A Question About Kanji

Japanese, general discussion on the language
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A Question About Kanji

Post by OT86 » Wed 01.04.2006 6:15 am

First off, a big thanks to everyone on these forums for helping me out in the past - and it seems I'm still as needy as i've ever been ;)

Without boring you with my life story, I started to learn Japanese about 2 years ago but gave it up shortly afterwards (mainly due to lack of motivation). However, as I've recently found a great new job and started a new life for myself, I've found the motivation to get back into Japanese with a vengeance. In a few weeks i've learned about 90% of the Kana and I know several dozen Kanji (not nearly as much as some of you, but I'm learning :) ).

But there's something fundamental to Kanji that I just don't understand. I know that for each Kanji character, there is usually a "kun" and "ON" reading, and I know a few words/phrases that may use either one.

To give a basic example: 六 has a Kun reading of "mu/mui" but an ON reading of "roku". I know that when this character appears on its own, it's "roku" but in a compound, such as: 六日 it becomes "mui" (i might be slightly wrong there).

So the problem that's really bugging me is, if you see a japanese word written down in Japanese Kanji, how do you know whether it will use the Kun or ON reading? The kana is simple as it's phonetic and each character has just one simple sound. However, I'm always totally confused by which reading to use. Also, many Kanji have about 4 different Kun readings - do I need to know all of these?

To give another example, as I have learned hiragana, I can view a japanese webpage and successfully translate all the kana into Romaji, and then to English if I happen to know the word in question. But when it comes to a Kanji I dont know, such as the 六日 example above, how do I know whether I should be using "roku" or "mui"?

To cut a long story short, compounds confuse the hell out of me. I've bought a Kanji book or two but to be honest none of them explain this fully.

Also, another quick question. I understand that Japanese kids learn the Kana first and then Kanji (makes sense) and so I thought that as a beginner (my japanese is akin to that of a 4-year old Japanese kid) it might be very useful to get hold of a few stories that are written for Japanese children (as the kanji will be very simple). If anyone could perhaps tell me where I could find a few online, it'd be greatly appreciated. I've done several searches in the past and not had much luck.

Anyway, apologies for this long rant, and I appreciate it may be posted in the wrong forum, but this seemed the most appropriate from the list.

thanks in advance,

Last edited by OT86 on Wed 01.04.2006 6:18 am, edited 1 time in total.

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RE: A Question About Kanji

Post by SaigoNoBan » Wed 01.04.2006 7:09 am

おはようございますOliverさん。おかえりなさい。(Welcome back home)

This is a question very often asked. From what I've been reading around, and the little experience I have as a fellow complete beginner, I understand that it's really not necessary to worry too much about on and kun readings. What's probably best (and is working for me too, at least so far) is to learn vocabulary (the way it is pronounced), and its spelling in kanji in parallel.

Regarding your example, after you learn the basic number system, you will know that 六枚、 六時、 六本 are read, respectively, ろくまい、 ろくじ、 ろっぽん because they count with the chinese series. On the other hand, after studying the days of the month you will know that 六日 is read むいか.

Another example, just learn the days of the week and of the month and a few vocabulary items like 朝日(あさひ)、日本(にほん)、今日(きょう)、昨日(きのう)、明日(あした) and you will automatically know all the readings for 日.

As for children's books, I remember a site about momo the peach boy and other stories, I'll try to fetch back the link and update this if I can. When I was learning kana, I used to read Sailor Moon related material (I found Sailor Moon uses very few and basic kanji, I guess it is targeted at children too). Now I find it actually harder to read things in kana because they don't space between words. I prefer to see an unknown kanji, I can at least try to look it up in a dictionary and then guess.

(Do your best and enjoy studying Japanese! errr...I think:|)

http://www.thejapanesepage.com/forum/vi ... =15&t=2048
Here sgtkwol and my friend Txkun posted some very good links on the subject.
Last edited by SaigoNoBan on Wed 01.04.2006 7:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
とうとう戻ってきました!^_^ お待たせしました

Posts: 27
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RE: A Question About Kanji

Post by OT86 » Wed 01.04.2006 8:36 am

thank you very much. I can't explain how helpful that has been ;)

Good luck with your studies

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