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JPLearn! - Volume I
Kanji Stroke order, Radicals and the Easy Way
Kanji Stroke order, Radicals and the Easy Way
Getting started with this lesson
Previously we’ve learned the history of kanji and how it came to be. While it’s not crucial at this point to know the specifics or dates when events occurred, it is certainly refreshing to know a good foundation to a new written language. In this lesson, we will be learning about two different kanji readings, stroke orders, and general rules to learning kanji. We will be using kanji in the next lesson, hence why this lesson is very important. Let’s begin!
The two types of reading: On’Youmi and Kun’Youmi
Japanese kanji has two types of reading for many of its kanji and they are called On’Youmi and Kun’Youmi. As briefly mentioned in the previous lesson “History of Kanji”, we learned that there were Chinese readings and something had to be done to make Chinese usable with Japanese. This was when Kun’Youmi reading came to be. Please do not confuse Kun’Youmi as its own set of pronunciation; it is in fact its own meaning and will be explained in just a moment. On’Youmi is the original Chinese meaning and literally translates itself to “sound reading” whereas Kun’Youmi’s translation is “meaning”.Japanese needed to have its own meaning because its language couldn’t always just fit on a single kanji, which as you may have imagined lead to the development of hiragana. This is the distinctive part where you know when to use Kun’Youmi reading, when hiragana is attached to kanji.
Bonus!
Ironically, the Japanese did not properly know the pronunciation of the Chinese words so in a way, the Chinese pronunciation is similar to how Mexican Spanish differs from Spain Spanish or Canadian French differs from France, French.
There are many different meanings for each Kanji and it would be rather silly to sit and memorize every single meaning upon introduction. Instead, focus on the context of the kanji you are learning it for. The more you read and write kanji, the more you’ll become exposed to the different kanji meanings. This is an important step to learning Kanji well and to keep your study hours significantly less than it could be. For instance, when you hear of a new word in English, how long does it take you to understand this new word in context? It’s virtually instant and the same applies with new meanings to kanji when you become much more proficient at it.
Stroke order for Japanese kanji
Stroke order is very important like any other part about the Japanese written language, and without proper stroke order, your kanji will not look correct. A good fundamental in stroke order may be important, however do not stress over memorizing which stroke goes where in what order for each individual kanji. We do not encourage ‘sloppy’ or ‘painted’ kanji, however remembering the stroke order of a 14 stroke kanji instead of getting accustomed to the rules requires a lot of time that could be spent learning other things. There are of course exception to the rules, therefore notice the stroke order, and if it differs from the norm, memorize it but if it doesn’t, you’ll already understand the stroke order.The first rule to learn is Top to Bottom, Left to Right. Horizontal strokes go left to right, and vertical strokes go top to bottom. Let's take a look at some examples.
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Left to right
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Top to bottom
How many strokes would you think it would take to make a box? In Japanese, it’s three. Let’s take a look:
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You begin with a vertical stroke from the top left to the bottom left, then add another stroke from the top left corner and bend around the corner 90º. To complete the box meet the first line with the second line from Left to Right and the box is complete. As you can see, we used the rules Left to Right, Top to Bottom.In future lessons when we learn more about Kanji, we will discover more rules. However, due to the nature of our accelerated curriculum, it would be too confusing to add all of those rules together in one lesson.
Kanji radicals
There is an unfortunate plague in Japanese lessons around the world these days, and it’s the forgotten world of Kanji radicals. Time after time, students learn Kanji the hard way through strict memorization, little to no stroke rules, and most importantly they are not introduced to radicals. It’s no wonder that it takes foreigners typically thousands of hours just to learn kanji, they don’t know better! Well, I’m here to tell you that it will not take you thousands of hours using our methods. You are not a child in Japan, you are not a baby learning a new language, you are a foreigner learning Japanese and likely in your teens or an adult. You can handle radicals and we know this because you’re super smart for registering an account with us *smiles*.However, this is not a time to learn the radicals because there are over 200 of them, many of which are no longer used in modern Japanese so don’t let that high number discourage you. In this lesson we will learn what they are, their importance and how they can make your life with kanji incredibly easy. Bushu (radicals) are the building blocks of kanji. In contrast, learning Bushu is a lot like learning root words in English (which is unfortunately seldom taught). By learning root words, we can learn English a lot faster, the same goes with Bushu.It’s important to realize that Bushu are not words, they are similar to the English Alphabet, for example: A, B, C, D, E, etc... In English we combine those letters to make words; in Japanese they do the same. Wouldn’t it be silly to memorize how English words look like and their stroke order for each word? Simply by learning radicals, you make yourself available to just about every kanji. Say no more to memorizing long, complex kanji because we’ll teach you the building blocks of kanji so you can learn even the most complex kanji, quickly.When the time is right, we will be discussing more about radicals, the different types and tricks to make learning kanji even easier.
Compound Kanji: Jukugo
This is the very last piece of kanji, Jukugo otherwise known as compounds. They are the result of combining two kanji together to make a new meaning. In English we have many compound words, for instance “straw hat”. We have focus on the word “hat”, but what kind of hat is it? It’s a straw hat. Kanji can be combined just the same to make new and more complex words. Jukugo can also have double meanings, much like “broke” can mean “the glass broke” or “I am broke” or even “She is a broker”. Let’s take a look at another example: “Kanji is not hard”, “This rock is hard”, “I love rock and roll”, “Give me scotch on the rocks”. The word rock has many meanings and in kanji, they are referred to as Jukugo.
Final Thoughts
This may have been the most tedious part of JPLearn! but it is most certainly crucial to understand how Japanese kanji works. Perhaps you may decide never to learn how to write kanji, but only to recognize them. This is perfectly fine, and may be what most students here will do. Computers write kanji for us, and hand-written letters aren’t common practice these days. However, if you genuinely want to learn kanji as a hobby or part of your future profession, we’ll provide all of the tools and resources around Jappleng and it is certainly a requirement as part of JPLearn!.When you are ready, please accept and complete your homework assignment for today, there will be new kana to learn.
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