Throughout life, especially in academics we are told that we must know everything in such a manner that we should be able to immediately answer. If we do not come up with the answer instantaneously we’re somehow shammed into thinking that we are less intelligent than we thought we were.
When I approach learning things, I do not try to have instant short term memory. Quite the opposite. I work on vague. This approach is not for everyone.
Take for instance, when it comes to kanji. I am not a stickler on specific words. Like 信 (Faith – Heisig) – It can just as easily be truth, trust, fidelity, and be in vocabulary words even like authentic. So a lot of people when using the Heisig method want the word Faith specifically to pop up in their head. If that works for you, stick with it. But for me, I go hazy.
I see the elements, Person, Words, and I begin to think of that person and his words and people and do i trust them, are they using those words to tell the truth, they aren’t the devil, so I’d hope so. I can sometimes even just think of honest people speaking honest words, however it comes out in my head, if it is relevant to the kanji, it means more to me than the English descriptive word.
In the end, kanji does not equal one singular English word or concept.
When you let go of the singular word concept, it opens the door to a higher understanding of its appearance in vocabulary words. It is easier to learn vocabulary words with ease because there is no restriction on the kanji associated with them.
There is a catch. Some words are misleading in Heisig, they carry double meanings in English and the stories back up the wrong concepts. This isn’t significant to dismiss Heisig.
Take the kanji 尽 (Exhaust) – If you’re not careful you could associate the meaning exhaust from a pipe, but its actual meanings are more like deplete and run out of. Its usage in vocabulary can get a little more muddled to. So building up this complete connection to the concept of an exhaust pipe, could lead to more difficulty.
In the end, what I recommend is letting go of perfection and aim for hazy. Research your kanji that you’re adding no matter what source you’re learning it from, to get a broader more clear idea of how the kanji is used and what it means, then fit your stories and concepts around that.
Stop shaming and beating yourself up, and embrace a relaxed feeling and you’re far more likely to remember things and have fun! Good Luck!