Kanji Hacks 漢字の覚え方

How to memorize kanji so they stick

止(と·める、と·まる、シ)

Meaning: to stop

My hack: I can’t claim credit for this one. (I learned this from a book called Kanji Pict-O-Graphix, which has about 1000 mnemonics if you’re interested in seeing some other memorization ideas.)

The first stroke (the longer vertical line) is a police officer, and the little horizontal stroke is his arm out to signal traffic to stop. The third stroke is a child waiting to cross the street, and the final stroke is the ground.

This character is on the cover of the book:

Kanji Pict-O-Graphix

Kanji Pict-O-Graphix

Note: Just in case anyone is suspicious, I have no affiliation with the author of this book and I am not being paid to plug it. I’m just putting it out there as an option for anyone who is interested. For more details on this book and others, check out my reviews.

August 20, 2009 Posted by | 4 strokes, Grade 2, JLPT 3, Radicals | Leave a comment

化(ば・ける、ば・かす、カ、ケ)

Meaning:change

Components: 亻(person), 匕 (spoon)

My hack: I remember spoon as a side view of a baby since that is what it looks like to me, so for this one I think of a spoon-fed baby and a person and how quickly one changes from one to the other.

April 19, 2009 Posted by | 4 strokes, Grade 3, JLPT 2 | , , , , | Leave a comment

王(オウ)

Meaning: king

My hack: Imagine a king from a chess board, and focus on the horizontal lines. You’ll probably have to ignore the cross on the top, but the 3 horizontal lines and one vertical line should be fairly clear.

TIP: keep in mind the stroke order when you learn this one! Top, down, middle, bottom.

Photo by Manuel Marin

Photo by Manuel Marin

March 12, 2009 Posted by | 4 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 2, Radicals | , , , , | Leave a comment

犬(いぬ、ケン)

Meaning: dog

March 12, 2009 Posted by | 4 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 3, Radicals | , , , , | Leave a comment

火(ひ、カ)

Meaning: fire

March 12, 2009 Posted by | 4 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 4, Radicals | , , , , | Leave a comment

水(みず、スイ)

Meaning: water

March 12, 2009 Posted by | 4 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 4, Radicals | , , , , | Leave a comment

木(き、ボク、モク)

Meaning: tree, wood

My hack: I try to imagine this one as a tree with droopy branches, like an evergreen with the top branches sticking straight out, and the lower ones hanging down low.

You could also imagine it as a palm tree if that works for you. You’ll have to shorten the trunk in your mind.

March 12, 2009 Posted by | 4 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 4, Radicals | , , , , | Leave a comment

月(つき、ゲツ、ガツ)

Meaning: moon, month, flesh

March 12, 2009 Posted by | 4 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 4, Radicals | , , , , | Leave a comment

日(ひ、か、ニチ、ジツ)

Meaning: sun, day, Japan

My hack: OK, this is supposed to look like the sun (a circle with a dot in the center), just squished into a rectangular shape. To me it looks just like a window, so I try to imagine that it’s really sunny outside this window, and the focus of this kanji is the white part, not the black part. You have to be careful that you don’t start thinking that it means “window” though!

March 11, 2009 Posted by | 4 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 4 | , , , , | Leave a comment

文(ふみ、ブン、モン)

Meaning: sentence, literature

March 11, 2009 Posted by | 4 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 3 | , , , , | Leave a comment

手(て、シュ)

Meaning: hand

March 11, 2009 Posted by | 4 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 3 | , , , , | Leave a comment

天(あめ、あま、テン)

Meaning: heavens, imperial, sky

March 11, 2009 Posted by | 4 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 4 | , , , , | Leave a comment

円(まる·い、エン)

Meaning: circle, yen

Components: 冂 (same)

My hack: Yen coins are all the same (first 2 strokes to make enclosure), except for one (third stroke) that has a circle in the middle (last stroke going across enclosure).

Since the kanji itself is not all that round, I just remember the meaning by thinking of a round one-yen coin.

March 11, 2009 Posted by | 4 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 4 | , , , , | Leave a comment

六(む、ロク)

Meaning: six

Components: 亠(pot lid), katakana ハ or 八 (eight)

My hack: You could remember it as eight 八 minus 2 strokes (亠). OR, try imagining how well this fits into a hexagon.

Six

March 11, 2009 Posted by | 4 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 4 | , , , , | Leave a comment

五(いつ、ゴ)

Meaning: five

My hack: You’ll have to visualize this one. Focus on the stroke order of this character, and think about how you write the numeral 5. If you start with the top horizontal line like many people do, then this character is just a Picasso version of a 5. Try writing it a few times and I think you’ll see what I mean.

If you need to see the stroke order, try this site.
This also looks like the “warrior pose” in yoga. Maybe you do yoga at 5PM?


March 11, 2009 Posted by | 4 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 4 | , , , , | Leave a comment

中(なか、チュウ)

Meaning: center, inside, middle

My hack: This looks like a morsel of food on a skewer. You always put the skewer in the middle, or the food will fall off.

March 11, 2009 Posted by | 4 strokes, Grade 1, JLPT 4 | , , , , | Leave a comment