Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101.com

View topic - Kanji--trying to analyze too much?

Kanji--trying to analyze too much?

Do you have a translation question?

Kanji--trying to analyze too much?

Postby yankumi » Wed 08.31.2005 7:20 pm

I am having a problem teaching myself Kanji, and I think it might be because my approach is incorrect. For instance, the Kanji for Japan is 日本 and 日 means sun and 本 means origin. Therefore, the word Nihon translates to meaning "origin of the sun". OK, got that. But if I look up Ni and Hon as separate words, they don't mean sun and origin (If I am looking them up correctly). Is it because I am approaching this wrong, trying to to disect the the Kanji--would it be similar to taking a word such as pillow in English, disecting to pill and ow and then thinking it should somehow be related to a small white tablet and an exclamation for pain? I am trying to teach myself Japanese, so I acknowledge I could be making a muddle of it.

And is it because I am looking up Ni and Hon using romaji that I am having this difficulty? Do I need to stop thinking of them as romaji? Sorry, I am really confusing myself at this point so I understand if I am confusing everyone else!
User avatar
yankumi
 
Posts: 123
Joined: Tue 07.19.2005 12:44 am

RE: Kanji--trying to analyze too much?

Postby Maikuru » Wed 08.31.2005 7:27 pm

日本=japan
日=sun
本=book, needle, etc

now in english
Wait - Stop
Weight - A lifting item to help excersie

Male - a gender sex
Mail - a letter that arrives to you

Do you see? We have words that sound the same and mean different things. It all depends on the context of when we use them. This applys to kanji as well.

I hope you learn hiragana and katakana before going to kanji.
われは正解です。 いつも
The chatroom on this website: 利益styx formerly マイク
msn: hkqwonsjoo@hotmail.com
aim: Maikurusama
Maikuru
 
Posts: 20
Joined: Fri 07.01.2005 11:02 am

RE: Kanji--trying to analyze too much?

Postby aoeuaoeuaoeu » Wed 08.31.2005 7:49 pm

But if I look up Ni and Hon as separate words, they don't mean sun and origin (If I am looking them up correctly).


This is from an online dictionnary:

日 / ひ : n-adv n-t 1)sun 2)sunshine 3)day P
本 / ほん / もと : n pref 1)book 2)main 3)head 4)this 5)our 6)counter for long cylindrical things P n n-suf n-t 1 7)origin 8)original

Both 'sun' and 'origin' are listed there. However, I do agree that the amount of different meanings can be confusing at first... Just like マイクさん said, the context is always very important.

Is it because I am approaching this wrong, trying to to disect the the Kanji


Personnaly, I studied kanji the other way around. I learned individual kanji at first and then I feel like I'm more able to dissecate a compound word knowing it's parts.

Hope this helps! ;)
aoeuaoeuaoeu
 
Posts: 44
Joined: Mon 03.07.2005 11:01 am

RE: Kanji--trying to analyze too much?

Postby yankumi » Wed 08.31.2005 9:06 pm

Thank you, that does help. I think that what is confusing me is that while I understand that 本 can mean a number of different things, if I am reading it properly, ほん means book and もと means source, yet 日本 is pronounced にほん
when to me it should be pronounced に もと if one is using the definition of "source" for 本 Is this making sense? The same Kanji not only has different meanings, but those meanings have different pronunciations. How do you know which pronunciation to use, is this just something you have to memorize and become familiar with?


And yes, I have learned hiragana and katakana.
User avatar
yankumi
 
Posts: 123
Joined: Tue 07.19.2005 12:44 am

RE: Kanji--trying to analyze too much?

Postby Gakusha » Wed 08.31.2005 9:30 pm

Well, it looks like it's this question again.

If you think about it, we're talking about two different languages here: English and Japanese. These languages have few words that are alike. These two languages developed halfway around the world from each other. Can you now see how Japanese might not always translate into English very smoothly? Japanese is no different than any other language in that it has exceptions. This happens to be one of those exceptions.

As for the readings, 'on' readings are used for compounds, 'kun' readings are used for the word itself. If a word has more than one reading for either type, the appropriate reading depends on the context.
赤い猿の学者
User avatar
Gakusha
 
Posts: 74
Joined: Thu 06.02.2005 2:01 pm

RE: Kanji--trying to analyze too much?

Postby Mukade » Thu 09.01.2005 7:37 am

Remember also that the two readings for each kanji (the on, or "Chinese" reading, and the kun, or "Japanese" reading) are often (but not always) used depending on whether or not the Japanese had a word for that concept when they imported the kanji.

In the case of 本, the Japanese hadn't developed a writing system yet, and so they had no concept of writing and thus no word for "book," and so they just borrowed the Chinese word "hon," along with the character to write it.

On the other hand, the Japanese already had a concept and a word for "origin," and so they used their word (moto) and just imported the Chinese character to go with it.

----

As for your confusion over the double meaning of the kanji itself:

I find that it has been useful for me to learn the history of the kanji in order to get a better grasp on its meaning. In the case of 本, it originally meant origin (no pun intended). It is supposed to represent a tree with a line drawn through its roots to emphasize the origin of its strength and life.

The meaning of "book" was later applied to this kanji because the ancient Chinese saw books as the "origin" of learning and knowledge.

A good reference book for these sorts of origins is Kenneth Henshall's "Guide to Remembering the Kanji." If you study the way I do (and it seems like you do), you will benefit from having this book.

-------

Finally, YES! Absolutely give up on romaji, because it'll only be a crutch that you will find difficult to get rid of later! Do yourself a favor and learn hiragana and katakana now, and don't ever try to think of or about Japanese in terms of romaji. It is a rough approximation of the phonemes found in Japanese, at best. As it has nothing at all to do with ACTUAL Japanese as it evolved or is spoken, you will find that relying on romaji will only hold you back from a truly deep and comprehensive understanding of the language.

Romaji can't be bashed enough....
User avatar
Mukade
 
Posts: 775
Joined: Fri 02.18.2005 3:30 am
Location: Osaka
Native language: English
Gender: Male

RE: Kanji--trying to analyze too much?

Postby yankumi » Thu 09.01.2005 11:26 am

mukade--thank you for your answer, it is very helpful. I have learned hiragana and katakana and am starting to do my studying with that, however, I find it hard not to think in romaji, if that makes sense--I find myself mentally translating the kana into romaji, and then into english.
User avatar
yankumi
 
Posts: 123
Joined: Tue 07.19.2005 12:44 am

RE: Kanji--trying to analyze too much?

Postby Kates » Thu 09.01.2005 3:17 pm

Donna, just work on your kana comprehension, then. ^_^ Get something written all in kana and read it out loud, as fast as you can. Then do it again, and again. (: Even if you don't understand all that you read, your mind will gradually get used to the kana and your reading comprehension will improve!

It is not bad to think in romaji--or to use it once in a while. (Some people (like me...) avoid it so much that eventually ROMAJI becomes difficult to read!!)

When studying kanji, the best thing to do is study the WHOLE kanji: Kun- and on-readings, meanings and vocab words that use that kanji. As already explained, a lot of kanji have 'exceptions' to their readings and you aren't gonna know it unless you memorize them. But trust me, it gets easier as you go. ^_^ I hope you enjoy your studies! Keep it fun! ~(^.^~)
User avatar
Kates
 
Posts: 472
Joined: Fri 08.12.2005 3:54 pm

RE: Kanji--trying to analyze too much?

Postby yankumi » Thu 09.01.2005 6:55 pm

thank you for the advice, it's very helpful
User avatar
yankumi
 
Posts: 123
Joined: Tue 07.19.2005 12:44 am

RE: Kanji--trying to analyze too much?

Postby Gakusha » Thu 09.01.2005 9:54 pm

Early in the week, when I first make my kanji list, I write the readings in romaji, like my book does. Then when I feel comfortable, I switch to kana readings so I get practice reading both. Believe it or not, reading romaji can be tricky because you see letters that resemble English and therefore want to place English sounds with the letters.
赤い猿の学者
User avatar
Gakusha
 
Posts: 74
Joined: Thu 06.02.2005 2:01 pm

RE: Kanji--trying to analyze too much?

Postby Harisenbon » Fri 09.02.2005 12:31 am

Which is why you should get away from romaji as soon as possible. It's a very bad habit to get into. I had classmates in college with the most wretched pronunciations because they insisted on always using romaji.
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


Return to Translation Questions or Discussion

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 6 guests