Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101.com

View topic - Very basic kanji lesson for beginners

Very basic kanji lesson for beginners

Have a textbook or grammar book that you find particularly helpful? What about a learning tip to share with others?

Very basic kanji lesson for beginners

Postby NileCat » Thu 06.16.2011 10:02 am

Some of you might have already read about the origin of kanji before. It was originally like a sort of hieroglyph (pictorial symbol) you find on the walls in ancient Egyptian pyramids.
Image

The idea itself is very easy-to-understand. It’s as same as this.
Image

Now, let’s see the following picture. What does this mean?
Image

Then they invented the kanji for 'eye' thousands of years ago to write a love letter.
Image

You will never forget this kanji ‘目’, won’t you?
Image


Now, let’s see more complicated idea.
Image
This romantic phrase means, of course, “we WATCH STAR LIGHT”, maybe together, two of us alone. (Don’t care about trivial grammar for now, ok?)

Firstly, they needed to create the kanji for “to watch”. Now let’s think about the idea of “to watch”. It’s to get information through eyes, right? In other words, it’s an action that your eyes do whereas eyes themselves are only parts of your body. (‘watch’, ‘look’, ‘see’, ‘stare’…they are all same in a sense.) Then they came up with an innovative idea; Let’s add legs to the eye!
Image
Excellent! ‘EYE’+’LEGS’ totally works for some reason.

Secondly, we have to come up with “star”. But…well…it seems very tough. How about using “the sun” instead? That’s much easier.
Image
They look identical, don’t they? That’s a piece of cake. …What? Stars? That’s a bother…Ok. A star is something like the small sun appearing in the night sky, right? It appears like a flower comes out from the ground, right? How about this?
Image
Doesn’t make sense? Hey, come on! This is art, you know? If you didn’t understand this, you’d never understand Picasso’s!
Image


Now we’ve got “star”. Lastly, let there be light!

‘Light’ has something to do with electricity, hasn’t it? Well…if not, it has something to do with fire, right?
Image
This image alone only means ‘fire’. But ‘light’ is an ‘action’ that fire do, in a sense, right? Do you remember the excellent idea they came up with to express ‘action’?

Image
That’s it.

Image

Thanks for reading.

Note:
Very important thing is that “the readings don’t matter” as long as you can convey the meaning (at least at the first stage). That’s ideogram.
User avatar
NileCat
 
Posts: 1168
Joined: Sat 08.01.2009 2:11 pm
Location: Tokyo
Native language: Japanese

Re: Very basic kanji lesson for beginners

Postby NileCat » Thu 06.16.2011 2:19 pm

And one more thing you need to know is that kanji has a long long history.
Many of modern kanji are somewhat simplified version of the original ones.
For instance, let’s take a look at this kanji for ‘LEARN’.
Image
But originally, until some decades ago, it was:
Image
The upper part has been simplified as you can see.
Originally, it meant “a teacher and a child are communicating under the roof”.
Image
It would be kind of helpful at times to know the archaic version of kanji to understand the original meaning. But I don’t think you need to remember all the origins. It’s only a “trivial pursuit” thing.


Now, let’s take a look at ‘LOVE’.
What is LOVE in Japanese?
Image

What does this character mean?

In order to know that, we need to take a look at the old version of this kanji. It was originally made of these three parts. (And the first part was simplified)
Image

The first part:
As you see, it has legs. It represents a human’s figure that is bending backwards. It means that the person is wrenched.

The second part:
It means ‘heart’. It originally represented the shape of human’s heart.

The third part:
It means ‘to limp’. It originally represented the shape of human’s foot.

Image


This is the concept of LOVE in ancient Japanese.
Love is sweet torment. :D
User avatar
NileCat
 
Posts: 1168
Joined: Sat 08.01.2009 2:11 pm
Location: Tokyo
Native language: Japanese

Re: Very basic kanji lesson for beginners

Postby phreadom » Thu 06.16.2011 7:09 pm

Thank you very much for these NileCat! I really enjoyed reading them and I do think they really help explain how kanji work. :D

ありがとうございます :bow:
猿も木から落ちる
User avatar
phreadom
Site Admin
 
Posts: 1762
Joined: Sun 01.29.2006 8:43 pm
Location: Michigan, USA
Native language: U.S. English (米語)
Gender: Male

Re: Very basic kanji lesson for beginners

Postby Hektor6766 » Thu 06.16.2011 10:14 pm

Looked at in this way, kanji become fascinating and memorable.

I've often wondered how often Japanese writers have looked at a kanji and thought of a story premise.

I've wondered if Takahashi Rumiko looked at 忘 and came up with Maison Ikkoku.
Hektor6766
 
Posts: 184
Joined: Thu 09.24.2009 3:40 pm
Native language: English

Re: Very basic kanji lesson for beginners

Postby phreadom » Thu 06.16.2011 11:55 pm

(I moved the thread to the "Learning Materials Reviews & Language Learning tips" section, since it seemed a better fit here than in the "Practice Japanese" section, which is more for typing in Japanese and getting corrections. Hope you don't mind NileCat-san! I also made it a sticky topic since I think it's an excellent introduction to kanji for beginners.) :bow:
猿も木から落ちる
User avatar
phreadom
Site Admin
 
Posts: 1762
Joined: Sun 01.29.2006 8:43 pm
Location: Michigan, USA
Native language: U.S. English (米語)
Gender: Male

Re: Very basic kanji lesson for beginners

Postby RealJames » Fri 06.17.2011 1:56 am

Many of the most basic Kanji are very similar to their meaning, mouth, river, tree, forest, even "pull" isn't much of a stretch (excuse the pun).
I was very interested in that at first but when it gets into more abstract kanji it gets difficult to relate it using imagery ><
User avatar
RealJames
 
Posts: 6
Joined: Tue 06.14.2011 9:06 am
Location: I live in 神戸 三宮
Native language: English and French

Re: Very basic kanji lesson for beginners

Postby NileCat » Fri 06.17.2011 6:47 am

Lesson 2: ASPECTS OF LOVE (Advanced)

As we studied in the previous lesson, LOVE had a kind of tough and intense image in Japanese. If you have a Japanese boyfriend, you might have had a beef: why doesn’t he say “I love you” to you all the time like many other Western guys do? He might say “I like you” often. But you wouldn’t be satisfied by the word because you think the word ‘like’ is not enough to express his true love to you.
But, what does TO LIKE mean in Japanese?
The image is like this.
Image
Left: a woman
Right: a child
It originally represented an emotional feeling that a mother had toward her child.
Image
And,
Image

Which means, the kanji 好 which consists of ‘woman’ and ‘child’ would be able to represent this kind of image too. (note: this is only an extreme interpretation)

Image

Don’t you think this is another aspect of so-called LOVE in your language?
We usually use 愛 for LOVE, and 好 for LIKE. But it might be a good thing to know that there is a slight difference in nuance between the English word and the Japanese kanji. (It highly depends on the context, though) In Japanese, 愛 was originally related to suffering whereas 好 was related to tranquility. We, of course, use this word 好 in something like “I like this PC”. But if your boyfriend writes to you that he likes (好) you, it might mean more than LIKE, you know? Kanji is ideogram by its nature, which means, it has some allowance in its interpretation.


One more thing.
There is another kanji for LOVE in Japanese.
Image
What the heck is this?
I suppose you can find out that there is a clue in this image. You may find the lower half means ‘heart’. (which was in the kanji 愛 too, remember?)
But, what does the upper part mean then?
As you might suppose, it has been simplified in the long history. The original version was like this.
Image
The idea is:
- It’s hopeless to try to unplait twirly strings by talking.
- You’d remain in the state of being unstable.
- That’s the state of your heart.

And the ancient people labeled the state ’恋’.
That’s another aspect of LOVE, isn’t it? It makes your heart pound. And you feel like you're in a maze... However, it seems less-painful than 愛, doesn’t it?
Now, you’d see why 愛 is considerd to be “deeper” than 恋 in Japanese although both of them mean LOVE.

Thank you.
User avatar
NileCat
 
Posts: 1168
Joined: Sat 08.01.2009 2:11 pm
Location: Tokyo
Native language: Japanese

Re: Very basic kanji lesson for beginners

Postby NileCat » Sat 06.18.2011 1:56 am

Lessson 3: BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

I think you’ve already become an expert of LOVE in Japanese.
Let’s take a look at the kanji for BEAUTY now.

Image

To our surprise, the upper part means ‘sheep’, and the lower part means ‘big’.

Image

Image


Image

Perhaps you’d see the idea. In the ancient religious ceremony, the sacrificial sheep was very important. The quality of the sheep had to be the best in their stock. Being big meant not only big but being special. They assumed the best quality as BEAUTY.


Now, let’s review what we studied!

Image
User avatar
NileCat
 
Posts: 1168
Joined: Sat 08.01.2009 2:11 pm
Location: Tokyo
Native language: Japanese

Re: Very basic kanji lesson for beginners

Postby NileCat » Sat 06.18.2011 2:52 pm

Lesson 4: THINK OF ME

Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature, but he is a thinking reed.
---Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Pensées

I think I think. Do you?
But wait! Which one do you think is ‘think’?

Image

Do you really think that they are the same?

In Japanese, there are two kinds of kanji for THINK. Do you see the difference?

Image

Kanji can tell you the perspectives of Japanese people, or the culture. Although I know many foreign people find that kanji look so messy and just difficult to read, I believe it worth learning if you are interested in Japanese. Kanji is interesting.

Image
Many textbooks just categorize them automatically by the shape of the parts, as if it’s the numbers to remember that counts. I feel kind of sad when I see the Japanese students are forced to memorize as many kanji as possible. Relax. Take it easy. Just pick up some kanji that interest you. And take care of the kanji. Soon it would tell you something that you didn’t know. Kanji is not like math equations. I hope you enjoy Kanji. :)
User avatar
NileCat
 
Posts: 1168
Joined: Sat 08.01.2009 2:11 pm
Location: Tokyo
Native language: Japanese

Re: Very basic kanji lesson for beginners

Postby chikara » Mon 06.20.2011 9:32 pm

NileCatさん、ありがとうございます。 :bow:

面白いです。

NileCat wrote:.......
Let’s take a look at the kanji for BEAUTY now.

Image

To our surprise, the upper part means ‘sheep’, and the lower part means ‘big’.

Image
.......

Maybe you need to be a Kiwi to appreciate that. :P :D
Don't complain to me that people kick you when you're down. It's your own fault for lying there
User avatar
chikara
 
Posts: 3577
Joined: Tue 07.11.2006 10:48 pm
Location: Australia (SA)
Native language: English (Australian)
Gender: Male

Re: Very basic kanji lesson for beginners

Postby Mets » Sun 01.01.2012 12:03 pm

@Nilecat
Wow, that's an awesome way of describing Kanji. :)
Mets
 
Posts: 15
Joined: Mon 12.19.2011 5:43 am
Native language: English

Re: Very basic kanji lesson for beginners

Postby KissTheMiMes » Fri 02.17.2012 8:42 pm

NileCat wrote:Now, let’s take a look at ‘LOVE’.
What is LOVE in Japanese?
Image

What does this character mean?


I am extremely new to learning/writing Japanese. I have just started Hiragana and am on the "k-series" so to speak. I am mostly using the computer and iPhone apps to learn! The app this website created has introduced the word "love" written as ”あい”! Basically, I am just curious of which is more common or which is really used at all with one being Kanji and the other Hiragana. The Japanese keyboard even switched the ”あい” to ”愛”.
KissTheMiMes
 
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri 02.17.2012 8:17 pm
Native language: English

Re: Very basic kanji lesson for beginners

Postby SomeCallMeChris » Sat 02.18.2012 5:46 am

愛 and あい are the same word, 愛 is the kanji writing and あい is the pronunciation.
愛 is almost always written in kanji unless it's a children's book - or when a pun is being made, in which case the kanji would fix the meaning and ruin the pun - but it varies from word to word how often the kanji or the kana is used.
SomeCallMeChris
 
Posts: 256
Joined: Tue 08.09.2011 12:54 pm
Native language: English

Re: Very basic kanji lesson for beginners

Postby KissTheMiMes » Mon 02.20.2012 1:41 pm

SomeCallMeChris wrote:愛 and あい are the same word, 愛 is the kanji writing and あい is the pronunciation.
愛 is almost always written in kanji unless it's a children's book - or when a pun is being made, in which case the kanji would fix the meaning and ruin the pun - but it varies from word to word how often the kanji or the kana is used.



Thank you ^_^! I understand now :D
KissTheMiMes
 
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri 02.17.2012 8:17 pm
Native language: English

Re: Very basic kanji lesson for beginners

Postby Jay1444 » Tue 02.05.2013 1:03 am

Fantastic nilecat! thank you for your consideration and effort....japanese is a daunting language to learn in it`s three forms.... but i feel like a little kid learning again.....it`s very comfortable.
Jay1444
 
Posts: 5
Joined: Mon 02.04.2013 10:49 am
Native language: English
Gender: Male

Next

Return to Learning Materials Reviews & Language Learning tips

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests