What's new

Welcome to Japan Reference (JREF) - the community for all Things Japanese.

Join Today! It is fast, simple, and FREE!

Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101.com

When to start learning Kanji? +stroke order advice

jonnyb193

後輩
Joined
28 Sep 2012
Messages
10
Reaction score
0
Hi everyone! I would like some advice about learning kanji. A little about me first, I started learning Japanese a few weeks ago (a bit less than that actually but I have been doing quite a lot, 1-3 hours a night), using Rosetta Stone and a couple of other webpages/programs (I've found Anki helpful). Anyway I'm at a point where I can recognise and enunciate almost all the hiragana, and have a small vocabulary of around 75-100 words, I'd estimate.

What I have been doing is "adding" the hiragana up by sounding them out individually rather than just recognising 2 or 3 in a certain order as a word. I find this way I gain a better understanding of how to pronounce the words and gradually build up a vocabulary based on understanding, rather than memorising.

I am less good at the katakana, I started that more recently and I can probably only recognise/enunciate about a third of them. My aim is to have them sorted in the next week or two.

Rosetta Stone gives you the option of seeing the text in romaji, hiragana/katakana, kanji or furigana. Up until now I have been using the hiragana option, but the more I learn in hiragana the more I think "maybe I should start learning some kanji now?". So essentially what I'd like to know is when should I start learning kanji? I had one idea which was whenever I completed a section/unit in Rosetta Stone, to go back and repeat it but with kanji (or furigana) script instead of hiragana. Or should I simply continue with hiragana/katakana until I can speak and read better/fluently before I go anywhere near the kanji?

Also when I started writing hiragana I was completely unaware of brush strokes or stroke order or anything, so I just sort of drew them how it came naturally to me. Now I can write most from memory, they look fine but my technique is probably awful. Is it really important to learn the stroke order, do you think it would be a good idea for me to go back and learn them all correctly? It must matter more when it comes to kanji I'm guessing because they can get more complex.

Anyway that's all from me, hope I didn't go on too much! Any advice or learning tips in general would be appreciated and thanks in advance! :D
 

Mike Cash

骨も命も皆此の土地に埋めよう
Joined
15 Mar 2002
Messages
16,455
Reaction score
2,255
Stroke order is good to learn. More important is learning strike count. This will come in handy should your studies progress to the point that you find yourself needing to look up kanji.
 

jonnyb193

後輩
Joined
28 Sep 2012
Messages
10
Reaction score
0
Stroke order is good to learn. More important is learning strike count. This will come in handy should your studies progress to the point that you find yourself needing to look up kanji.

ok, so by that you mean 3,4,5 etc stroke characters? Am I right in saying strike count doesn't necessarily correspond to complexity of meaning? Is it better to learn them by order of strike count, or rather just as and when they pop up throughout my course? (Also do you think I should start putting the text into furigana/kanji yet or should I stick with the hiragana/katakana?)

Asking too many questions, sorry about that! :p
 

eeky

先輩
Joined
8 Jun 2010
Messages
2,431
Reaction score
22
To me it makes sense to learn them more or less in order of frequency of use (most common first). If you follow any sort of sensible learning programme then that ought to roughly happen automatically. I don't see any point in learning them in order of stroke count (which is not to say you shouldn't learn the stroke counts, of course).
 

jonnyb193

後輩
Joined
28 Sep 2012
Messages
10
Reaction score
0
To me it makes sense to learn them more or less in order of frequency of use (most common first). If you follow any sort of sensible learning programme then that ought to roughly happen automatically. I don't see any point in learning them in order of stroke count (which is not to say you shouldn't learn the stroke counts, of course).

Thanks for your reply. I understand that it would be the best way to learn, but as I said I am currently learning in "hiragana mode" on Rosetta stone. Should I switch to kanji/furigana mode? Basically what I'm trying to ask is when is the right time to start learning kanji.
 

eeky

先輩
Joined
8 Jun 2010
Messages
2,431
Reaction score
22
If you are serious about learning Japanese, it is never too soon to start learning kanji. On the other hand, when you first start, you don't want to be so overwhelmed by the task that it impairs your enjoyment/progress in learning the language itself. Some people discourage the use of too much furigana for learners because they say it encourages dependency (i.e. people read the furigana and never properly learn the kanji). I don't know what options are available for Rosetta Stone, but the first book I learned from introduced kanji gradually, a few at a time, using furigana for the first few instances, and then dropping the furigana. I think that is a sensible approach.
 

jonnyb193

後輩
Joined
28 Sep 2012
Messages
10
Reaction score
0
If you are serious about learning Japanese, it is never too soon to start learning kanji. On the other hand, when you first start, you don't want to be so overwhelmed by the task that it impairs your enjoyment/progress in learning the language itself. Some people discourage the use of too much furigana for learners because they say it encourages dependency (i.e. people read the furigana and never properly learn the kanji). I don't know what options are available for Rosetta Stone, but the first book I learned from introduced kanji gradually, a few at a time, using furigana for the first few instances, and then dropping the furigana. I think that is a sensible approach.

Thanks again for your response. I was hoping for an answer like this, as I've been eager to start learning a few of the most popular kanji for a few days now. I think I'll start with furigana, just to get used to seeing the kanji there, and follow the same system as you, changing it to kanji alone once I'm used to it.

Also, if you don't mind me asking, did you learn to write the individual kanji at the same time you learned to read and understand them? Or did you learn to write it after you initially learned to read it? The reason being that I learned to write hiragana and katakana as I went along (although as I mentioned my technique is probably pretty bad), but I am guessing it would be a lot harder to do this for kanji?
 

eeky

先輩
Joined
8 Jun 2010
Messages
2,431
Reaction score
22
I have never seriously tried to learn to write kanji. In fact, I can barely write legibly in English with a pen and paper nowadays, since I have had almost no practice in years. It would be interesting to hear from people living in Japan about how necessary it is (or is likely to be in future) to be able to write kanji properly old-style with a pen. I think I read somewhere that even Japanese people are starting to forget the skill because everything is electronic now.

Of course, some people are also interested in learning calligraphy as an art, rather than for practical purposes. I guess you could also argue that learning to write them forces you to have a very precise knowledge of the kanji.
 

jonnyb193

後輩
Joined
28 Sep 2012
Messages
10
Reaction score
0
I have never seriously tried to learn to write kanji. In fact, I can barely write legibly in English with a pen and paper nowadays, since I have had almost no practice in years. It would be interesting to hear from people living in Japan about how necessary it is (or is likely to be in future) to be able to write kanji properly old-style with a pen. I think I read somewhere that even Japanese people are starting to forget the skill because everything is electronic now.

Of course, some people are also interested in learning calligraphy as an art, rather than for practical purposes. I guess you could also argue that learning to write them forces you to have a very precise knowledge of the kanji.

Ok, well I have started with with few counter-suffix kanji, because I'm in a section of my course that uses them a lot. Already slightly confused about something, the kanji 人 is read ひと when talking about a person, e.g onnanohito, but when it comes to counting the people, using the nin counter suffix, e.g: 四人 / よにん. 人 is read as "nin".

Is this something to do with the two ways of interpreting the kanji-the on and kun readings? I had a look at this page: Kanji Onreading and Kunreading - How do you know when to use On-reading and Kun-reading?

Do you just have to memorise which words use which readings?
 

Mike Cash

骨も命も皆此の土地に埋めよう
Joined
15 Mar 2002
Messages
16,455
Reaction score
2,255
There is a lot of memorization involved. You probably should be using some better materials than the half-baked Rosetta Stone, which expects you to intuit everything.
 

jonnyb193

後輩
Joined
28 Sep 2012
Messages
10
Reaction score
0
There is a lot of memorization involved. You probably should be using some better materials than the half-baked Rosetta Stone, which expects you to intuit everything.

Could you recommend me some?

I have been using a few websites in conjunction with Rosetta Stone. Mainly to clarify things, but I agree that a certain amount of initiative is required to look up what you are reading and make sure you understand what is going on in Rosetta Stone. But on the other hand, overall I think it's very good program so far.

I'd appreciate it if you could tell me whether I was on the right lines with my question?
 

Mike Cash

骨も命も皆此の土地に埋めよう
Joined
15 Mar 2002
Messages
16,455
Reaction score
2,255
You're on the right lines.

It has been a while since I studied kanji so let's let someone with more current knowledge recommend materials. Just keep in mind "you get what you pay for".
 

zoomingjapan

Japan Travel Expert
Joined
18 Jun 2012
Messages
274
Reaction score
49
Personally I think it's better to get used to Kana as soon as possible.
Maybe after a few weeks of getting used to the basics, I'd try to completely go away from Romaji and stick to Kana.
It's a good idea to already learn the first 50-100 most common Kanji, too.

There have been people who focused on Kanji before even starting to study the language per se.
It's possible!

There are many different methods to learn Kanji. You need to figure out what works best for yourself!
I had a tough time in the beginning, too. It was a lot of trial and error.

Personally for me the "Heisig" method worked well.
The problem is that many people think it's some magic trick and you don't need any effort when using this method, which isn't true.
I came up with my own method for the ON-YOMI afterwards.
 

jonnyb193

後輩
Joined
28 Sep 2012
Messages
10
Reaction score
0
You're on the right lines.

It has been a while since I studied kanji so let's let someone with more current knowledge recommend materials. Just keep in mind "you get what you pay for".

Ok thanks for the advice, well Rosetta Stone wasn't cheap! Content wise I have a huge amount. I'm on level 1 (of 3) unit 2 (of 4) section 2 (of 4). Though I have been very thorough to help improve my understanding, rather than just learning loads of vocab, so I'd probably be way ahead if I just completed the sections and moved on.

I'll get researching on other learning resources, particularly for kanji, because as far as I know Rosetta Stone just shows you them (if you're in the right mode) but leaves it up to you to judge why they are there and how they are made up, and gives you no help with writing them either.

---------- Post added at 02:54 ---------- Previous post was at 02:47 ----------

Personally I think it's better to get used to Kana as soon as possible.
Maybe after a few weeks of getting used to the basics, I'd try to completely go away from Romaji and stick to Kana.
It's a good idea to already learn the first 50-100 most common Kanji, too.

There have been people who focused on Kanji before even starting to study the language per se.
It's possible!

There are many different methods to learn Kanji. You need to figure out what works best for yourself!
I had a tough time in the beginning, too. It was a lot of trial and error.

Personally for me the "Heisig" method worked well.
The problem is that many people think it's some magic trick and you don't need any effort when using this method, which isn't true.
I came up with my own method for the ON-YOMI afterwards.

Thanks for your reply. I actually started with kana, never even looked at the romaji apart from to clarify things every now and again. Now I can read and enunciate hiragana well without any romaji aid and am learning to do the same with katakana. So in that respect, I'm already used to kana, or at least hiragana.

I think you're right. The trouble is that, like you said, there will be quite a bit of trial and error before I find the method right for me! I'll have to research the different learning methods. I think I've heard of that method, is that the one associated with this book?

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Remembering...=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1348883567&sr=1-2

Actually just seen the author is Heisig, so that would make sense!
 

eeky

先輩
Joined
8 Jun 2010
Messages
2,431
Reaction score
22
Do you just have to memorise which words use which readings?
Kanji that have okurigana (affixed kana for inflections etc., typically in verbs, adjectives or words derived from such) almost always have "kun" readings. Single-kanji words with no okurigana often have "kun" readings, but not always. Compound-kanji words with no okurigana (typically nouns) most often have "on" readings, but not always. The more common the kanji, generally, the more different readings and special cases there are. Some kanji also have special "name" readings (nanori), used in proper names.
 

jonnyb193

後輩
Joined
28 Sep 2012
Messages
10
Reaction score
0
Kanji that have okurigana (affixed kana for inflections etc., typically in verbs, adjectives or words derived from such) almost always have "kun" readings. Single-kanji words with no okurigana often have "kun" readings, but not always. Compound-kanji words with no okurigana (typically nouns) most often have "on" readings, but not always. The more common the kanji, generally, the more different readings and special cases there are. Some kanji also have special "name" readings (nanori), used in proper names.

Thanks for the concise explanation. So is a kanji with okurigana one that is immediately followed or preceded by kana, for example hashitte 走って?
 

zoomingjapan

Japan Travel Expert
Joined
18 Jun 2012
Messages
274
Reaction score
49

Toritoribe

松葉解禁
Moderator
Joined
22 Feb 2008
Messages
17,317
Reaction score
3,467
Thanks for the concise explanation. So is a kanji with okurigana one that is immediately followed or preceded by kana, for example hashitte 走って?
Yes. That's the case.
走る(はしる, verb, kun reading) vs 走力(そうりょく, compound word, noun, on reading)

However, it's not always so, as already pointed out.
e.g.
通して(とおして, verb, kun) vs 通じて(つうじて, verb, on)
食べる(たべる, verb, kun) vs 食する(しょくする, verb, on)
妙なる(たえなる, adjective, kun) vs 妙な(みょうな, adjective, on)

Verbs "Kanji + する/ずる/じる" and their conjugations often have on readings (but, confusingly, not always.)
 
Last edited:

eeky

先輩
Joined
8 Jun 2010
Messages
2,431
Reaction score
22
Thanks for the concise explanation. So is a kanji with okurigana one that is immediately followed or preceded by kana, for example hashitte 走って?
Right, exactly like 走って. AFAIK, okurigana always refers to kana suffixes, not prefixes. But the kana suffix has to be actually part of the word. It doesn't just mean any old kana (different word) following. So, for example, there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of verbs that can be formed by attaching する ("do") to kanji nouns (often kanji compounds). However, since する is viewed as a separate word, not okurigana, the rule doesn't apply, and, actually, most of those kanji-する combinations use "on" readings, like the nouns they derive from.

(Posted before seeing Toritoribe's reply.)
 

Mike Cash

骨も命も皆此の土地に埋めよう
Joined
15 Mar 2002
Messages
16,455
Reaction score
2,255
Just to further muddy the waters....there are words that are written in a mix of kanji and kana simply because the bit of the word represented in kana was formerly written with a kanji that is no longer on the list of commonly used kanji. For example: 警ら instead of 警邏
 

jonnyb193

後輩
Joined
28 Sep 2012
Messages
10
Reaction score
0
Yes. That's the case.
走る(はしる, verb, kun reading) vs 走力(そうりょく, compound word, noun, on reading)

However, it's not always so, as already pointed out.
e.g.
通して(とおして, verb, kun) vs 通じて(つうじて, verb, on)
食べる(たべる, verb, kun) vs 食する(しょくする, verb, on)
妙なる(たえなる, adjective, kun) vs 妙な(みょうな, adjective, on)

Verbs "Kanji + する/ずる/じる" and their conjugations often have on readings (but, confusingly, not always.)

Right, exactly like 走って. AFAIK, okurigana always refers to kana suffixes, not prefixes. But the kana suffix has to be actually part of the word. It doesn't just mean any old kana (different word) following. So, for example, there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of verbs that can be formed by attaching する ("do") to kanji nouns (often kanji compounds). However, since する is viewed as a separate word, not okurigana, the rule doesn't apply, and, actually, most of those kanji-する combinations use "on" readings, like the nouns they derive from.

(Posted before seeing Toritoribe's reply.)

Just to further muddy the waters....there are words that are written in a mix of kanji and kana simply because the bit of the word represented in kana was formerly written with a kanji that is no longer on the list of commonly used kanji. For example: 警ら instead of 警邏

Sorry for the big delay in reply. Thanks for the okurigana explanations, it's reassuring to know that I understood what was going on. I went out yesterday and got myself some good kanji learning books, plus a Japanese grammar book which looks really useful. Looking forward to getting stuck into them, I'd better get learning!

Thanks again, you have all been very helpful! :D
 
Last edited:
Top Bottom