I spend a lot of time lately trying to improve my writing skills in both Korean and Japanese. My wife, who has had considerable training in Japanese calligraphy, gave me some good advice a while back, and said that even when I write correctly, the balance of the parts is not right. So, using simple practice sheets, I’ve been practicing my writing a lot.
Korean obviously is easier because it only uses Hangeul, but I just like practicing both. When my wife uses the computer, I sit in the kitchen next door with my practice sheets among other things. When I am at work, I also do this sometimes too. I find that handwriting practice is a good stress-reliever for me (even better than Buddhist practice sometimes) because I can do it at my desk, cultivates Buddhist “alertness“, and plus it has a practice worldly benefit too.
But if you’re like me, and you write like a 4-year old (or a hyperactive monkey), and you’re learning Korean and/or Japanese, how do you properly practice? Let’s take a look.
First and foremost, you need practice sheets. Having a simple box to practice in isn’t enough. You need the practice sheets that divide the boxes into fourths, because this will help you develop better “balance” when writing.
Luckily, you can find some excellent sheets at tofugu.com. These are the best ones in my opinion of all the ones I found on the Internet. I downloaded the PDF file, printed 40 copies and have used most of them up already.
For Hangul in particular, I found another set of sheets I liked here. This site is nice because it lists the actual names of the Hangul components, and if you click on each one, there’s a practice page for each.
Often what I do is practice on these sheets first, then use the empty practice sheets by tofugu.com to further practice. So my practice sheets have a mix of Japanese kanji and Hangul oftentimes:
Kanji, once you learn the basics, are fairly consistent in how to write them (it’s just the same basic components recycled over and over again), but hiragana/katakana are somewhat different and require more formal help in my opinion. I have been working my way through the hiragana book lately (halfway done), and already I can see the difference. The characters I’ve practice look great, while the ones I haven’t “practiced” yet still look like they were written by a flailing idiot. ;)
For kanji, I often look them up on Denshi Jisho because they use the same style of practice boxes to demonstrate the correct stroke order. I was shocked to realize that I’ve been often writing in the wrong order for years. :p
Which ones to practice?
For hangul, hiragana and such this is pretty obvious: practice until you get through the whole set. But with kanji there’s so many of them, where do you start?
I took my old set of kanji flashcards and mixed them up. I draw the first 3 from the top, and practice those on a single sheet. Using the tofugu.com sheets, I fill up at least one whole row with each kanji, which is a lot of practice for each one. This leaves a couple rows left either for hangul, or more kanji practice.
Obviously, you should develop your own system, but it does help to go through the basics first, or learn them as they become necessary.
Above all else. Remember the advice of the famous Confucian scholar, Xunzi. Slow and steady wins.