Learning Kanji - Individual Meaning or as Part of a Word?

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thevagrant88
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Learning Kanji - Individual Meaning or as Part of a Word?

Postby thevagrant88 » Thu Feb 13, 2020 9:18 pm

So it seems that learning the meaning of the individual kanji is fairly popular amongst the Japanese learning community. I can't help but feel this isn't really the most practical way to learn to read Japanese, though I'm still a beginner. By learning the meanings and pronouncition seperatly, wouldn't you just be creating a lot more work for yourself? I feel like it would be more efficacious to learn the kanji as they are actually used, which is often part of other words. If my goal is reading fluency, this seems like a much more direct way to get to that point, learning what entire words look and read like rather than just the meaning.

Has anybody experimented learning either way? Does learning the meanings of individual kanji first have any real benefit over just learning the vocabulary and how it's written? Probably overthinking it. Cheers.
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Re: Learning Kanji - Individual Meaning or as Part of a Word?

Postby lichtrausch » Thu Feb 13, 2020 9:36 pm

Some number (around half?) of common use kanji form standalone words, such as 狐 (kitsune, fox) or 打つ (utsu, to hit). But leaving those aside, I don't think it's necessary to learn the meanings of individual kanji, although you will naturally get an idea of what these kanji mean via the meanings of the compound words they form. That said, it doesn't hurt to take a glance at their meanings. Whatever sticks will be to your advantage.
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Re: Learning Kanji - Individual Meaning or as Part of a Word?

Postby golyplot » Fri Feb 14, 2020 5:09 am

Why not both?

In the case of Wanikani, it first gives you the kanji with a meaning and reading, and them gives you various vocabulary words incorporating that kanji so you can reinforce it and learn the other readings.
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Re: Learning Kanji - Individual Meaning or as Part of a Word?

Postby thevagrant88 » Fri Feb 14, 2020 9:50 am

golyplot wrote:Why not both?

In the case of Wanikani, it first gives you the kanji with a meaning and reading, and them gives you various vocabulary words incorporating that kanji so you can reinforce it and learn the other readings.



Interesting. Does this work as a flashcard/SRS system? I wanted to write physical flashcards because I find it easier to drill things ad infinitum, but drawing out that many kanji without even knowing stroke order sounds like a pain.
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Re: Learning Kanji - Individual Meaning or as Part of a Word?

Postby golyplot » Fri Feb 14, 2020 3:04 pm

It is a SRS system. Note that WK has fixed intervals, and you can't go any faster than that, even if you want to. But I still like it. (If anything, the fact that there's a limit on how fast you can do it actually improves motivation because there's no way to make up for lost time if you skip too many reviews, so you're encouraged to make it a daily habit in order to progress as fast as possible)
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Re: Learning Kanji - Individual Meaning or as Part of a Word?

Postby lavengro » Fri Feb 14, 2020 5:29 pm

Wanikani appears to be an SRS system on steroids. I've worked recently at the first (of sixty) levels just to try it out, after having seen reference to it in golyplot's log and elsewhere - I am really looking forward to giving it a hard go when circumstances are more appropriate for me. I understand the quickest even someone as speedy as Hermes/Mercury (or the Flash, if one insists on being more modern) could theoretically complete it is 368 days (but lack of sleep and use of a catheter likely would be involved at some point).
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Re: Learning Kanji - Individual Meaning or as Part of a Word?

Postby Ccaesar » Fri Feb 14, 2020 7:24 pm

I prefer practicing to draw them as one, but learning them as part of a word.
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Re: Learning Kanji - Individual Meaning or as Part of a Word?

Postby golyplot » Sun Feb 16, 2020 6:21 am

lavengro wrote:Wanikani appears to be an SRS system on steroids. I've worked recently at the first (of sixty) levels just to try it out, after having seen reference to it in golyplot's log and elsewhere - I am really looking forward to giving it a hard go when circumstances are more appropriate for me. I understand the quickest even someone as speedy as Hermes/Mercury (or the Flash, if one insists on being more modern) could theoretically complete it is 368 days (but lack of sleep and use of a catheter likely would be involved at some point).


Actually that is not accurate. The theoretical minimum to complete all 60 levels is currently 344 days and 10 hours, although this can change slightly when they tweak some of the level content - a change made last October increased it to 347 days and 20 hours, but they seem to have reversed that change since.

The fastest practical completion, assuming you don't want to get up in the middle of the night, is around 352.5 days. I'm currently on track to complete it in around 355.5 days. I "lost" three days on the first two levels due to not understanding how the system worked and not seriously trying to speedrun it yet, but ever since level 3, I've been maintaining a perfect level-a-week pace, the fastest you can go if you want to have a stable sleep schedule. We'll see whether I can maintain that pace all the way to the end or not.

The 368 day figure is from a famous post by someone who actually got to level 60 in 368 days. So not only is that possible, but someone actually did that. Note that they were measuring time to level 60, not time to completion, meaning that the figure does not include time spent on level 60 itself, so you should add 3.5 days to that.
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Re: Learning Kanji - Individual Meaning or as Part of a Word?

Postby 白田龍 » Sun Feb 16, 2020 10:20 am

I'd memorize the meaning of the 214 radicals and practice copying a lot of characters, with correct stroke order, while identifying the components (not worrying about learning the individual characters at this point, just practice drawing as many different characters as possible, get a stroke order reference and draw them all). This will make your brain ready to commit the Kanji to memory. Then learn the Kanji as part of the words, but, whenever you learn a new Kanji, learn not only the word where you found it, but also learn a few extra words that contain that Kanji.

It is probably easier to learn a word in kana first. Your brain may refuse to associate the unfamiliar word to the unfamiliar glyphs, but if you already know the word enough that you can reconize it when listening, learning to read the Kanji won't be hard.
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Re: Learning Kanji - Individual Meaning or as Part of a Word?

Postby koolawant » Sun Feb 16, 2020 1:27 pm

Just my 2 cents.

They way I did it was;

learned the first 1000 kanji individually, (wrote each one 50+ times and committed it to memory. I memorized the on and kun readings)

After that I only learn the kanji within a word, it's just a part of vocab now. At this point I have become so used to reading kanji that I can see new kanji once or twice and have that word or reading committed to memory. At this level it would be impractical for me to learn kanji individually. I begin to notice patterns and understand the meanings when I've seen the same kanji in 3 words with similar meanings.

Also, I have never studied radicals. I know it is popular for some learners, but I never thought of them as useful.
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