Kanji Hacks 漢字の覚え方

How to memorize kanji so they stick

How to overcome perfectionism (or, at least one way)

A lot of students let their perfectionism become their downfall. They like to be very thorough when they study kanji, and they decide to memorize every single combination that a kanji appears in. Well, if you’ve ever taken a gander at the Nelson’s dictionary, you know that you could spend most of your adult life memorizing just 4 characters. Still, some students push themselves to become some kind of kanji wizard, and they end up either a) completely burned out, or b) utterly consumed by learning Japanese (much to the dismay of friends and family).

So here’s how to avoid that fate if you know you are a perfectionist:

  1. Plan to learn all the combinations at some point, but concentrate only on the most important ones now. Tell yourself you will go back and add the others later.
  2. Remind yourself that your brain can only take in a limited amount of new information at a time, and that it takes some time to solidify before you have really learned it. That means that if you do try to memorize too many too quickly, you’ll probably weaken your grasp on them all to some degree.
  3. Channel your perfection into stroke order. That is far more important than knowing some obscure combination, and it is difficult to re-learn if you get it wrong.
  4. Relegate some combinations to your ROM (read only memory). You don’t know how to write absolutely every compound you come across (even native speakers have to look it up sometimes), so decide which ones you are OK with knowing passively. (If you’re taking a Japanese class then you won’t have this luxury. Sorry.) For example, I made sure I knew all the kanji in my address even though some were obscure, but I was OK with not knowing how to write きれい in kanji.

If you’ve got other ideas, please add them in the comments!


March 24, 2009 Posted by | General learning, Memorization tips | Leave a comment

儿 (legs)

Meaning: legs

My hack: not that there is a need for one, but imagine stick figure legs. The right one is wearing an elf shoe.

March 24, 2009 Posted by | 2 strokes, Radicals | , , , , | Leave a comment


Meaning: before, ahead, preceding

Components: 儿 (legs), and you could say ノ and 土 (dirt) although they are not technically radicals of this kanji.

My hack: Brush the dirt off your legs before you come in. (Imagine the ノ is a hand.) OR, “no dirt on your legs before you come in.”

March 24, 2009 Posted by | 6 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 4 | , , , , | Leave a comment