So it’s been almost 2 years since I left Japan. I can’t recall having used a pen for writing Japanese during these couples of years, except for the few times when I’ve sent postcards to Japan. And let me tell you that writing those postcards was not easy, as I had to look up nearly every kanji on my iPhone.
The less you write the more you forget. While the most fundamental characters (人, 日, 林, etc.) will probably remain in your cerebral database forever, it’s the more complex characters that need reactivation. Being able to read, or recognize, a character does not mean that you remember each stroke. Smartphones and computers having nearly replaced the quill, even natives often find it nerve-wracking to compose a letter without having access to their cellphone or electronic dictionary.
You need to write constantly if you want to maintain the skill.
Since I don’t handwrite regularly, I did a fun exercise today which involved skimming through the lyrics of a pop song and selecting the kanji that I wasn’t sure how to write. The result was depressing.
But apart from making you feel miserable, this is actually a really good way to relearn many kanji characters you’ve forgotten. Just take the lyrics of your favorite J-Pop song, a pen, and a sheet of paper, and start listing down all the characters that cause problems for you. When you’ve gone through the whole song, start practicing.
In fact, you can do this whenever you encounter kanji.
Now post YOUR tips and experiences in the comments below.