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My thoughts on learning kanji

David Hallgren

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こんにちはみんなさん!

I decided to make a post about learning kanji in order to share my thoughts and to receive some feedback. I've only studied japanese on my own yet, for about four months. But I will take a course at Gothenburgs University after the summer. I've only studied kanji seriously for about a month. Therefore I obviously can't say that much about learning them, but I felt I could share some thoughts anyway. So far I have learned to write and read about 150 kanji.

The method I use is that I every third day use this function on my site: David Hallgren's Japanese Page I print and cut out 15 kanji, then split these into three piles with 5 in each and concentrate on on pile a day. I believe it is more efficient to study for 5 minutes 12 times a day, rather than for one hour straight once a day. I bring them to work as well and take a short break every hour or so to repeat the readings and to write them. Since it is only 5 kanji this takes no time. And to really make sure I don't forget any kanji I've learned so far, I once a week take all flashcards and test my self on all of them. Those I don't remember correctly I put in new pile and repeat those the next day. This seems to be very efficient to memorize those 4-5 kanji whose on-readings are giving me some headache. 😌

But, as I said I've only studied for about a month and there I can't say that much about learning in such a way that you remember the readings for a long time. But what I've found so far is that it seems to be far more easy to remember a reading if I learn a word where that kanji is used with that reading at the same time. And not only does this make me remember the readings more easily, it also makes me learn new vocabulary. :cool:

Please share your thoughts on learning kanji! I would also like to know if any of you have any use for the function to print flashcards on my site. Unfortunately the database only contain about 150 kanji so far so those of you who already know a lot of kanji won't have any use of it. Also, I've haven't included every reading of the kanji but focused on those listed in Genki, which seems to be the most common anyway. I don't think I've entered more than 6 readings to any kanji yet.

Finally, to all of you who are striving to master this interesting language, がんばってください!
 

Keiichi

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I wouldn't say your method is bad, but when you say "repeating," what are you saying out? The onyomi and kunyomi for the kanji?
In University, there will be a good method, which is to learn kanji also with your other Japanese vocabulary and grammar material. By incorporating it, kanji will come up various times and you'll see how each of those kanji are used and notice the familiarity between words with the same kanji, including the similarities (and differences) in pronunciations of their usage, which makes it quite efficient. Most people who take formal classes will learn it this way, and my thoughts on it is that it's a working method, just as long as one is willing to take their time to practice these kanji (and that's whatever is working for different people) to know them.
Since you're self-learning at the moment, it would probably still be a good head start when you do get into your University course. :)
 

Dan B

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Well, I haven't put any deliberate effort into learning Kanji yet, but the methods you've both described sound good to me. Once I get to that point in my textbook, I'll be learning them in context but I'll probably also need to use some sort of flashcard system to help me remember them.

David, several days ago I followed a link from your site to a copy of Heisig's text on learning Kanji. I only had time to read through the first couple of pages of the introduction, but is your method similar to what he recommends? IIRC, he learned some 2000 Kanji in a month...yikes!

As for me, I can reliably write only two characters of Kanji: 日本

But I can recognize about 5 more:

一 二 三 (these were pretty tough to pick up ;-) )

語 (I looked this up once in order to write 日本語 on my notebook and now I keep seeing it everywhere!)

私 (I kind unconsciously picked this one up yesterday and today, in the process of looking up and asking questions about how to say, "I," which you both helped me on--thanks again!)

That's it, I'm afraid. But I learned another new word today, thanks to David:

みんな

I didn't know what you wrote so I looked it up. Now I know! By the way, I'm given to understand that one normally extends a consonant by placing a small つ before the leading consonant sound to be extended. Why, in this case, do we not use the つ to extend the "n" sound?

Is it for etymological reasons? From my dictionary, it looks like みん is kind of a root word meaning "people," but I didn't find any entries for みん by itself.

Thanks!

Dan
 

mad pierrot

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So many people studying so hard.....

To be honest, I've found textbooks the worst way to study kanji. I have several different books I was using, and quite frankly, it was really boring studying kanji that way. But, as I plan on taking the JLPT, I needed to study and forced myself none the less. Not too long ago a friend heard me complaining and offered me this advise: Read somethings interesting. This may sound stupid but it really helps. I went to a used manga shop, browsed, and bought a handful for under 5 bucks. Now, as I read, when I come across a kanji I don't know I stop, look it up and write it down. Later on I come back to that kanji and copy it a dozen times or so, just to keep it fresh in my mind.

Right now I'm reading GTO.
 

Glenn

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Just a note on みんな and 皆 (みな): the former is less formal than the latter, and when saying "everyone" in a polite situation the latter is used. I believe that this is due to the ん sound being sort of a "colloquializer," like the difference between あんまり and あまり. So you should say 皆さん (みなさん), and not みんなさん.

Regarding Heisig's method, see this thread.
 

Dan B

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Glenn,

Very interesting! I wasn't familiar with either the word あんまり or あまり (although perhaps I should be, as a math teacher ;-) ). But, given those two additional examples, I think that I understand the distinction.

But, to further clarify: Would an executive, very displeased with the performance of his staff, possibly address them en masse as みんな ? Or is that not right? Perhaps it's not diminutive but rather simply informal?

Once again, I owe you my thanks!

Dan
 

Glenn

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Dan B said:
But, to further clarify: Would an executive, very displeased with the performance of his staff, possibly address them en masse as みんな ? Or is that not right? Perhaps it's not diminutive but rather simply informal?

That is correct. It is simply a more informal rendering of the same word. I didn't mean to imply that みんな didn't mean "everyone." In addition, it can mean "everything" as well.
 

Dan B

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Glenn,

No, I'm sorry, I must have misspoken. I understood that you meant it to mean "everyone" (but it's also interesting that it can mean "everything," as well). My question was merely about the context in which it might be used. And you've helped me understand this.

Thanks!

Dan
 

Elizabeth

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I believe the only other times the んな combination appears is in the あんな、そんな、こんな、どんな series and never with only one n as far as I know. These can be slightly derogatory (that kind of..., such a....), although not necessarily colloquial.
 

Dan B

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Elizabeth and Glenn,

I thank you both for your help.

Elizabeth, are there more words in the series? Most seem to be in the form of "-o n na." Does it extend to the other leading consonants, as well? This may be a really dumb question, as it seems likely that there may not be other relevant words that start with the other consonants and continue the same pattern. My vocabulary is too limited at this point... 🙇‍♂️

Glenn, you've referred me to the "Teach Me Japanese" (TMJ) board before and I must admit that I've become a big fan. I'll have to spend more time there. It's a great resource.

To you both, it would seem that extending the "n" in certain words makes a word less formal (for forms of pronouns, presumably?). Does that sound correct?

Thanks to both of you for all of your help,

Dan
 

Elizabeth

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Dan B said:
Elizabeth and Glenn,

I thank you both for your help.

Elizabeth, are there more words in the series? Most seem to be in the form of "-o n na." Does it extend to the other leading consonants, as well? This may be a really dumb question, as it seems likely that there may not be other relevant words that start with the other consonants and continue the same pattern. My vocabulary is too limited at this point...
Well, naturally there are おんな and だんなさま as well.....and perhaps other non-hiragana words I haven't considered the spelling of.... 😊
 

Glenn

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Dan B said:
Elizabeth, are there more words in the series? Most seem to be in the form of "-o n na." Does it extend to the other leading consonants, as well? This may be a really dumb question, as it seems likely that there may not be other relevant words that start with the other consonants and continue the same pattern. My vocabulary is too limited at this point...

There are a set of words that are referred to as the ko- so- a- do- words. The relationship is one of ownership, I guess you could say. The ko- words are owned by you, the so- words are owned by someone else whom you are addressing, the a- words are owned by someone outside of your group, and the do- words are owned by someone whom you don't know. This probably doesn't make much sense the way that I said it, so I'll try to illustrate with examples.

これ, それ, あれ, どれ - this, that, that, which (these are demonstrative pronouns
この, その, あの, どの - this..., that..., that..., which... (these are demonstrative adjectives
こんな, そんな, あんな, どんな - this kind of..., that kind of..., that kind of..., what kind of...
こちら, そちら, あちら, どちら - this direction, that direction, that direction, which direction (but also can be used for location and as first person pronouns)
こっち, そっち, あっち, どっち - same as above, except less formal
ここ, そこ, あそこ*, どこ - here, there, there, and where
こう, そう, ああ*, どう - in this way, in that way, in that way, in which way

That's all that I can think of for now. I think that it may be all of them, but if not, then it is nearly all of them.

Dan B said:
To you both, it would seem that extending the "n" in certain words makes a word less formal (for forms of pronouns, presumably?). Does that sound correct?

I believe so, but in my experience those words are pretty limited. In fact, I think that the two that I cited above are the only times that I came across this phenomenon.
 

Mayuka

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Dan B said:
But, to further clarify: Would an executive, very displeased with the performance of his staff, possibly address them en masse as みんな ? Or is that not right? Perhaps it's not diminutive but rather simply informal?

I don't know, but perhaps he would use あなたたち。From what I understand, it conveys a certain distance, even displeasure. In a normal situation, I suppose he would use みなさん。
 

Dan B

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Thanks again for all the help, folks.

Glenn, wow! Thanks for that extensive list. I've seen a couple of those, but I'm going to copy the entire list in my notebook. Excellent!

Regards,

Dan
 
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