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Kanji 101: Your Guide to Mastering the Characters

You stumble upon this post probably because by now, you have taken interest in the Japanese culture. Perhaps you are thinking that the best way to learn more about their culture is to understand their way of writing. You are not mistaken in this respect. If you are really into the whole cultural immersion thing, mastering Kanji is the way to be.

Not impossible to learn

At this point, however, you may have apprehensions about taking the first baby steps towards learning Kanji. You have probably came across blogs telling you how difficult it is to master the thousands of characters. Indeed, this can be a daunting task considering the fact that even native Japanese had to learn it all the way to Junior High School.

Do not be discouraged, though. The first step to learning Kanji is to arm yourself with unshakeable determination to learn even if it takes time. Patience is your number one ally. While Kanji can be difficult to master, it is not at all impossible to learn. Non-natives can also be proficient in writing and reading Kanji if they will really set their hearts to it. And if you’re one of them, then this guide will surely help you immensely.

First things first

Kanji are actually Chinese characters where most of Japanese verbs, nouns, stems of adjectives, and even some adverbs are written. Therefore, you have to have a grasp of the Chinese characters first. Note, however, that the Japanese also use Hiragana and Katakana in writing. There are also many words that are not written in Kanji. One example is the verb “to do” which is always written in Hiragana.

For beginners, the best way to learn Kanji is by practicing how to write the characters. Allot several hours a day just drawing the characters repeatedly. In time, you will realize that you are coming to memorize the strokes. Be sure, however, that you are cautious about the size of your characters. They must not be too big or too small as to depart from the actual character.

Another way to remember the characters easily is by associating them with images. For instance, in Kanji, the characters representing a “person” do resemble a person. Also, the character for the word “stop” resembles a person extending an arm in front of him. If you are the type of person who can recall characters easily by image associations, then these books are good reads: the best-selling book entitled “Remember the Kanji” written by James Heisig and “Kanji Pict-O-Graphix” written by Michael Rowley.

Where to find useful online resources

You don’t need to spend huge bucks of money to get reading materials for your studies. The internet swarms with many resources that are available for free! There are websites featuring online dictionaries such as jisho.org. They also have pictures and diagrams as your memory aids. You can also go to Jim Breen’s WWWJDIC which is a highly recommended site for learning Kanji.

In the end, the strategy you use all depends on which one is most effective for you. So do not dilly-dally anymore. Put your heart to it and start scribbling your first Kanji character now!