I’ve a confession to make. Kanji, the most ridiculously hard part of the Japanese language, comes pretty easy to me.
You see, it’s hard for me to try to come up with “tips” to study, when the way I’ve studied Japanese, the way that Japanese enters my head seems to be the opposite of most other people. I see a new kanji compound once, twice, and it’s there, burned into my head. I don’t know how to write it (well, that’s a different story – I don’t know how to write most of em), and I probably can’t pick out the two different kanji if you took them apart, but the basic shape has now melded in my head, with the reading and meaning and all. It’s just how it’s happened, since I started the SRS method.
If I were to answer why, I’d just say that we all have proficiencies in different areas – I know a lot of people who are better at listening comprehension than I am. I’m really bad at it, considering the level I’m at; I won’t recognize words and grammar that I absolutely know, and I need the utmost concentration unless I’m watching something silly like KAT-TUN, and that’s only because they subtitle all the important parts in Japanese. Yet, I’ll learn kanji really easily. I mean, I used to be into art, maybe that sort of visual memory is something that’s lingered on and helped me, in some way? But, seriously, everyone in Japan ends up learning all the kanji – if it takes them K-12, then give yourself a couple more years study before you give up on the language. Concentrate on what you’re good at – the rest will come eventually. That’s the case with me, at least.
Maybe, if you were having trouble with kanji, you could just do more srs repetitions? Like, individual kanji, compounds, etc – and just practice reading them, alone, without any grammar to confuse you? But I don’t really know how well that would work either. I know for me, it seems rather pointless to study kanji in isolation. I want to know a sentence I can use it in, I want to know context – what’s the point of knowing a word if I don’t know how to use it? That’s the point of language! Most people try the whole “writing kanji over and over again until they stick,” but for me, they … didn’t stick. I can recognize a metric ton of kanji, with relish, because I adore them, yet I can only write about 300, 400 of them. It’s not a method that works for me – and if it’s not working for you, try something else. Try Heisig. Try SRS. What can it hurt?
But my real point is : I passed the JLPT 1, which requires 2000 kanji, while only knowing 1400 and change. If you’re focusing too much on kanji, you’re missing the point.