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Remembering Kanji

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Remembering Kanji

Postby jcdietz03 » Fri 08.01.2008 11:13 pm

The mnemonics for remembering the hiragana and katakana were helpful to me. I thought I would try making mnemonics for some common Kanji. I decided to go with the order presented at this website: http://nuthatch.com/java/kanjicards/. **Feel free to rearrange the order and copy mnemonics to your own website**

日 looks like the rising sun
一 single horizontal line - one
十 a plus sign is the kanji for ten
二 two horizontal lines - two
人 looks like a person - the top is their body and the bottom is their two legs
大 a person with their arms stretched out is trying to look big
年 looks like the tables in a calendar (year)
会 I don't have a good mnemonic for this one
国 The kanji for king is inside the box. A king stands at the center of his nation/country.
三 Three horizontal lines - three
本 The kanji for tree with an extra line. A lot of trees = book. I have no idea how you remember the "origin" meaning of this kanji.
長 No idea for this one.
中 A line goes through the center/middle of the box.
五 Looks sort of like a 5.
出 The four lines on the outside of this kanji are people. They are leaving via the paths indicated.
事 No idea for this one.
社 No idea for this one.
市 A building with a tower in front of it (depiction of a city).
者 No idea for this one.
月 No idea for this one.
四 This kanji is drawn in a box with four sides.
九 No idea for this one.
同 The box inside this kanji is the same as the box outside (even though it's actually sightly different).
自 The kanji for eye with an extra mark on top represents a person.
政 No idea.
時 The kanji for day is part of this kanji. Hours are subdivisions of a day. Day is a unit of time.
業 No idea.
分 No idea.
上 Looks like a key pointed up. Supposedly, this is a pictorial of the left hand pointed up but I never understood that.
前 The top part of this kanji looks like the sun rising. Morning is the front part of the day, and happens before other parts.
生 Looks like a woman standing strong. The curved part is hair, the top part is the head, the top line arms, the bottom line feet. The middle line means she is strong and full of life.
合 It is easy to combine the kana "he" with an open mouth.
行 Looks like a pair of legs going somewhere.
部 No idea.
地 The left part is the kanji for ground, and a stroke in the right part touches the bottom of the kanji. A lot of ground = land.
後 No idea.
議 Left part is the kanji for speak which is necessary in consultation.
党 A person with arms reaching in every direction is a company or political party.
八 No idea for this one. It looks like the katakana ハ but I don't know how that helps you remember 8.
民 Looks sort of like a person.
六 There are four strokes in this kanji but you're being short changed. The meaning is 6.
見 An eye looking at you.
間 Something between two other things.
新 No idea.
員 The little box on top is just one part of the set of boxes on bottom (member, staff)
入 Looks like the "insert" revising mark in English hand markups (^).
場 No idea.
円 This kanji is pretty square looking but the meaning is opposite (round).
学 A kid (kanji in center) with a feathered hat on is studying/learning.
東 A mark on top of the rice field points the way east.
発 It looks like something being opened (at least it does to me).
方 Side view of a guy running in a specific direction.
高 A bunch of boxes stacked on top of each other with a hat on it can be quite high.
内 A person is standing inside his home.
百 No idea.
金 A guy is standing inside his house on a pile of gold/money. The gold/money is shining (those are the lines on the bottom).
七 Looks like an upside down seven (with a line thru it). God only knows why it's upside down.
定 No idea.
子 Looks like a person. It's a small person (a child) because their legs are small.
的 Even though the left and right halves are different, the meaning of this kanji is "similar."
対 The left and right halves of this kanji are different. Hence, the meaning is "opposite/against."
手 Looks like a hand to me. The base is the top. The five prongs on the bottom are fingers.
立 Looks like a guy standing on the floor holding up a hat.
田 Looks like a rice paddy. Or a least what I image one looks like.
回 If you go follow the inside box, it's necessary to turn at each corner, going around and around.
選 It's necessary to choose/select between the two backwards fives in this kanji.
今 Not sure on this one.
連 Not sure on this one.
県 The eye kanji is only a section (prefecture) of the whole kanji.
代 Not sure.
開 The kanji on the left and right look like doors opening.
約 Not sure.
カ This big single part kanji looks quite powerful/strong on the page.
関 The thing in the middle of the doors is creating a barrier. The thing is the middle is relating the thing on the left to the thing on the right.
体 The kanji on the right is origin. A person on the left makes it "body."
明 If the sun and the moon shone together at the same time, it would be far too bright.
山 It looks like a mountain peak.
動 The kanji on the left looks sort of like the kanji for vehicle (車). The kanji on the right is power. Moving vehicles require power.
万 A rich guy wearing an expensive hat. Because he is rich, he has a large number (10,000) of yen.
通 Not sure.
目 If you turn this kanji on its side, it looks kind of like two eyes looking at you...
千 An upper class guy. You can tell because his hat is tilted. He doesn't have as much yen as the guy above (only 1,000).
全 That guy is taking up the whole entire house!
京 Not sure.
実 A crane is picking fruit off the tree.
問 The meaning is ask/care/accuse - all things you do while facing another person with your mouth open.
決 Not sure.
相 The kanji for origin and eye are in this kanji. Therefore, the meaning is appearance.
米 This kanji looks like an asterisk, which is appropriate, because rice is the go-to food for Japanese people (fits anywhere)
当 The bottom part of this kanji looks like an equal sign.
度 Not sure.
下 Looks like a person's right hand pointing down. Looks like a key pointing down.
主 This guy (a slave owner) indicates his social status by wearing a plume in his hat.
理 The layout of this kanji defies all logic and reason.
表 The lines on the top of this kanji look like a list. The top and bottom halves of this kanji are different - it makes you wonder what is beneath the surface.
化 The left half of this kanji changed into the right half.
調 Not sure.
所 Not sure.
小 This person has his arms down looking small.
不 The lines coming down from this kanji make you think negatively (dis-, in-, un-, ill-)

If you have ones to add, or have better ones, please post them!
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Re: Remembering Kanji

Postby furrykef » Sat 08.02.2008 3:03 pm

In my opinion, this is not a good way to learn kanji. There are too many ways to get confused because you're relying entirely on how the kanji looks. As a simple example, you could easily get confused between 木 and 禾 unless you come up with a specific plan to deal with them, and there are a lot of kanji that have one of those two in it. Here's a problem with one of the kanji in your list: you use "king" in your story for 国, but you ignore the dot that was added to it. As a result, it will probably be hard for you to remember to add this extra dot. If it doesn't happen with this kanji, you'll have similar problems with other kanji. (Here's a hint: 玉 means "jewel", so change your story from "king" to "jewel".)

Here's another problem: your story for 合 ignores the line that was added under the "kana he" (though I think it's actually not like a kana he because both 'arms' are the same length). There are other kanji where this line does not appear, so you will have trouble remembering whether to add the line or not.

Another thing is your system does not break the kanji down into parts in places where it would be possible to. As a simple example, 時 is a combination of 日 and 寺. You remark on the 日, but ignore the 寺. Well, 寺 means "temple", and it can be further broken down into 土 and 寸. In fact, several of your stories only talk about part of the kanji, which means you're going to forget how to write the other part!

As for how you should learn kanji, that's a more difficult question. I would recommend Heisig's Remembering the Kanji Vol. I, coupled with kanji.koohii.com, but Heisig isn't very popular around these parts.

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Re: Remembering Kanji

Postby clay » Sat 08.02.2008 7:43 pm

I think making mnemonics for kanji (especially these early ones) is just fine. But it would be helpful to learn to recognize the radicals or kanji parts.

My thinking is any method (Heisig included) that helps the student become familiar with kanji is helpful. For me learning kanji is like: stranger, acquaintance, buddy, best friend. The more exposure, the more friendly it becomes.
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Re: Remembering Kanji

Postby Dustin » Sat 08.02.2008 9:20 pm

I agree.

I use mnemonics to remember all the Kanji that I know.
I usually try to come up with ones on my own, or if I cannot, then look at recommended mnemonics.
It can be confusing if you only rely on part of the kanji to remember the Kanji in it's entirety, so I just keep up with repetition until I can write the Kanji my memory.
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Re: Remembering Kanji

Postby Kumani » Sun 08.03.2008 6:08 pm

For me, if you think learning Kanji is hard, long and confusing, then it will be. What I try to do is just look at it and remember what it actually means, so then I can familiarize myself with the meaning. Repetition may be annoying as well, but it works.
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Re: Remembering Kanji

Postby Miaow » Wed 08.13.2008 1:45 pm

clay wrote:I think making mnemonics for kanji (especially these early ones) is just fine. But it would be helpful to learn to recognize the radicals or kanji parts.


Since you mentioned radicals, I just wanted to mention that the "Let's Learn Kanji" book provides intensive material on radicals. It's the only book I've come across so far that does.

I've wondered if it's overkill to learn each radical and its name, or if it's better to learn the radicals after you have a good grasp of basic Kanji. "Let's Learn Kanji" was one of the first kanji books I bought, and somehow it's not as motivating to learn "parts of" characters rather than real characters.

What do you guys think? Learning radicals before you learn any kanji, or learning the strokes and radicals by name once you have learned some kanji?
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Re: Remembering Kanji

Postby Kamekichi » Mon 09.22.2008 11:53 pm

In my experience, untying RTK books from the process:

Associate the primitive with stuff you already know (understanding) 寸 is glue (how about a stronger noun, like a tube of Krazy glue?).
Associate the kanji keyword with primitives (reading) 寺 soil (how about beach sand?) and tube of Krazy glue is temple. Maybe the temple is made of those ingredients and things get stuck in the glue, and the sand, and get stuck there. It would better if you could imagine a temple or beach you've been to.
Associate the reading with kanji keywords (writing). For example, ジ is a gangster who hangs out at the temple who also does a list of other kanji keywords read with onyomi ジ This guy could be some gangster you saw in a movie or something.
Associate the reading with Japanese words (vocabulary). Read your Palm dictionary (PAdict) and books of sentence patterns and recognize the kanji keywords in jukugo.
Associate the Japanese word with kanji keywords (kanji) 寺 really is too simple for this example but you use the keywords as primitive elements for the words. For "shinsetsu", I remember thinking about Shin from Macross Zero in the sunset (setsu) being kind. It was cheesy, but it worked because I could visualize it. The imaginative memory aspect is more important than the mnenomic.

You'll sometimes do all these processes at once since they are continuous. That is, the "RTK1" stuff isn't all first, just most of it. Keep in mind there is no finish line or end of learning Japanese.

When you review, say or think of what you know first, usually the keyword you just learned, then the things you want to associate with it. The reverse, which is what you really want to do, will then be easier than it was.

edit: I use flashcards every day too, but not Heisig ones. I have Tuttle flashcards and a couple different vocabulary ones in several stacks. With RTK1, I just try to recall the keywords and primitives at work throughout the day.
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Re: Remembering Kanji

Postby agirman » Tue 09.23.2008 11:14 am

Kamekichi has an interesting method, and I agree with him in that the ability to remember a character far outweighs any factual inaccuracy in (etymology?*). However, I am squarely in the "learn the radicals first!" camp, and I think it's much more natural and the radicals themselves will lend their power to your understanding and provide their own stories and pneumonics. Let's revisit Kamekichi's example:



寸 does not mean 'glue'. If you're familiar with the radical, it is すん, which is a unit of measure used in ancient Japan roughly equal to 3.03 centimeters.
土 is earth (ど).

寺 as many people point out, is てら, or a Buddhist temple. Don't get tripped up on this, because when you combine 寸 and 土, (or maybe just when I combine it), you get the sense of 'measurement', 'value', or 'worth', (or at least I do). I don't know if there's any relationship between the idea of 寺 as measurement, whether temples were used as marketplaces once upon a time (which would not surprise me, given the tradition of having festivals held there), or whether temples are built to standard sizes. This, I guess, is where your imagination comes in (unless someone can cite evidence for this, as of now it's strictly my interpretation)...

Anyways, the point is that it's useful to know the radicals because you can create stories more sensibly, and not have to pretend that katakana ジ is a gangster. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, I won't knock it if it works for you).

So, let's take our newly defined 寺 and see what we can do with it:

日 + 寺 "to measure the sun" -> 時 time, hour
人 + 寺 "to measure a man" -> 侍 samurai
手 + 寺 "to have something (measure/value/worth) in your hand" -> 持 to have/hold
山 + 寺 "to measure a mountain" -> 峙 to tower/soar
心 + 寺 "valuing someone's heart/spirit**" -> 恃 to depend on
牛 + 寺 "a cow*** of value/worth" -> 特 special
言 + 寺 "words of value/worth" -> 詩 poetry

寺 is a great example because it goes further. Some kanji/radicals lend meaning to the words in which they appear, and some lend a sound. 寺, conveniently, does both. You will be delighted to know that almost all of the above characters have an 音読み (on-yomi) reading of ジ or シ.

ジ 寺侍持峙恃時
シ  侍  恃 詩
         待特

Awesome! Alright, maybe not everyone is as into linguistics as I am, but I think it's cool. The point here being: LEARN THE RADICALS AND THEIR MEANING.

*I don't know if the word 'etymology' can apply to symbols, but you know what I mean.
**The definition of things like 心 get pretty existential, and we tend to think of 'heart' in cultural terms. You see 心 a lot in kanji relating to trust, courage, etc.
***This makes less sense to us in modern times, but of course Japanese goes back a long time. Since cows and livestock were wealth to peasants, you occasionally see the cow (牛) radical in kanji related to material possessions, (look no further than 物, meaning 'thing' or 'item').
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Re: Remembering Kanji

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Tue 09.23.2008 11:27 am

agirman wrote:I don't know if there's any relationship between the idea of 寺 as measurement, whether temples were used as marketplaces once upon a time (which would not surprise me, given the tradition of having festivals held there), or whether temples are built to standard sizes. This, I guess, is where your imagination comes in (unless someone can cite evidence for this, as of now it's strictly my interpretation)...


The character 寺 was made from 寸, which at the time represented a hand, and 之, which was used purely for sound to express walking. The original meaning was to work with hands and feet, then to types of buildings associated with work, which later came to refer specifically to where priests stayed, thus a temple.

In the rest of the kanji having 寺, the kanji acts mostly for sound value, although it tends to lend some meaning of work/movement (i.e. in 時, 持, 侍). But this isn't necessarily relevant to remembering the kanji in the modern language.

The main problem is that none of this has anything to do with Japanese. The big step you need to make is to apply what you're doing with these symbols to actual Japanese words, sentences, and paragraphs. Learning kanji means learning to read Japanese, it doesn't just mean making sense of abstract collections of lines.
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Re: Remembering Kanji

Postby AJBryant » Tue 09.23.2008 12:26 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:The main problem is that none of this has anything to do with Japanese. The big step you need to make is to apply what you're doing with these symbols to actual Japanese words, sentences, and paragraphs. Learning kanji means learning to read Japanese, it doesn't just mean making sense of abstract collections of lines.



Hear, frikkin' hear.


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Re: Remembering Kanji

Postby Kamekichi » Wed 09.24.2008 9:09 am

When I'm learning kanji, 寸 can't always be measurement or hand. That's not distinct or memorable. If you have a good visual image of an actual 寸 then go for it, but 寸 is not the only one. I'm looking at the big picture, retaining thousands of kanji. 手 is also a hand. 持 contains another form of it. 里 is another measurement. 地 is also ground/earth. 坪 is a measurement. 陸 is land. 壌 is a lot/earth/soil.
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Re: Remembering Kanji

Postby yukamina » Wed 09.24.2008 9:23 pm

When I'm learning kanji, 寸 can't always be measurement or hand. That's not distinct or memorable.

I find this interesting...so many people using RTK think this way. I can't stand assigning meanings like glue, ice cream, spider man, etc to kanji components. They are random and have nothing to do with the kanji. I like using meanings that are more general, and I find them memorable enough. Mnemonics like the ones agirman posted work well for me.
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Re: Remembering Kanji

Postby nukemarine » Fri 09.26.2008 2:38 am

AJBryant wrote:
Yudan Taiteki wrote:The main problem is that none of this has anything to do with Japanese. The big step you need to make is to apply what you're doing with these symbols to actual Japanese words, sentences, and paragraphs. Learning kanji means learning to read Japanese, it doesn't just mean making sense of abstract collections of lines.


Hear, frikkin' hear.

Tony


Aye. I feel sorry for all those in China that never learned kanji as they can't read Japanese. Tis a shame.

Seriously, Kanji are concepts used by different languages and dialects. RTK separated the kanji from any of the languages is all. Learn the concepts and how to write them. Later, learn pronunciation and deeper concept in the language you're studying. Yeah, I spent the equivalent of 5 credit hours in college learning how to write, recognize and have a basic concept of 2042 kanji. That then went on to reducing time needed to learn words that use those kanji without sweating pronunciations, and I don't confuse kanji. 惑 and 感 might confuse your average student studying Japanese, but to me and others that do RTK, they're completely different. Then we see 感じる (かんじる) to roughly mean "feel or sense" (different than keyword emotion), and 惑わす (まどわす) to roughly mean "bewilder" (slightly different than keyword "beguile"), and we accept it without blinking. 学生、先生、生まれる have only a brief association with "life", but we again accept it.

Now, you can claim that you don't do RTK. That "NEVER" have you used English "ANYWHERE" in your learning of kanji. That all those radicals you recognized, you ONLY used Japanese in thinking about them. After all, why use English to learn kanji or Japanese at all for that matter. That's inefficient. Just learn that 土曜日は土曜日だ。 At NO TIME think the words Dirt, Day, Saturday, Day of the Week when looking at 土曜日。 Whatever you do, don't use your native language or human brain as a short cut to fluency in another language. You can claim all that, but I doubt anyone that claims it is telling the truth. (ps, the YOU refers to no one in particular)

There are going to be numerous ways to learn a language. The first of which is to be born and raised into the country that speaks it. Second can be moving to said country and letting nature run it's course. Third can be controlled learning. I think the controlled learning can take many forms, and be adapted to the mindset of the person learning. Some may prefer to learn kanji as they go along in their studies. Some may prefer to wait till much later to learn kanji, some prefer Romaji only, some prefer Kana only, some prefer spoken language only, some prefer to learn kanji upfront. For those that want to learn kanji at some point, some prefer RTK, some prefer radical method, some prefer repetition, some prefer Pictographics or some variant thereof, some prefer just recognition.

RTK is just one variant. It's not a magic bullet. It's but a significant step (250 hours sounds significant to me) that you can take to Japanese literacy. Even then, expect 5000 to 10,000 hours of study and immersion of some sort to gain fluency. Why moan so much about a step that's only 3 to 5% of the journey?
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Re: Remembering Kanji

Postby hyperconjugated » Fri 09.26.2008 5:27 am

nukemarine wrote: 惑 and 感 might confuse your average student studying Japanese, but to me and others that do RTK, they're completely different. Then we see 感じる (かんじる) to roughly mean "feel or sense" (different than keyword emotion), and 惑わす (まどわす) to roughly mean "bewilder" (slightly different than keyword "beguile"), and we accept it without blinking. 学生、先生、生まれる have only a brief association with "life", but we again accept it.

I don't see much problem in that kind of confusion; trying to make a diffence between several similar looking kanji floating in isolation. If you have learned those kanji in the traditional 'context' method, there shouldn't be confusion left when you see them in authentic reading material. You've probably learned the most common compounds for those kanjis, their okurigana is dead giveaway, yada yada yada. How hard it is to spot the perpetrator from police lineup if you eyewitnessed him in action?
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Re: Remembering Kanji

Postby Hyperworm » Fri 09.26.2008 8:57 am

hyperconjugated wrote:
nukemarine wrote: 惑 and 感 might confuse your average student studying Japanese, but to me and others that do RTK, they're completely different. Then we see 感じる (かんじる) to roughly mean "feel or sense" (different than keyword emotion), and 惑わす (まどわす) to roughly mean "bewilder" (slightly different than keyword "beguile"), and we accept it without blinking. 学生、先生、生まれる have only a brief association with "life", but we again accept it.

I don't see much problem in that kind of confusion; trying to make a diffence between several similar looking kanji floating in isolation. If you have learned those kanji in the traditional 'context' method, there shouldn't be confusion left when you see them in authentic reading material. You've probably learned the most common compounds for those kanjis, their okurigana is dead giveaway, yada yada yada. How hard it is to spot the perpetrator from police lineup if you eyewitnessed him in action?
Not that I'm behind the RTK method, but don't forget that some of us might want to learn to write, too :P
I'd like to be able to remember for sure which kanji is used in which situations (and how to write it), and not just be able to recognize kanji compounds using vague unstable mental images of kanji.
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