ทำอย่างไร เรียนภาษาญี่ปุ่น คันจิ : การเรียนรู้ ตัวอักษรคันจิ is probably going to be the thing with Japanese that will take you the longest. Most of my friends who have learned Japanese (save a few exceptions) have found ตัวอักษรคันจิ a bit difficult to tackle. I didn’t start learning ตัวอักษรคันจิ until I was already at a decent level with speaking just because I didn’t need to write.
In this article, I give some tips for how to approach learning ตัวอักษรคันจิ in a way that’s actually useful, even for a beginner in Japanese. If you start learning ตัวอักษรคันจิ early, it will just be easier to add on to it as you go.
Things to Focus On
The first thing is stroke order. It might not seem important, but writing a character with the wrong stroke order can make it difficult or even impossible for a native speaker to learn. Generally, strokes go from top left to bottom right for each character. As you learn more characters and their stroke order, it will become intuitive. Just pay attention to it as you start.
Along with stroke order is handwriting. Messy handwriting with ตัวอักษรคันจิ is impossible to read, so try to be conscious from day one, and keep your writing neat.
Also focus on meaning. I find it much easier to learn ตัวอักษรคันจิ if they are paired with my vocab words. Plus, then you’ll know they are words you’ll actually use. Learning the meanings of individual ตัวอักษรคันจิ can help you guess at words that you might not know if you know the meanings of the individual characters. The ตัวอักษรคันจิ for words in Japanese aren’t random.
Radicals can actually be a really good resource while learning ตัวอักษรคันจิ. Maybe this is the side of me that studied Chinese talking, but they might help you too. Radicals are the pieces of a ตัวอักษรคันจิ character, For example, the ตัวอักษรคันจิ in 好き (suki: like) has two radicals: 女 and 子. Characters that share radicals will often either have similar readings or meanings. Radicals are also great for looking up unknown ตัวอักษรคันจิ, and most Japanese dictionaries will have a way to look up characters using radicals.
Things to Not Focus On
This might sound a little crazy, but when you first start learning ตัวอักษรคันจิ, don’t worry too much about learning the pronunciation. There are generally two—the on-yomi and kun-yomi—but that doesn’t track for all characters, especially some really common ones. For example, 日 has five (hi, bi, ka, nichi, jitsu). Learning how to say the compound words themselves is a lot more useful than trying to guess which reading to use when you see a character you’re learning in a new compound word. If it helps you feel better, a lot of Japanese people mess up readings for ตัวอักษรคันจิ all the time. Don’t be afraid to ask a native speaker how to read something. It’s totally normal for everyone.
Another thing to not worry too much about nowadays is learning how to write ตัวอักษรคันจิ by hand. Yes, the directly contradicts what I said about having neat handwriting before. Here’s the deal. If you write, do it neatly. But you probably won’t be handwriting much.
Everything is electronic now and everyone texts and uses computers. It’s more important to know how words are pronounced so you can type them into a keyboard and recognize the correct ตัวอักษรคันจิ than it is to remember how to write thousands of characters off the top of your head.
As an example, I once had a Japanese friend who literally had to pull his phone out and look up ตัวอักษรคันจิ when he was asked to write a single sentence on paper. It’s not that he didn’t know the characters, he just couldn’t remember how to handwrite them because he worked every day on a computer. Think about it like autocorrect for us. All of my English speaking friends constantly complain that they don’t know how to spell things because they always use autocorrect. It’s the same kind of thing.
As far as actually studying ตัวอักษรคันจิ goes, it’s going to take effort. I recommend flashcards and a lot of reading การปฏิบัติ. If you want some more specific resources, I gave a few in my article on study recommendations here.
Studying ตัวอักษรคันจิ isn’t something you can do overnight. It’s going to take time and patience and you might feel like you’re never going to learn all the ตัวอักษรคันจิ. You probably won’t. Start by focusing on what you need. You can always expand from there. You’ll be surprised by how much you pick up over time!