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Question about learning kanji.

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Question about learning kanji.

Postby Totakeke423 » Thu 12.04.2008 10:50 pm

I'm beginning to learn kanji and I'm wondering if I should learn all of the on and kun readings for each kanji or just memorize the more common word used for the kanji (if there is one, like in compounds)? I think learning the on and kun readings would be useful, but I don't know how difficult it would be. Like for numbers. I don't think I need to know every reading, since it changes based on other words around it (and things like sound changes).

どうもありがとう。
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Re: Question about learning kanji.

Postby richvh » Thu 12.04.2008 11:05 pm

Learn kanji as you encounter them in your text, and learn the reading used for the word in your text. Trying to learn all the on and kun yomi is basically futile, as you still won't know what reading to use unless you know the word.
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Re: Question about learning kanji.

Postby Totakeke423 » Fri 12.05.2008 12:08 am

But wouldn't it be better to just start learning the essential kanji in order instead of just learning any kanji I encounter? (I encounter some rather complex ones.)
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Re: Question about learning kanji.

Postby Sairana » Fri 12.05.2008 12:29 am

Totakeke423 wrote:But wouldn't it be better to just start learning the essential kanji in order


What do you consider essential, and how do you propose to "order" them? There's the Henshall ordering, also used by Hadamitzky & Spahn, which is just a compilation of kanji frequency found in Newspapers, but they're not exactly always the most common in daily speech (business, economic, and political words come far before things like cat or dog).

Japanese gradeschool orders are built with the idea that the child studying them already knows Japanese, having spoken it since their very first word. It's easier to apply kanji to what you already know than to learn the kanji out of context and then try to learn the words that go with them.

(I encounter some rather complex ones.)


Where? How are you studying Japanese? Do you have a textbook?
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Re: Question about learning kanji.

Postby furrykef » Fri 12.05.2008 3:00 am

Well, you do often encounter some complex kanji in the beginning sometimes. The first time I started learning kanji, I learned 曜 pretty quickly... you can't spell the days of the week without it.

The main frustration with learning kanji as you encounter them is you will learn more complicated kanji like that one before you learn their constituent parts. I can't tell you how many times I slapped my forehead when I learned a kanji that had been part of a previous kanji that had seemed to be a horribly complicated mess of lines at first. Breaking kanji down gives order to the chaos.

Also, unless you watch out for confusing situations and figure out a method to guard against them, you will constantly confuse similar elements and such. For instance, I had a lot of trouble remembering if kanji like 式 had the extra diagonal stroke that 戈 has, and I had trouble distinguishing the 木 and 禾 radicals, etc. You need a plan for distinguishing these. Oh, sure, you can make do without one, but with more anguish than necessary.

Most people here don't recommend Heisig's Remembering the Kanji Vol. 1, but I do. But I recommend it only in conjunction with the site Reviewing the Kanji, because it makes it a whole lot easier!


As for learning 'on' and 'kun' readings, I'd suggest you should learn words rather than readings. You'll pick up the readings from the words anyway. Kun'yomi in particular aren't very useful because they usually occur as individual words of their own anyhow; they don't appear in compounds very much like on'yomi do. What I do think would be a good idea is pick particular words that illustrate on'yomi really well. For instance, a word like 手裏剣 -- shuriken -- is really good. Anybody who knows anything about ninjas has an idea of what a shuriken is (though the Japanese definition is broader than the English one), it has a fairly clear meaning -- you have "hand" and "sword" and just need to figure out a way to work in 裏, which usually means "back" -- and it makes it easy to associate the reading with the word. So now you know that when you encounter 手 in a compound, it has a fair chance of being pronounced "shu", etc. 裏 also has 里 as part of it, which also has "ri" as its on'yomi, so that helps too.

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