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Effective study of kanji

Indiana

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Goodmorning everyone. My name is Indiana and I am new to this forum. I am a beginner of the Japanese language, I am studying and slowly I want to pass the jlpt in order to add something to my curriculum. I'm here to ask for your help. I have already studied the two Kana alphabets and I know them well, I am studying grammar and vocabulary but there is the problem of the kanji ... I apologize for the long post but so far no one has been able to help me (the only answer, however fair it was, it was just: study). I state that I like kanji very much, in the sense that I feel a sensation of pleasure when I see them (as if I were looking at a painting) and therefore I want to study them very well. I know it will take time and a lot of effort but this is not a problem. I can. But as I wrote in the title I am looking for the right method to study kanji (also to increase my vocabulary (I think it is very useful)). So here is the question for you that, I think, others have already asked but it is necessary that I do it again: what should I do when I am in front of a kanji? How do I remember all the readings (ON and KUN) and all the meanings that a single kanji can have?
F3C971F8-0A3D-440A-8A35-8C2EDAAA551C.jpeg

I pasted a kanji taken at random as a "sample kanji". As you can see, there is a lot of information to remember. What is the right approach to study this and all the others? I have read that some advise only to study the words (and you learn everything else over time by studying the words). Personally I find it hard to invent a story to remember the kanji and I also struggle to associate the kanji with images to memorize them ... but I want to learn them well (I'm 30 years old and so I know what I want and I know how to work to get it, however I have anyway I need someone more capable than me to have some advice. I have also heard people who said not to worry because now with the internet and with all the apps that are, in the end you have no problems and you have everything ... undeniable but I really want to "get in touch with the kanji", I want to "see them come out of my hand and my mouth", I want to feel their essence ... if you mean what I mean ...
Finally I would like to know what you think of two sites for the study of kanji through words or at least to study words. I refer to the iKnow site! and the Kanshudo website. Again, I apologize for the long post and kindly ask the Jref community if they can devote some time, when they have time, to respond in as much detail as possible to all my doubts. Thanking you in advance, I wish you a good weekend.
 

Buntaro

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Hi Indiana and welcome to the forum.

My advice is not to take one kanji and try to learn all of its pronunciations and meanings. Take the kanji 生. My dictionary says it has 16 pronunciations! In my opinion, trying to memorize all 16 pronunciations is the wrong way to learn this kanji.

Instead, pick one vocabulary word and then learn its corresponding kanji and pronunciation. Then, learn another vocabulary word and learn its kanji and pronunciation. Do not try to learn the second kanji pronunciation just because it is the same kanji as the first kanji.

For example. You may see the word 生ビール (なま ビール) on a beer can. (It is very common to see this kanji on a beer can in Japan.) It means “draft beer”. Learn this pronunciation for this kanji in this situation, which is なま. Later, you may learn the word 先生 (せんせい) meaning “teacher”. Yes, 生 is pronounced なま and せい, but you don’t need to even think about it as two pronunciations for the same kanji. Just learn to translate “draft beer” as 生ビール (なま ビール) and “teacher” as 先生 (せんせい). Learn a new vocabulary word first and then learn its kanji, not the other way around.

When you learn a new vocabulary word, write out a sentence using the corresponding kanji. Make a question using that vocabulary word. Ask someone the question. (Immediately asking a question using a new vocabulary word is a good way to remember the word.) If you are learning the kanji for “teacher”, you should write out the sentence in kanji, then immediately ask someone, “あなたは先生ですか?” (“Are you a teacher?”)

If you are learning the kanji for “draft beer”, you should immediately ask someone, (“生ビールが好きですか?) (なまビール  が すき です か?)(Do you like draft beer?)

At this point in your learning, I wouldn’t worry about whether something is おんよみ or くんよみ. Just learn 生ビール is “draft beer” and 先生 is “teacher”.

Do not try to do something like learn ten kanji everyday. Years ago it didn’t work for me and I don’t think it will work for you. Instead, learn a vocabulary word then learn the corresponding kanji for that vocabulary word, as I am recommending here.
 
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Indiana

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Thanks for the tip. I will follow your advice and start studying the vocabulary. In your opinion, are sites like iKnow! and Kanshudo OK? Do you know any other resources for vocabulary?
Thank you
 

Buntaro

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Hi Indiana,

Unfortunately, I do not know anyone who is learning Japanese and I am not up on the latest Japanese-teaching textbooks and websites. It seems the most popular textbook nowadays is called Genki, so you might want to take a look at it.

Regarding resources for vocabulary, I think all Japanese-teaching textbooks and websites teach vocabulary. Learning Japanese is all about learning vocabulary and grammar (although some tend to emphasize one over the other). There are also numerous videos on YouTube that Japanese, so you might want to look at some of those too.

I am glad to hear you have mastered reading and writing hiragana and katakana. (If I told you I had lunch at マクドナルド restaurant, would you recognize which restaurant it is?) I was in Japan for about a year before I figured out which restaurant マクドナルド was. Could you write マクドナルド down quickly if you heard someone say it?
 

Indiana

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Hi Buntaro, thanks for the quick reply. I will study from various resources. I can read and write kana but to be perfect I still have to do a lot of practice. If I had to write a word heard aloud, I still make some mistakes. マ ク ド ナ ル ド ... I'm lovin 'it.
 

Buntaro

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Hi Indiana,

Do you have someone you can study Japanese with? Do you have someone you can write dialogues with? Write short, 4-line dialogues. You write the first line, the other person writes the second line, etc. Write a line in English, then work together to write it in Japanese, then work together to put in all of the kanji. When you are finished, practice speaking the dialogue with your partner.

Here are some examples:

A. Hello
B. Nice to meet you.
C.
D.

Now change it into Japanese.

A. こんにちは。
B. はじめまして。
C.
D.

~~~

Here is one with kanji. First write the English.

A. The dog ate my lunch!
B.
C.
D.

Now change it into Japanese.

A. いぬ は わたち の ちゅうしょく を たべました!
B.
C.
D.

Now put in the kanji.

A. 犬は私の昼食を食べました!
B.
C.
D.
 

Indiana

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Hi Buntaro. Thank you for your time.
I have a friend with whom I study Japanese, so I will try to do as you have told me. It seems very useful to create a dialogue, translate it first into kana and then kanji and then practice the conversation. Thank you very much.
Can I ask a completely different question but one that puzzles me?
The jlpt is divided into levels, from N5 to N1 and so far ok, I understand. What I don't understand is the way the grammar is divided for the different levels...I mean, if I wanted to study apart from the jlpt, is there any resource (I mean school books) where there is ALL the Japanese grammar? (from N5 to N1 and even more, all together)...to understand again...a native Japanese student who has to study Japanese grammar (I think they study it too), obviously won't use the jlpt books, but his own and therefore he too will have to learn all the grammar...this puzzles me. I hope you understand what I mean.
 

bentenmusume

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Well, what you have to understand is that the JLPT test is explicitly a test for non-native learners of the language, and the way a second-language learner studies a language is never going to be identical to that of a native speaker. Yes, native speakers "study"/"learn" their own language at school, too, but this typically means reading literature to improve critical reading skills, learning certain things about grammar to be able to fine-tune their understanding of how their native language works, et cetera and so forth. A native speaker already has a command of their own language far, far beyond that of a second-language learner long before they ever "study" their language in school.

So the long story short is, no, there is no single resource (in terms of a "school book") that will take you from the zero or early intermediate level as a second language learner to the equivalent of a native speaker. To be honest, even JLPT N1 (though it requires a demonstration of advanced proficiency in the sense of being able to read and answer questions about reading materials designed for native speakers, etc.) does not represent a "native's" level of understanding, and it is very possible to pass JLPT N1 (even with something very close to a perfect score) while still having a level of Japanese far, far below what anyone would consider as "native."

Speaking from personal experience, passing JLPT N1 on the road to developing a high (close to native) level of proficiency and fluency will often involve starting with a solid textbook (the Genki series is the most popular/most often recommended, though there are other good ones out there), which will probably get you up to about the JLPT N3 or so level. Then (either after you finish, or starting even earlier depending on your learning method), you'll be supplementing your studies with exposure to native materials (books/media/etc. made for native Japanese speakers) and using other reference materials to help you understand what you're reading. Eventually, you'll reach the JLPT N2/N1 level, at which point you should be fairly independent as a learner, "learning"/"studying" mostly by consuming materials made for native speakers, looking things up in Japanese-Japanese dictionaries (i.e. monolingual Japanese dictionaries made for native Japanese people), communicating to Japanese people in Japanese and getting occasional corrections (and doing self-correction), etc. etc.

Anyhow, I'm speaking mostly from my own experience. Everyone's experience is different, so you can take it with a grain of salt, but looking at other people I know who've reached a high level of Japanese proficiency, I would say most of the above is true for most of them. Textbooks are part of the process, but textbooks alone will not get you to that advanced/near-native proficiency level. And that's fine, really, because textbooks aren't really meant to do that (I would imagine this goes for learning any second language to a high level, though I personally only have experience with Japanese.)

I hope this helps to give a bit of perspective, and please let us know if you have any other questions!
 

Indiana

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Hi Bentenmusume.
Thank you for your reply. I imagined something like that but wasn't really sure. In fact, my doubts were born some time ago when, by pure chance, I had come into contact with some grammatical forms that I had never seen (I knew that each N level has its own grammar (among other things)) and then I asked myself if there was some resource that would group everything together, so that I wouldn't have any more problems...in fact I would have studied everything gradually...anyway now I understand.
As you said, the same problem actually exists for any language.
For jlpt...so with the resources (genki and/or other) you can get up to N3; after that I have to expand the study with a lot of native material, conversations, etc...to sum up.
Thanks for the lengthy explanation and also for your experience.
 
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