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Advice on how to study Kanji

In Japan, the kanji, along with the phonetic kana (hiragana and katakana), have become the main characters for writing the Japanese language. In Japan, the government has established a set of "常用漢字/じょうようかんじ/Joyo Kanji/ Common use Kanji". This is a set of guidelines for the use of kanji in modern Japanese language in general life, and currently, 2136 characters are selected. If you are not native Japanese, you are not really expected to know all of them, but still, it will be useful to know them especially if you are planning to live in Japan someday. In this article, I will give advice on how to study Kanji efficiently. There are many people who find it hard to learn kanji because they find it painful to learn by copying them repeatedly in a notebook. However, Kanji is indispensable knowledge for enriching Japanese expressions.

Repetition is an essential part of mastering kanji. The "Kanji workbook" is recommended for learning Kanji. These days, there are plenty of Kanji workbooks, such as Kanji workbooks from Kumon, and of course, Kanji workbooks for each grade. In addition, there are even kanji workbooks for adults as well. Repeated practice with Kanji drills will help you develop the study habit naturally.

Although the repetition method has a steady effect, it is easy to become monotonous and bored if you just write blindly and repeatedly, and it is often difficult to remember if you are working mechanically without using your mind. When studying kanji, keep the following tips in mind to increase your efficiency.

Tip 1: Study while understanding the meaning

If you don't understand the meaning, you will remember it as a "symbol" and it will be painful to study. Repetition learning will be much easier to remember if you check the meaning of the words before working on them. It's also recommended that you get into the habit of looking up new kanji characters with a Kanji dictionary. It may take some time and effort, but you will gain a deeper understanding of the meanings and origins of the kanji, and expand your knowledge of idioms and other words that use the kanji, which will not only improve your knowledge of kanji but also your Japanese language skills. If you find it bothering to get a dictionary and look each kanji up, there is a kanji workbook that has a clear explanation of meanings and stroke order.

Tip 2: Study while being aware of 部首/ぶしゅ/Bushu/radical

Kanji is made up of different components (parts), and the main component is called a radical (bushu). The kanji consists of various radicals such as "へん/Hen", "つくり/Tsukurii", "かんむり/Kanmuri", and "たれ/Tare". By deepening your knowledge with Kanji dictionaries, you can learn and explore the depths of the kanji rather than just memorising.

Tip 3: Study while reading

Rather than learning kanji on its own, you can learn kanji in a living state, so to speak, by interacting with the kanji in the text. The best way to do this is to learn kanji through reading. Whenever you come across a kanji you don't understand while reading, make sure to check its reading and meaning. In addition, if you set a rule, for example, "If you don't understand a kanji, write it down 10 times in a notebook," you will acquire the kanji rapidly. As for books for learning kanji, I recommend novels suited to the level of the learner.

Tip 4: Repeat the same Kanji workbook again and again

Rather than trying to do a lot of Kanji workbooks, try to choose one that is appropriate for your level and work on it over and over. Review the problems you didn't understand and steadily increase your knowledge little by little. When you have completely mastered one book, you should move on to the next book.

Tip 5: Study the stroke order as well

The writing order of kanji is often neglected because it is not really checked. However, it is essential to know the correct stroke order in order to write beautiful kanjis. It's not easy to correct later, so try to learn a set of correct stroke orders when you learn a new kanji. The basis of learning is to practice repetition in the correct writing order. It's a simple method, but as you learn more and more, you'll gradually understand the rules of writing order and the learning will get easier as you progress through the grades.

No matter how many kanjis you learn, if you don’t make an effort to learn them, you will not be able to remember them. However, on the other hand, this means that "if you write it down and use it, you can remember it". I hope you will try to study Kanji with this article as a reference. Once memorized, it's hard to forget, and your knowledge of Japanese will be enriched and your expressions will be richer.

Momoka Yamaguchi

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