Basic Kanji Book is the main book I’ve been using to learn Kanji. If you work through Vol.1 you will have learnt 251 kanji in 22 lessons. Vol.2 gets you to 500 kanji in an additional 23 lessons.
You will have learnt a lot more words than the 500 kanji since you also learn how to combine the kanji (and kana) in order to write more words.
Each lesson cover 10-15 kanji. In the first lessons you learn the kanji that somewhat looks like the word they describe. In subsequent lessons the kanji are often grouped by subject (animals, numbers, family relations, etc) or grammar (adjectives, verbs.) At regular intervals there are review sections that test what you’ve learnt in the previous lessons.
There are also practical examples of “real life” kanji in many lessons. These cover things such as food items on a menu, signs you find at a station, weather reports and examples of a hand written post card.
This is how each kanji is presented:
- The Kanji,
- The readings (note that you need to know both hiragana and katakana to understand this)
- How to write the kanji, showing stroke order but not stroke direction. There are some space to practice writing.
- A set of words you can write using this kanji, most often in combination with kanji you’ve already learnt or sometimes kanji you will learn in coming lessons.
Once you’ve learnt how to write the new kanji in the lesson you get a set of exercises where you train reading and writing the kanji in order to learn how to use it in different combinations to make up different words and expressions.
One annoying thing about the book is that there are no answers available for the exercises. I guess the idea is that you either know the answer/kanji or you don’t but I’ve definitely gone back to earlier exercises and realized that I used the wrong kanji from time to time.
Overall I like the book. When I’ve put my mind to it and done all exercises in a lesson I’ve usually learnt all the kanji covered. Admittedly by the time I got to lesson 20 it was clear that I started to forget the less used kanji from earlier lessons but I guess that is only to be expected.