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General Usage Name Usage

Learning the Kanji (English Version only)
Copyright © 2002 Friedrich Kemler

These kanji pages are based on Jim Breen's Kanjidic, the foundation of quite a number of kanji dictionary and training applications. For Kanjidics documentation please have a look at the Kanjidic documentation , for the license please refer to Kanjidic license . I would like to state, that using Hyperkanji is subject to the same terms of license.

How to learn Kanji

This beautiful piece of handwriting stems from the saint of calligraphy himself. Ôgishi [303-361] created the most important models for cursive- and grass script. Even nowadays many people are using his works for rinsho, the copying of a model scripture.

The meaning of this three Characters is somewhat like "the sayings of people from ancient times". I have chosen this one as a motivation. If you want to listen to "the sayings of people from ancient times", if you want to get into contact with classical East Asian culture, you have to learn kanji. Of course there are translations, but a translation is never the real thing and depends heavily on the knowledge and views of the translator. So there is no substitute for learning the script, and having a look yourself.

Enough for motivation. Ho do I learn kanji ? There are many approaches and the following is only a humble presentation of my own one, hoping that it might be of use to others. It consists of a 4 element approach:

1.) Discover and develop your love for the kanji. Realize the beauty and the efficiency of this kind of script. Try calligraphy to develop a feeling for the aesthetics of the form of the characters.

2.) Understand the graphic meaning and the evolution of kanji. I found the "Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters" by Kenneth G. Henshall, Tuttle Publishing (December 1990) to be an excellent aid in penetrating this topic. The explainations in the book are indispensable for understanding the evolution of kanji.

3.) Memorize kanji. Yes, there is no way around that one. You have (for a certain span of time) to get used to memorize kanji by the hundreds.

4.) Read, read and read some more. The ability to read fluently is acquired only by doing so. Choose a topic that captures your interest, get some books and read.

You now may ask, where to fetch the time required for this task. You might consider throwing out your TV set ...

About Hyperkanji

Now what about the links at the top and bottom of the page ? These are HTML versions of Jim Breen's (to whose feet we kneel, on whose shoulders we stand ...) kanjidic. If you happen to be interested in Japanese text processing and computing, I strongly recommend that you visit his page. He has done quite a lot for us japanophiles sitting at a computer.

Hyperkanji, as I christened this hypertext version of kanjidic, is a listing of first the mere kanji and then the entries of kanjidic stripped from everything except kanji, readings and meanings. Both listings are sorted by radical numbers and stroke count. I used the classic radical numbers as is done in the "New Nelson". The first list has a rather dense layout for the grade partitions and is annotated with radical and stroke count numbers in the whole set of jôyô kanji partition, with kanji belonging to one specific radical class listed in one block. The very dense layout facilitates memorizing, the annotated layout quick finding.

Every kanji in the first list is linked to its corresponding entry in the second list. The entries in turn are linked back to the naked kanji in the first list. There are extracts for grade 1-6, general usage, name usage as well as the whole set of jôyô kanji. The sorting and editing of course were not done by me, but by a perl script I created for that purpose.

What's the use of this arrangement ? With a working knowledge of the radical system you are able to find a certain kanji in the first list. And in most cases you find it -fast-. Then by clicking the kanji you at once are at the entry. For me this is the fastest lookup method imaginable.

The second use is in aiding memorizing. When I started learning kanji in earnest, I copied the grade listings from nelson, and starting with grade one, I memorized the kanji in such a way, that I was able to read through the list, and immediately give one on reading, one kun reading and one meaning for each kanji. I did so for grade 1, then grade 2, then grade 1 and 2 together and so on. Of course I repeatedly had to look up the kanji in the Nelson.

And this looking up while memorizing is done most effectively using hyperkanji. The neighboring ( in radical - stroke count space) kanji are easily accessible for a quick glance in both lists.

In pursuing such a huge endeavor, it is important to set realistic goals, and to have fun reaching them. Don't overdo until you lose your enthusiasm. Find an approach, that suits you best and follow it persistently. It may for example be a good idea to print out just the dense listing and take it with you on your regular rides on public transport. Online again, you look up the ones you failed to recognize. There are a lot of possible tactics.

If you have difficulties in viewing the lists, try setting the character encoding of your browser to "Japanese Autodetect" or "EUC Japan". You of course must have a Japanese font installed on your OS. Concerning the question of installing Japanese language extensions (ie. fonts, input methods ...) on several platforms, I would like to refer to Jim Breen's Page. There you find a couple of links to "how to make your PC understand Japanese" - type documents.

Finally I hope, that I was able to rouse your interest and that hyperkanji provides a useful tool for exploring the fascinating world of kanji.

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General Usage Name Usage All jôyô Kanji