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Learning Kanji vs Vocabulary

biribiri

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3 Jun 2013
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Hi all, I'm new here and I have a question that is difficult for me figure out. I am a native speaker of Chinese, and so I understand the great significance and need for learning characters because they each represent a word by themselves. However, for kanji I feel that there is a big difference. Each kanji has its own onyomi and kunyomi, and that by itself is extremely confusing. Nonetheless that is about pronunciation, and my question is about the meaning of each kanji. I feel like Japanese differs with Chinese in that a word is usually multiple kanji or kanji with okurigana, and so I don't really see the point of memorizing each kanji by itself, because that pretty much only helps in reading (correct me if I am wrong). So, I'm thinking that straight memorizing vocab words is a better way to learn Japanese in order to go straight to reading (that's what my goal is). So I guess my question is this: For a person who wishes to read japanese as fast as possible is there any reason to prioritize learning each individual kanji by itself (which I guess helps for reading names and stuff), or would it just be better to just learn grammar and vocab words? Sorry for the long-winded post :S
 
It's somewhat valuable to individually study characters individually enough to not confuse similar characters. However, as a native speaker of Chinese... you've essentially got that down, I think.
Beyond that basic level it's far better to learn vocabulary words and their pronunciations. Studying lists of readings for a given character is a rather painful waste of time.
 
That's how I study the kanjis as well... I never care about the pronunciation, but I just memorize the word... I just familiarize it, and try to write it down for reference...
 
Hi all, I'm new here and I have a question that is difficult for me figure out. I am a native speaker of Chinese, and so I understand the great significance and need for learning characters because they each represent a word by themselves. However, for kanji I feel that there is a big difference. Each kanji has its own onyomi and kunyomi, and that by itself is extremely confusing. Nonetheless that is about pronunciation, and my question is about the meaning of each kanji. I feel like Japanese differs with Chinese in that a word is usually multiple kanji or kanji with okurigana, and so I don't really see the point of memorizing each kanji by itself, because that pretty much only helps in reading (correct me if I am wrong). So, I'm thinking that straight memorizing vocab words is a better way to learn Japanese in order to go straight to reading (that's what my goal is). So I guess my question is this: For a person who wishes to read japanese as fast as possible is there any reason to prioritize learning each individual kanji by itself (which I guess helps for reading names and stuff), or would it just be better to just learn grammar and vocab words? Sorry for the long-winded post :S

That's how I learned more advanced Chinese words, actually. However, this will prove to be quite annoying. Later on, you won't actually be able to say the words, just recognize them. I would recommend finding out pronunciation as well, even if it takes longer.
 
That's how I study the kanjis as well... I never care about the pronunciation, but I just memorize the word... I just familiarize it, and try to write it down for reference...

You're hamstringing yourself.
 
It depends on how you study the "multiple' readings of a kanji

f.e : lets say you're studying a few kanjis per day, 8 - 10

and you manage to Find "Hi"日 ->

You're probably going to learn Ni(nichi) and Hi, as the possible pronunciations for it, and memorize that it means sun/day as well

I dont think it makes any good to you to memorize any other readings for it above this point, you'll eventually learn that in a certain word it'll sound like Jitsu, (honjitsu) , or Ka

Thats how i've been studying at least~
 
It depends if you meant "I never care about the pronunciation" to mean you don't learn the readings of the individual kanji (fine) or to mean that you just learn the meaning of words but not how they're read (bad).

e.g., given a piece of text appropriate to your level, you should be able to read it out loud.
 
the method of learning depends on the type of memory you have. most people have photographic memory, so it would seem that the best way of studying is via writing down the words. Writing once wont do, you need to repeat and review. Any language based on Chinese writing system is a non-stop work, especially when you are a Westerner, who learned letters all his/her life. A different part of the brain is used during learning kanji and letters, so you have little chance to compete with those who studied them as kids. Meaning, you need to work twice as much.

Learning without pronunciation makes little sense, as there is no point in being able to know the meaning without assigning sound to it. You learn Japanese on 3 levels; speaking, writing, reading, and there is no way around it. So, on top of kanji cards (can use Anki, for example, or make them yourself) you should write write and then write some more.

Stand alone kanji - I would learn the core characters, and then move on to words, those are mostly composed of 2 kanji or kanji and hiragana, then phrases, and so on. Vocabulary is important, but you need to remember that Japanese grammar is flipped inside out comparing to English, or any other language that is not Korean or Persian, and even if you know all of the words in a given sentence, you wont understand the whole phrase. Thus, learning phrases, practical grammatical expressions, etc. is the key.

One last thing. Learn the proper stroke order. Aside the the aesthetic reasons (character balance etc), your brain remembers patterns. Writing in correct stroke order will make you "see" radicals or characters in your mind, assisting you with retrieving their shape.
 
I enjoy writing them. However, over several years, I have noticed that focusing on writing them every time you study becomes a distraction. I suggest writing them only the first pass or two, then focus more on quick turnover. Of course, that is in conjunction with reading. Studying large vocabulary and Kanji lists will do you no good past intermediate, compared to a steady reading regiment.
 
I agree that reading is v. important, but if you stop writing kanji, you will forget them, or start forgetting. I often see even Japanese struggling with writing. Also, watching movies is good, unless you are surrounded by a given language every day.
 
Ah, that's a great question.

I often hear of people studying the individual kanji, but I'm of the opinion that studying vocabulary is best, for the reasons you mentioned. (i.e. both the pronunciation and the meaning of the kanji vary depending on the word it's used in.)

I use Anki for studying vocabulary, and I've created a sample deck called 2-Step Japanese that I feel is a very effective method for learning kanji in the context of words and sentences. I'd heartily recommend you try it.
 
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