音訓 – Kanji Readings (On-kun)

I’ve begon to adept the idea of using this blog not only for myself as a way to create some output from my Japanese studies, but also as a format to help people who want to learn Japanese from scratch. In one of the previous posts I mentioned some materials I use, which is what I will put up for future posts as well. However, it is very late now and I’ve had this text sitting in a notepad file for half a day so now I just want to finish this post as I meant it to be;

Today, I came across quite some Kanji which I had presumed to know already. However, after reading a couple of furigana (which are the tiny hiragana characters placed above or aside kanji to illustrate the reading) I remembered something I meant to say in the first place:

Each Kanji has different readings; the original Chinese ON-reading and the adopted Japanese KUN-reading. In Heisig’s Remember the Kanji 1 he chose not to add those because he believed knowing the Meaning of the Kanji is prioritized over knowing how to pronounce them. I completely agree with Heisig on that point, but you won’t be able to make good progress with your writing and listening skills if you don’t know the readings. E.g.:

[ 小 ] さい = [ ちい ] さい means ‘small/little’ in terms of scale/size.
[ 少 ] し = [ すこ ] し means ‘few/little’ in terms of quantity.

As you can see, the meaning of the kanji remains to be ‘small’ but is read differently depending on whether it is a description of physical charactiristics or of quantity/numbers.

The first time I read about this, I deemed my dream of being able to speak Japanese to be unrealistic. However, I could have thought the same about the fact that Japanese uses 3 different ‘alphabets’ (not correct terminology, for the sake of keeping this understandable let’s stick to it anyway), or the fact that BOTH hiragana and katakana have some 46 characters. Or that there are 2000+ Kanji I need to know before I will ever be able to fully understand intermediate books and newspaper articles. But those elements of Japanese didn’t scare me, so why should this? In fact, it only made it more interesting.
[Ranting progress 100/100%] = done.

What I’m trying to get at is. Don’t get scared of how incredibly different and vast the vocabulary of Japanese is. Get your materials together, and start practicing from the beginning. Your brain will implement things like sentence structure and readings in your mechanics if you just practice them enough. Once that’s out of the way, you can move on to the next bit 😉

As Heisig, I suggest doing the following (if you’ve just started learning, do hira/katakana first)

– Learn the meanings of the first ~300 or so kanji and try to find simple sentence structures where these SINGLE kanji are used.

– keep adding kanji and start looking for combinations of kanji and memorize the READING of the kanji! If you find a word like “[話] す” (hanasu= talk) you can’t simply imply that the kanji is read as ‘hana’. In the word “日本 [語]” you can read it’s pronounced ‘go’. And in another occasion, “物 [語]” (monogatari= story) it has to be read as ‘gatari’. In the same way, some kanji have up to 5 different readings. Here’s an image with readings from the Imiwa? application for smartphones:

kuru - come readings

-Next, listen, repeat and write out phrases with new kanji or kanji readings, so you slowly implement them in your vocabulary.

-Last but not least, try to write your own sentences or whole stories! (or even start a blog :P)

Tomorrow I’ll try writing some more Japanese 😉
お休みなさい!

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