The elephant in the room; a dank kanji lesson

Discussion in 'Kanji かんじ 漢字' started by Samet Chan, Jun 23, 2016.

  1. Samet Chan

    Samet Chan Altair-imperial
    AXF Donor
    Thread Starter

    Mar 18, 2011
    Likes Received:
    Hello konnichi wa gakusei-tachi.
    I saw the weaboos added a 日本語さん section so I thought I'd stop by and spit some hot knowledge over dese Chinese cartoon watchers.

    You see when you learn Japanese there's always this huge elephant in the room. The one that has 'Kanji' written on it. Everyone who starts learning always stays away from it because they think it's too hard for a beginner-kun. But the truth is the opposite, now PuppetPasta-sensei will turn you into a Kanji-expert by the time you finish reading this.

    So introductions first, Kanji are Chinese characters. They are used in China as the primary way of writing and the characters share their meanings between Japanese and Chinese, most of them at least. The word is written 漢字 in both languages, pronounced 'Hanzi' in Chinese. Now the meaning of the word based on the characters it's made up of is roughly 'characters from China'. Where we have 漢 as China and 字 as character.

    Let me show you the dankest tool out there for this sort of stuff. This website is a digital dictionary between English and Japanese. You can type with the Roman alphabet, in kana or kanji and it'll figure out what you mean. Use this for any translation needs from now on.

    Now in case you've heard of kun'yomi and on'yomi before, forget about those. It's pointless to learn them.

    Kanji are pronounced differently depending on how they are used. As a single word, as a verb, as a compound for a word, it makes sense somewhat when you learn words but you should learn how kanji are pronounced in words, do not learn all their possible pronounciations.

    Now then here comes the dankest part of the lesson, once you know this, learning kanji is gonna be easy.

    Kanji are like legos. They are usually made up of multiple individual pieces. Let's take the kanji 働, which means 'work'. This shitshow of a forum won't let me make the character bigger so take a good look at it. Now let's take the kanji 動 which means 'move'. Hey would you look at that, 'move' is just 'work' but it's missing a part. The part that is missing is 人, which means 'person'. Someone took it and really fucked it up and then crammed it into the kanji, but that sort of stuff happens more often so get used to it. Next we're gonna take another part that 'move' is made up of. The kanji 力, meaning 'power'. The last part is not a single kanji that I recognize but instead made up of two others, 里 and 千 meaning 'village' and 'thousand' respectively. They are stacked on top of one another.

    Now you might've already realized that these parts don't make all that much sense and that is true most of the time. Person + thousand + village + power doesn't really make sense as 'work', well maybe a little bit as I write this. Because you can have like a thousand people in a village joining their power in order to get work done.

    Well hey there that's a story. So next time you see 働 you see a thousand people from a village joining their power to get, right,work done. This here is a mnemonic,

    For a bit of a history lesson, in China, many of the hanzi have both phonetic compounds as well as semantic compounds. Basically one part of the hanzi represents its meaning, another part represents its pronounciation. Now when these characters were integrated into Japanese they started being pronounced extremely differently so these phonetic compounds don't mean a whole lot anymore in Japanese. But it could explain why many kanji compounds don't make a whole lot of sense in Japanese.

    As for if you want to start learning kanji because obviously now you can't wait to dive in the wonderful world that is Chinese characters, you could learn them the way school kids learn them in Japan, you could follow the Joyo kanji list, you could follow a method like Heisig or you can just pick them up as you come across them. Just be sure to learn what parts kanji are made up of, making them easier to remember.

    This became a lot less dank as the text progressed, gomenasai minna-san.
    anyway your now a kanji expert
    Papa and Gene Starwind like this.