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Kanji Introduction

What are kanji ?

Kanji make up the third part of the Japanese writing system after Hiragana and Katakana. Taken from China hundreds of years ago, kanji have evolved in a number of ways to make it sometimes considerably different from its Chinese ancestors both in appearance and sound.

There are about 2000 kanji needed to be literate in Japan. But in reality, knowing just a couple hundred will allow you to read most anything with the aid of a dictionary. Very few foreigners have mastered kanji. Could you be one of them?

How do I study kanji ?

You gotta love 'em! If you don't decide from the beginning to love kanji, I am sure you will end up hating kanji. There are many, many kanji with various meanings and readings, so without a desire to explore, you will become quickly discouraged.

Write them! Speak them! and Look for them!

My suggestions for studying kanji (as humble as they may be) are to

  1. Create fun mnemonics that will help you remember the character.  Make it personal and even absurd to make it stick better.  For example, the moon 月 looks like the character for sun 日 but with legs.  Think of the moon trying to run away from the sun since it usually only comes out at night.
  2. Copy each individual kanji several times while speaking and thinking the readings.  While writing them, try to emphasize the kanji's reading, meaning, and shape in your head.
  3. Finally, read! Begin with the reading practice on this site and then search for the newly learned kanji in other contexts. It is an exciting feeling to come across kanji that you have just studied.

One trick would be to highlight a new kanji and Google it to find ways it is used in "real life" Japanese.

What does this site have?

Some (very good) kanji sites present their kanji around the order Japanese school kids learn them. But you are probably not a Japanese school kid nor will you be o