Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101.com

View topic - Japanese - On and Kun

Japanese - On and Kun

Have a Question about some Grammar point? Share it with the world!

Japanese - On and Kun

Postby randyrandy » Sat 10.08.2005 12:37 pm

When learning Kanji, do you have to know both the On and Kun readings? I mean like you have to know the 1-2 ways to pronounce Kun and 1-2 ways to pronounce On. I know the different ways to say around 80 Kanji, but on some of them I'm not sure which pronounciation way is On/Kun! Hopefully you guys can help me! :)
randyrandy
 
Posts: 25
Joined: Mon 10.03.2005 5:59 pm

RE: Japanese - On and Kun

Postby skrhgh3b » Sat 10.08.2005 5:38 pm

i'm sure this has been tackled a dozen times, but i'll do my best. there's no secret trick that works across the board because the way the japanese use kanji has many irregularities. but as a general rule, when kanji are combined to make a compound, they're typically read with their chinese-origin readings. and when kanji appear by themselves, they're typically read with their japanese-origin readings. but, of course, many kanji have numerous on- and kun-readings, and the pronunciation of those readings sometimes changes in certain compounds. so, really, there's no easy answer. you just have to tough it out. and yes, you will eventually have to know multiple readings for any given kanji to be literate. but i typically learn new kanji as i learn new words, so i don't often memorize a reading unless i know a word for it. so, learning kanji is an ongoing process for me. i probably know somewhere in the range of 300 or so kanji and counting, but i don't know every possible reading for each of those kanji, and so i'll learn new readings to familiar kanji as i continue to learn new vocabulary. for example, i learned 足(あし) a long time ago, but just this week i learned 足(た)す. hey, how about that?
♪夢も見たくない 幸せなんか要らない
恋もしたくない お金なんか要らない
ぼくに必要な眠りを眠らせておくれ♪
skrhgh3b
 
Posts: 517
Joined: Sun 07.24.2005 3:57 am

RE: Japanese - On and Kun

Postby Harisenbon » Sat 10.08.2005 8:24 pm

Like Skrhgh said, the Kun reading is usually used when the kanji is used by itself. For 足 that would be あし. There is usually only one kun reading per kanji, but sometimes there are more. The on readings are for when the the kanji is used in another word. For example 足す(たす) is an On reading. The そく in ご足労 (そくろう) is also an On reading for 足.

As for the best way to go about it, it depends on your level, and what you want to get out of Japanese. At lower levels, it's best to just learn the Kanji as you learn new words, I think. But at higher levels, it becomes easier to learn new words by learning the Kanji that make them up -- especially for the JLPT.
Want to learn Japanese the right way? How about for free?
Ippatsu // Japanesetesting.com
User avatar
Harisenbon
 
Posts: 2964
Joined: Tue 06.14.2005 3:24 am
Location: Gifu, Japan
Native language: (poor) English

RE: Japanese - On and Kun

Postby InsanityRanch » Sun 10.09.2005 2:06 am

One small correction for Harisenbon -- both ashi and ta.su are kun-readings for 足; soku is an on-reading.

OK, on the question asked by randyrandy. No, in my opinion you do not need to learn all the readings right away. When I was starting to learn kanji (which I did right at the beginning), I learned the shape, the meaning (in English, cause I had virtually no Japanese vocab at that point) and one common reading, usually a kun reading. The nice thing about kun-readings is you can evauluate which one(s) will prove useful based on plain common sense. I learned about 1200 kanji in a year that way, nearly all of them very commonly used kanji that I got a lot of use out of. This method did what I wanted it to do -- it made me familiar enough with Japanese writing to tackle texts very quickly. And by texts, I initially meant things like weather reports and recipes -- short and simple things I could find on the web.

When I began reading texts (novels) that weren't on the computer, meaning I couldn't cut and paste jukugo into a dictionary, I discovered that I wished I had learned on-readings a bit more from the beginning. I had to back track a bit. If I had to do it again I'd learn one on reading along with the kun reading. The trick is picking the best one to learn. A fact no one every told me: some on readings are much more useful than others.

To give an example, 頭 (atama, head) has the on readings ズ, トウ, and ジュウ. Of these, zu is used in the common word 頭痛(zutsuu, headache) and a couple others. Tou is used all over the place -- this is usually my first guess when I encounter this kanji in an unknown jukugo. Juu is used only in a couple of uncommon words. Bottom line: the first two on readings for atama are very useful, the third not so much. This is true of many, many kanji.

If you pick up kanji by reading you figure this out on your own. You learn a LOT of stuff on your own, such as how to recognize the reading for verbs based on the okurigana and how particular readings sometimes correspond to particular parts of a kanji's meaning. I don't know of any text that teaches readings in a coherent, stepwise way, let alone telling you which readings are worth learning right away and which aren't. In general, there is a lot more information to be found on recognizing the shape of kanji than on memorizing readings.

So, until such a text appears, I suggest (as others have) that you work at reading and learning kanji in tandem. That way, you have some sense that you are learning commonly used words, kanji and readings. You can always go back later and soak up the esoterica.

HTH!

Shira
"Give me a fruitful error any time, full of seeds, bursting with its own corrections. You can keep your sterile truth for yourself." -- Vilfredo Pareto
InsanityRanch
 
Posts: 227
Joined: Tue 04.19.2005 2:17 pm

RE: Japanese - On and Kun

Postby randyrandy » Sun 10.09.2005 12:14 pm

Wow, thanks for the help guys! So I should probably remember like the most popular Kun and On meaning? =] BTW Insanity, what do you mean by "learning kanji in tandem" and "soak up the esoterica"? Do you mean like learn both On and Kun readings for each Kanji(s) you learn that day? Or remember only Kun readings for like 500 Kanji, then soak up the On readings on the 500 Kanji..

See You!B)
randyrandy
 
Posts: 25
Joined: Mon 10.03.2005 5:59 pm

RE: Japanese - On and Kun

Postby nprz » Sun 10.09.2005 7:02 pm

Don't focus strictly on ON readings when learning kanji, but rather common words that use that kanji. Learning abstract ON readings that you won't encounter except in strange books is useless. Knowing all the ON readings for a kanji won't prepare you much better for knowing the pronunciation of a word you have never seen.

On a JLPT practice book that I skimmed through, it listed 4 words and gave you a reading. From this reading you have to pick which word it is, but all the kanji had similar possible readings, so if you only learn ON readings without the actual words, it would be impossible to answer this.
My girlfriend laughed at the simplicity of the test, but since I'd never seen those words, it would be impossible for me to pass it.
nprz
 
Posts: 199
Joined: Sun 10.09.2005 3:09 pm

RE: Japanese - On and Kun

Postby InsanityRanch » Sun 10.09.2005 11:16 pm

randyrandy wrote:
Wow, thanks for the help guys! So I should probably remember like the most popular Kun and On meaning? =] BTW Insanity, what do you mean by "learning kanji in tandem" and "soak up the esoterica"? Do you mean like learn both On and Kun readings for each Kanji(s) you learn that day? Or remember only Kun readings for like 500 Kanji, then soak up the On readings on the 500 Kanji..

See You!B)


Yeah, you should learn the most commonly used reading to begin with. The problem is figuring out which that is. ALL the sources I have seen simply list all the readings without mentioning which are common and which less so. With kun-readings it's usually easy to judge: 行く (iku or yuku, to go) is obviously a very common verb. You will use and see it all the time. Another reading for the same kanji, 行う (okonau, to perform s.t. --like a ceremony) is less common. If you are going to memorize just one, iku is the reading to learn.

But what of the on-readings? Using the same kanji as an example, three on-readings are given: KOU, GYOU and AN. KOU is *far* more common that the other two. GYOU will certainly come up as you keep reading, but I have yet to come across a word that uses AN. Yeah, someday it would be nice to know that 行 can be pronounced AN. It is not immediately useful, though. That's what I mean by an esoteric reading.

So how do you figure out that KOU is the most important reading to memorize? Well, checking common vocabulary is somewhat useful, and the Breem dictionary helpfully marks certain words with a (P) to indicate they are among the most commonly used. But truthfully, it's hard to tell how often various jukugo are used unless you know the language. The dictionary is not really a reliable guide. That's why I say, do reading and kanji learning in tandem. Let your reading help you decide which kanji and which readings for those kanji to memorize. You will read on subject areas that interest you. You will therefore self-select the most useful kanji and readings for your own purpose. You will wind up with a customized and useful vocabulary.

This is not a perfect system. You will have to go back and fill in things you've missed as you progress. But so far, no one has devised a perfect system for learning kanji, as far as I know. And doing it this way has the advantage of helping you handle real Japanese as quickly as possible -- which is, imo, the only way to actually learn the language.

HTH!

Shira
"Give me a fruitful error any time, full of seeds, bursting with its own corrections. You can keep your sterile truth for yourself." -- Vilfredo Pareto
InsanityRanch
 
Posts: 227
Joined: Tue 04.19.2005 2:17 pm

RE: Japanese - On and Kun

Postby AJBryant » Mon 10.10.2005 9:50 am

Part of that problem, IMO, comes from people focussing on learning kanji *as* kanji.

Just learn words, man. Learn the words as they come. The kanji come along by themselves.

Tony
User avatar
AJBryant
Site Admin
 
Posts: 5313
Joined: Sun 10.09.2005 11:29 am
Location: Indiana
Native language: English
Gender: Male

RE: Japanese - On and Kun

Postby reijitsu » Mon 10.10.2005 11:16 am

mai nichi mai nichi benkyou o shite kudasai yo B)
reijitsu
 
Posts: 2
Joined: Mon 06.20.2005 8:38 pm

RE: Japanese - On and Kun

Postby InsanityRanch » Mon 10.10.2005 5:29 pm

AJBryant wrote:
Part of that problem, IMO, comes from people focussing on learning kanji *as* kanji.

Just learn words, man. Learn the words as they come. The kanji come along by themselves.

Tony


Hmmm -- 'fraid I can't agree here. There are several reasons to learn kanji as kanji, imo.

To start with, it is inefficient to treat each new word as a separate case. When you encounter a new word, knowing the kanji can help you to figure out the meaning, in the same way that knowing Latin and Greek roots can help you decipher new words you encounter in English. And if you *can't* figure it out from context, you need to know kanji readings in order to guess the pronunciation so you can look it up. Again, this skill has some resemblance to the English skill of "sounding out" new words.

In addition, a number of kanji are commonly used as prefixes or suffixes. If you recognize this, you can mentally take the new word apart, which may be the key to finding the relevant part in the dictionary.

Finally, if you ever intend to write anything in Japanese, you need to remember the shape of each kanji for the words you need, the stroke order, etc.

JMO!

Shira
"Give me a fruitful error any time, full of seeds, bursting with its own corrections. You can keep your sterile truth for yourself." -- Vilfredo Pareto
InsanityRanch
 
Posts: 227
Joined: Tue 04.19.2005 2:17 pm

RE: Japanese - On and Kun

Postby randyrandy » Mon 10.10.2005 9:53 pm

Hehe, thanks guys!! This is a really helpful community ^^; I might go ask my mom which of the On and Kun meanings appear more often.. =]

About the Kanji, I have to agree with Insanity (smart dude :P). Also learning radicals can help out at times, like (Im too lazy to type Japanese..) but when you write down the kanji form of 'Language' which is Go, or Kata, on the left side is 4 Horizontal lines and a square (mouth). The left part stands of words, so you can guess it has something to do with text, or the language! =]

I use smilies too much.. =|
randyrandy
 
Posts: 25
Joined: Mon 10.03.2005 5:59 pm

RE: Japanese - On and Kun

Postby nprz » Mon 10.10.2005 11:21 pm

InsanityRanch wrote:
AJBryant wrote:
Part of that problem, IMO, comes from people focussing on learning kanji *as* kanji.

Just learn words, man. Learn the words as they come. The kanji come along by themselves.

Tony


Hmmm -- 'fraid I can't agree here. There are several reasons to learn kanji as kanji, imo.

To start with, it is inefficient to treat each new word as a separate case. When you encounter a new word, knowing the kanji can help you to figure out the meaning, in the same way that knowing Latin and Greek roots can help you decipher new words you encounter in English. And if you *can't* figure it out from context, you need to know kanji readings in order to guess the pronunciation so you can look it up. Again, this skill has some resemblance to the English skill of "sounding out" new words.

In addition, a number of kanji are commonly used as prefixes or suffixes. If you recognize this, you can mentally take the new word apart, which may be the key to finding the relevant part in the dictionary.

Finally, if you ever intend to write anything in Japanese, you need to remember the shape of each kanji for the words you need, the stroke order, etc.

JMO!

Shira


Although it is important to learn the kanji, learning only the kanji and not the words associated with it is not effective either. Memorization of all the readings along with its English meaning will not make you understand every word it is associated with.

Just through learning a few words that a kanji uses, you can learn its ON/KUN readings.

For writing of kanji, stroke order, recognition of radical and other kanji/katakana are helpful tools. They teach this is Japanese schools, so that much is obvious. Where certain kanji came from is also taught and can be helpful in remembering it.

I look up words with an electric dictionary or on my computer, so taking guesses at foreign kanji isn't even necessary. If I can copy how it looks is all that is important.

Also similarities such as 青 having a reading of shou/sei, is nice because similar kanji like 情 has readings jou/sei.

All in all, there are a lot of ways of learning. Just pointing out that memorizing all the information in one way isn't beneficial.
nprz
 
Posts: 199
Joined: Sun 10.09.2005 3:09 pm

RE: Japanese - On and Kun

Postby Infidel » Tue 10.11.2005 12:11 am

InsanityRanch wrote:
AJBryant wrote:
Part of that problem, IMO, comes from people focussing on learning kanji *as* kanji.

Just learn words, man. Learn the words as they come. The kanji come along by themselves.

Tony


Hmmm -- 'fraid I can't agree here. There are several reasons to learn kanji as kanji, imo.

To start with, it is inefficient to treat each new word as a separate case. When you encounter a new word, knowing the kanji can help you to figure out the meaning, in the same way that knowing Latin and Greek roots can help you decipher new words you encounter in English. And if you *can't* figure it out from context, you need to know kanji readings in order to guess the pronunciation so you can look it up. Again, this skill has some resemblance to the English skill of "sounding out" new words.

In addition, a number of kanji are commonly used as prefixes or suffixes. If you recognize this, you can mentally take the new word apart, which may be the key to finding the relevant part in the dictionary.

Finally, if you ever intend to write anything in Japanese, you need to remember the shape of each kanji for the words you need, the stroke order, etc.

JMO!

Shira


I think you're misreading what Tony said. Learning the words does teach you by extrapolation what the kanji mean, it is more efficient to learn the words than to learn the characters abstractly and then attempt to fit them in as words, learning the words teaches you the readings, knowing the words gives the reader the ability to weigh the different readings by situation, without this experience each reading carries the same weight confusing the student, and learning the kanji as part of words doesn't exclude learning how to write them properly. It also takes a LOT more time to learn the kanji separetly than it takes if learning them is integrated with the context.

Learning the kanji as words is easier to remember than abstract lists. Like any other dry data most of it is quickly forgotten if associations are not created quickly. Instead learn the words. 会社、会い。 These are 2 different common words. Learning these common words also teaches the student an On and Kun readings but in a transparent way that is intuitive. This is the best way, hands down. Less time, less effort, better recall, and if you learn this way you also better understand 当て字. If you just study separately then you won't learn which kanji aren't really used or the most appropriate readings by situation. Which is the most common reading? what is a common name reading for that kanji? Etc. Like everything else in Japanese, context is King. It is best to learn the proper context at the same time you learn the words, not later after you have formed bad habits.

definitely, definitely, definitely learn them by word.
1. Learn a word that you see in kanji somewhere first so you have context.
2. Look up the kanji, find out which reading was used in that context.
3. Study how to write the kanji.
4. Practice! remember Practicing once a day for 20 days will make the knowlege stick better than practicing 100 times in 1 day.

Kanji are best studied as part of the language, just as vocabulary are best studied in conjunction with the grammar. Trying to separate the two is just confusing and creates an unnecessary hurdle to learning. There is already enough aggrivation involved with learning this language, don't make it more difficult.
Last edited by Infidel on Tue 10.11.2005 4:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Infidel
 
Posts: 3093
Joined: Sun 10.09.2005 1:12 am
Native language: 英語

RE: Japanese - On and Kun

Postby AJBryant » Tue 10.11.2005 1:50 am

Ishnar: Bingo. B)

Tony
User avatar
AJBryant
Site Admin
 
Posts: 5313
Joined: Sun 10.09.2005 11:29 am
Location: Indiana
Native language: English
Gender: Male

RE: Japanese - On and Kun

Postby Loady152 » Tue 10.11.2005 4:49 am

I have a question. I've recently learned Hirigana and Katakana and I'm on my way to learning Kanji, however, I tend to forget the characters if I don't constantly see them or write them. Does anyone have any tips on how to keep them in the old noggin? Some kid books or something. Anything?

Jon
Jonathan Motyl
Loady152
 
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed 05.04.2005 9:50 am

Next

Return to Grammar Questions and Problems

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 7 guests

cron