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Keywords:

  • kanji;
  • Japanese;
  • mnemonic strategies;
  • cognition;
  • SLA

This study investigated kanji learning (the memorization of Japanese written characters) of university students of Japanese, in order to evaluate students' use of mnemonic strategies. The study applied in-depth qualitative methods to broaden the understanding of how foreign language learners use mnemonics when learning kanji. Data were collected over the duration of a year in the form of interviews, stimulated recall sessions, and a questionnaire on mnemonic usage. The study found that while mnemonics are useful to memorize kanji and kanji components when applied in a meaningful way, an overreliance on this strategy can have negative effects for the learner. The study highlighted numerous accounts of the meaning of a kanji being lost in overly complex mnemonic strategies. Another limitation of mnemonic strategies was associations being made with the meaning of kanji and not with how it was read, causing an inability to read kanji in Japanese.