How I learn"ed" Kanji

June 15, 2018 — Daniél Kerkmann


today I will write about my experiences from learning a complete new language. First of all, I'm a totally newcomer and not very good in learning languages, but that doesn't matter. (:
There are some awesome techniques that helped me a lot to learn the Japanese writing system. The Japanese writing system, yeah, maybe the most people would say that the strings and patterns are randomly and no one outside from that country will understand that system. But that's definitely wrong, foreigner can also learn the writing system but we need a few tricks. A couple weeks ago I spoke with a native Japanese friend about the language, the writing system and how they could remember each Kanji?

The answer is short and very funny, she smiled and said: "We don't know each Kanji, but we can image what that Kanji mean".
For foreigner that sounds strange, but it's true. To understand what she means we must understand how Kanji works and where the Kanji from.
"Kan" is the name of an old dynasty and "Ji" is a Japanese word that means "character".
In the 5th century Japanese has none writing system, they tried to create a custom writing system based on the writing system from China.
They adapted the meanings and characters from China, the Kanji and created a custom writing system "Hiragana" and "Katakana".
If you translate a Kanji the meaning is the same, only the pronouncement is different. (There some little differences, but that's not a lot, only a few Kanji) What the meanings are the same?!
Yes, the pronunciation is very different from Chinese and Japan, but that's not important to read the language.
The Japanese government compulsory that each person in japan should know 2136 common Kanji, that sounds strange, but compared to Chinese it's not much.
But how can I learn each Kanji? Whats the trick behind this?
Imagination! That's it, each Kanji has radicals, that's a few patterns that forms a Kanji, let me show you an example:
The Kanji for tree 木 is also a radical, if you know this radical you can image what that word could be.
Try to image that the radical looks like and tree, look at the picture and let your image do the rest.
Now I will show you another Kanji and you can guess what that Kanji mean: 林
You can see two trees side by side and the meaning for that character is "forest", an small wood with a few trees side by side.
Okay, now you can guess what that Kanji mean: 森
In that character you can see three trees, and if you believe it or not, it means also a "forest", but not a small forest, i mean a giant forest with many trees.
And that's the trick behind the Kanji, each Kanji consists of radicals and each radical forms a story. You don't need to know the correct pronunciation of a Kanji to know the meaning, all you need is imagination.
And why should I imagine words with that? The answer is quite short and plausible, if you imagine a whole story, that's really funny and unnatural you can better remember the character.
The trick is not to learn asap each Kanji, the trick is to let your imagine work and create a hole story for each character.
I thought that learning Japanese would be harder, but with that trick it's very funny and saves time.
By the way, that's the reason why Japanese people don't know each character, if they see the radicals from that Kanji, they can imagine what that Kanji will be.
There's no voodoo or anything else, that's it. (:
The professor James W. Heisig called that method "Heisig method".
If you really plan to learn Japanese, I can definitely confirm that this method works! (:

If you already learned Kanji or learn it right now, what's your trick to learn it?
How long did it take to learn all the Kanji?

Tags: Japan