Kanji Hacks 漢字の覚え方

How to memorize kanji so they stick

Why kanji is not as hard as you think

If you are just starting out with kanji, you are probably thinking:

OMG, I will never learn all these! They are totally random and they only get hairier the more you learn!

If you have already studied for a while, I bet you thought this at some point:

OMG, there are patterns here. These more complicated kanji are just variations of others I already learned. Why didn’t anyone tell me this in the beginning??

So let me tell you if you are just starting out: it’s not as bad as it looks. The worst part is the very beginning when all the characters are new and mean nothing to you. As you learn more, patterns start to emerge and you will eventually be able to guess the meaning and even the reading of a kanji you have never seen before. Here’s why:

  • Kanij are not thousands of unique characters like letters of the alphabet. Some are unique, but the majority are just recombinations of components that come up over and over again.
  • You write the components of kanji in patterns that come up again and again, so you don’t have to remember the stroke order for every kanji individually.
  • Radicals (the building blocks of kanji) can help you memorize meanings, and help you guess meanings of unfamiliar characters later on.
  • When you already know a lot of kanji, you can use that knowledge to guess the reading of a new character. Not only will you read faster, but this will spare you the agonizingly slow process of looking up kanji by radical.

Sure, it looks daunting at first, but as you learn you will start to gather some steam, and memorizing won’t be such a chore later on. But let me say this:

Since you will be building on what you memorized in the beginning, you should really focus on getting those basics down cold!


March 9, 2009 - Posted by | General learning

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