Kanji Hacks 漢字の覚え方

How to memorize kanji so they stick

工(コウ、ク)

Meaning: craft, construction

My hack: it looks like the side view of an I-beam.

April 29, 2009 Posted by | 3 strokes, Grade 2, JLPT 3, Radicals | Leave a comment

艹(くさかんむり)

Meaning: grass

My hack: The horizontal line is the ground, and the 2 vertical lines are blades of grass. It’s a sparse lawn.

Variations: 艸 艹 䒑

NOTE: when you see this radical in any character, you can be pretty sure that you are looking at some kind of plant.

April 19, 2009 Posted by | 3 strokes, Radicals | , , , , | Leave a comment

寸(すん)

Meaning: measurement (roughly 1 inch). Heisig calls this “glued to.”

My hack: I like to think of this as “inch.” Just think of a t-square (rotate this image in your head!), and the little dot is about an inch long.

If you want to go with the Heisig meaning (“glue” or “glued to”), then try this:

The first 2 strokes are the hot glue gun, and the little dot is the dab of glue.

April 12, 2009 Posted by | 3 strokes, Grade 6, JLPT 1, Radicals | , , , , | Leave a comment

干(ほ·す、ひ·る、カン)

Meaning: to dry (something)

Components: 二 (two), 丨(walking stick)

My hack: If you want to dry something, just stretch it over 2 sticks (and let it air dry).

March 31, 2009 Posted by | 3 strokes, Grade 6, JLPT 2, Radicals | , , , , | Leave a comment

宀 (うかんむり)

Meaning: there is no official meaning to this one, so just come up with a way to remember this as a set. Make up your own meaning if it helps.

My hack: it looks kind of like the katakana ウ without the tail on the end.

NOTE: don’t confuse this one with 亠 (pot lid)!

March 31, 2009 Posted by | 3 strokes, Radicals | , , , , | 1 Comment

川(かわ、セン)

Meaning: river

My hack: It looks like an arial shot of a river with a bank on either side and the line in the center showing the current. OR, the line in the center is somebody on a kayak.

March 10, 2009 Posted by | 3 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 4 | , , , , | Leave a comment

山(やま、サン)

Meaning: mountain

My hack: it already looks a lot like a mountain with 3 peaks, you just have to imagine that they are very thin.

Make sure you start with the long stroke in the middle. Maybe it’s the walking stick you’ll need to go up the mountain.

March 8, 2009 Posted by | 3 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 4, Radicals | , , , , | Leave a comment

小(ちい·さい、こ、ショウ)

Meaning: small

Components: 亅(a barb)

My hack: Imagine the short lines on the sides are the edges of your fingers as you pull out a small barb or splinter.

OR

It’s a little kid with short arms.

March 2, 2009 Posted by | 3 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 4, Radicals | , , , , | Leave a comment

子(こ、シ、ス)

Meaning: child

My hack: It looks like one of those kewpie dolls to me. Pointy tuft of hair on top (OK, off to the side), long body, and arms sticking straight out to the sides.

March 2, 2009 Posted by | 3 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 4, Radicals | , , , , | Leave a comment

女(おんな、め、ジョ、ニョ)

Meaning: woman

My hack: I could (play on く) no (play on ノ) longer see one (一) woman

It also kind of looks like someone sitting at a desk to me.

March 2, 2009 Posted by | 3 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 4, Radicals | , , , , | Leave a comment

大(おお、おお·きい、ダイ、タイ)

Meaning: big

My hack: It looks like a person with arms spread wide, like Hiro Nakamura yelling “yatta!”

Side note: Someone in my mom’s office marked her soda can with a K for her name, but when you looked at it sideways it looked like this kanji. Her Japanese co-worker asked her why her soda said “big” on it.

February 28, 2009 Posted by | 3 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 4, Radicals | , , , , | Leave a comment

夕(ゆう、セキ)

Meaning: evening

My hack: The best I can do is imagine that this looks vaguely like a lapel on men’s evening wear.

February 28, 2009 Posted by | 3 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 3, Radicals | , , , , | Leave a comment

土(つち、ド、ト)

Meaning: earth, dirt, ground

My hack: it’s a sign stuck in the ground.

February 28, 2009 Posted by | 3 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 4, Radicals | , , , , | 1 Comment

口(くち、コウ、ク)

Meaning: mouth

:O

February 28, 2009 Posted by | 3 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 4, Radicals | , , , , | 1 Comment

千(ち、セン)

Meaning: one thousand

Components:

My hack: Say the top part is a bat, then brace yourself for a bad pun. Bat ten a thousand (batting 1000).

February 28, 2009 Posted by | 3 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 4 | , , , , | Leave a comment

下(した、しも、もと、さ·げる、くだ·す、カ、ゲ)

Meaning: down, below, under, inferior, to give

My hack: It’s a guy handing you something under the table (T for table).

February 27, 2009 Posted by | 3 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 4 | , , , , | Leave a comment

三(み、サン)

Meaning: three

I’ll save my energy for the hard ones.

February 27, 2009 Posted by | 3 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 4 | , , , , | 2 Comments

上(うえ、かみ、あ·げる、のぼ·る、ジョウ、ショウ)

Meaning: up, above

My hack: Imagine the vertical line is a waiter holding a tray above the ground.

February 26, 2009 Posted by | 3 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 4 | , , , , | Leave a comment