Kanji learning for beginner
  • So I finished studying hiragana and katakana and now I'm moving on to kanji. I've learned some basics, but I'm having trouble with radicals. The e-books I'm reading don't really explain too much about the kanjis, basically what I read is "Just remember the meaning and strokes order" and that's it, no further information. Is that the correct way of learning? I'm not really convinced...

    I'd like to know how the radicals work, things like, how does the order and placement of the radical affect the meaning and pronunciation of the kanji? Does anyone knows a website, e-book or anything that can explain me this? (If you can, I'd like something free, as I have no money to afford subscriptions or books).

    Thanks anyways!
  • I really feel that you every person has to approach kanji their own way. Just try different ways til you find a good groove and can memorize lot's of kanji (imi + reading + order etc)

    The way I've always done it was to study vocabulary and kanji at the same time. My knowledge of vocabulary and kanji expands at pretty much the same rate. I just learn new words with new kanji, focusing on compound words that have one familiar kanji and one unfamiliar kanji. It's a good way of contextualizing kanji and giving myself a framework for remembering a kanji's on and kun readings (rather than just rote memorization; I can't remember if I only tell myself "the on reading is XXX and the kun reading is YYY over and over).

    If you're interested in bushu study, here's a video my Japanese teacher showed the class. It explains about bushu (+the origins of kanji/bushu). It's on iTunes U so as long as you have iTunes you can watch it free.


    watch the video called Introduction.

    Now, someone is probably going to come in and correct me, but my general understanding as far as bushu placement affecting meaning and pronunciation is that, (this applies only to those kanji that are composed of only two radicals side by side) the element on the left tends to lend sound/pronunciation while the radical on the right gives it meaning.

  • This is the hardest question that I normally have to answer for students. It, like was said by Jumex, is dependent on the prowess of the student. There are some items, though, that you should consider.

    1. You should understand how to use Kanji even before you know a few. You need to understand the readings and how they are used. When you encounter a new Kanji, you should learn its stroke order and a word or two with each reading you find. It does you know good if you arbitrarily memorize readings.

    As for location of the radicals, there aren't that many variants of Kanji that only differ in the placement of a radical. Some do exist though. For example, 裏 vs 裡. The latter character was the original form before simplifications occurred after WWII. The two characters are exactly the same. If you alter a character in anyway you are liable to write another character or a non-existent character. Jisho has a great Kanji search tool, and it will tell you if variants of a character exist.

    I have a list of radicals on my site, www.imabijapaneselearningcenter.com, and so does jisho. My list gives a simple definition of the radicals. You can use these simple definitions to help you break down the meanings of complex ideographs, which is approximately 90% of all Kanji.

    Kodansha has several print Kanji dictionaries with very detailed explanations about Kanji and the Kanji they cover. However, jisho is free as is most good things online. Use wisely. I imagine you want a very detailed explanation on the usage of Kanji. I can help you personally if you would like.

    As far as studying is concerned, you should really try to learn a new character a day. You really shouldn't go over 20 a day. If you do, you are liable to only remember some readings and meanings and not get the entire picture. If you go too fast, you may end up mixing characters up like 薄 and 簿. Be aware that there are irregular readings. For example, adult is otona is written as 大人.

    You will also encounter many Sino-Japanese, words of Chinese origin using the ON readings of Kanji, and they make up 60%+ of the Japanese lexicon. There are a lot of homophonous words from this, which is a characteristic of the written language. Be also aware of four character idioms. These are great words to practice Kanji with and for impressing Japanese speakers.

    There should also be plenty of online practice. If you ever want to take the Kanken test, you will be able to get good sources. There is a DS game for that. I know you said you don't have money, but eventually you will. So, you should be on the lookout for good deals and save up for them as investments.

    Other sites that you should consider.
    www.imabijapaneselearningcenter.com/lesson3.htm --where I discuss Kanji.
    www.wikipedia.org --it really does have a good Kanji article. It is covered in technical terminology, but it does have links with valuable information.


  • I would agree with others as well. The one thing I will say is that, most people will begin to learn from one place or another, whether it is a text book, a self study lesson, etc., and one thing you'll notice as you progress (and I encourage it) is that you'll begin to learn things in a way that suits you. You still might refer to old study material but going forward you'll have the know-how to decide where to go for knowledge, advice, practice, etc.

    If you think you'll learn Japanese or anything for that matter, from one source... you're in for a rude awakening.


  • Thank you so much for your comments and resources! It has been a bit hard for me to find free material online, since my problem is that I'm from another country outside US and therefore I don't have any dollars, although I'm trying to find a way I could make money with my works. It's a shame that Venezuela doesn't have the same facilities on learning languages as the rest of the countries have!

    Again, thank you so much for taking the time to clear my doubt!

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