Kanji Overview

What is Kanji? 

 

Kanji is one of the three writing systems in Japanese. Kanji is the most challenging, because there are at least 2,000 characters considered “Basic (commonly used) Kanji”. No worries, let’s start to learn Kanji little by little. Before memorizing Kanji characters, it is best to have a general understanding about Kanji first.    

 

How to read Kanji

 

Basically, each Kanji has two ways of being read - KUN-yomi (Japanese reading) and ON-yomi (Chinese reading). “KUN-yomi” is usually used for a word of single Kanji or a Kanji with Hiragana (so-called “Furigana”), while “ON-yomi”is used for a word combined with other Kanji. It means “KUN-yomi” and often tells us the meaning the Kanji has, but “ON-yomi” doesn’t. However, please confirm whether It’s “KUN-yomi” or “ON-yomi” individually in the dictionary.  (In the dictionary, “KUN-yomi” is written in Hiragana, and “ON-yomi” is written in Katakana”) 

 

Example  - word ”木” : 

                               KUN-yomi: き e.g. 木 (き) = tree 

                                 ON-yomi: モク/ボク e.g. 木曜日(モク-ヨウビ) = Thursday 


 

Due to Kanji characters, sentences become shorter and easier to read compared with sentences with hiragana/katakana only.

 

Example  - sentence

                      大きいりんごの木の下に犬がいます。

      (おおきいりんごのきのしたにいぬがいます。)

How to memorize Kanji 

 

When you start to memorize Kanji, I recommend you to do it with an imaginative memory. This means you can use creative mnemonics, because of the following two features of Kanji: 

 

  1.  Kanji characters are made from very primitive pictures.

 

 

https://japantoday.com/category/features/opinions/why-you-must-learn-kanji

 

Memotic illustrations associate the shape of Kanji characters with things makes learners easier and learn to remember!     

 

  1. Kanji characters are made up of different components (parts), and the main component is called a radical (bushu). Radicals (bushu) each have certain meanings. 

 

Example  Common radicals

                     人/亻 (ひと)  = person e.g. 体、休、低、何…

        木 (き) = tree  e.g. 校、林、森、楽…     

 

You can consider Kanji as a collage (radical + other parts), so it should be helpful to remember Kanji with a short story  like “休 - people rest next to the tree.”  

 

*reference - List of Kanji Radicals by Frequency 

How to write Kanji properly

 

Kanji characters have basic strokes such as Stop, Sweep, Check and so on and each of them have correct stroke-orders. It can be challenging to remember the correct stroke-orders for beginners. On the other hand, if you use the correct stroke-orders, your Kanji character shapes will improve a lot, so you might want to learn basic stroke-order rules here https://www.thejapanesepage.com/kanji/stroke-order/

 

(https://www.thejapanesepage.com/kanji/stroke-order/)

How to remember Kanji on JAPANASU

 

We assume you have completed season 1 and 2, or you have the equivalent knowledge, so we would like to start Kanji characters for the vocabulary in season 1 and 2. And then we wil introduce some more words using the same Kanji so that you can improve your vocabulary further. We will try to show mnemonics so that you can use your imagination when memorizing Kanji characters.   

 

Also, we will focus on how to read Kanji more than how to write Kanji, because these days most people spend more time texting/typing Kanji on the phone or PC rather than writing Kanji by hand. That’s how you can learn Kanji effectively! 

Copyright © 2019 Aki Moritani & Justin Rosewell