made me wonder why I never came across this before in three semesters of study in 2006 / 2007. (I may have mentioned that the lecturers were all from Taiwan.) Well it turns out that this is colloquial speech (colloquial to China I’m assuming…)

See this lesson prepared by someone at the University of Hawaii – scroll to the last page if you wish but essentially this is what they’re teaching:

  • In colloquial expressions, the verb 來 (lái) can serve as a substitute for some other verbs,
    mostly in imperative sentences
  • It is usually used in restaurants and stores, especially when buying small things, or coaxing someone to sing a song.

The latter would explain why I’ve seen it not once, but a few times over the last month.

Anyways, time for a drink:

Zài lái yī bēi!
Give me another glass!