I have a couple questions.
Hello, I am new here and I am having a problem with the kanji. I have studied a little Japanese before, but the kanji always threw me off. I don't understand the correct way to pronounce the kanji. There are always a coulple different words in hirigana, but I don't know which one to use. Could someone explain to me how to understand kanji pronunciation? I have the same problem with numbers. I was taught a long time ago in my Japanese culture class how to say numbers. However, when I look at all the different options on how to say it in books and websites. I am confused. What are the differences? How should I pronounce the numbers?
posted by geekielove September 20, 2013 at 8:08am
- Jade September 21, 2013 at 1:52am(sorry, I'm not an english-speaking native but I'll try to do my best) It depends on the word. Kanji usually have 2 types of reading: One is called On'yomi (or the chinese reading adapted to japanese pronunciation) and the other one is the Kun'yomi (or the japanese pronunciation). It all comes from the fact that Kanji are chinese character. So they have their own chinese pronunciation, but also the "meaning" of a concrete thing: for example, 水 has his own sound in chinese (すい) but in ancient japanese there was already a word to express water (みず), so 水 can be read "すい" or "みず" depending of the use.
Usually, when a kanji is used alone, it has a kun'yomi pronunciation, when a world is composed by two or more kanji, these have an on'yomi reading. But there are a lot of exceptions, so you have to learn case by case.
- geekielove September 21, 2013 at 12:21pmHow do I know which pronunciation is On'yomi and which one is Kun'yomi? "人" has so many different readings. When I click on "人" it gives me definitions/examples for the different readings, is that how I have to learn the kanji? By the different readings and meanings?
- Jade September 21, 2013 at 4:09pmUnfortunately, this site doesn't make distinction between On and Kun'yomi. My suggestion is to use a vocabulary like "tagaini jisho" (you can download it free, I use it quite often even even if I already have an electronic dictionary) that shows the difference. Or, the easiest way is to learn how a kanji is pronunced alone and how is pronunced when the kanji is in a world of two or more kanji ( like 人->ひと 日本人->にほんじん). It doesn't work 100% because there are kanji with more than one Kun' and On' (for example 人 has 2 On'yomi: じん and にん), and also I already explained that sometimes words with more than one kanji can have mixed way of reading, but it's a fast way to get an idea of how to read a kanji. The better way is to learn on and kun'yomi of a kanji and see case by case how to read it.
- mog86uk September 23, 2013 at 6:08amIn online dictionaries, it is common for 音読み【おんよみ】to be written in カタカナ, and for 訓読み【くんよみ】to be written in ひらがな.
I wouldn't worry too much about trying to straight up learn all the readings. I think the only time that you have to know the correct reading of a kanji is when you're reading Japanese text out loud?
You don't use kanji at all to speak or listen to Japanese; you either, on paper write kanji directly, or on computer type the kana and pick the correct kanji; and when you are reading, you only really need to understand what the words mean, not their sound.
However, of course it will still help if you do know some readings, but you pick these up over time just learning vocabulary anyway.
Jade has already explained the most important stuff, but there are a few more very useful 'rules' which will help you figure out when to use 音読み or 訓読み.
I was going to try and explain them myself, but I'd likely ramble on forever... so here's a very good link instead:
- geekielove September 25, 2013 at 8:29amThank you for the link. I'm still having a hard time understanding On'yomi and Kun'yomi but I do understand it better than I did before. I'll just try to learn the differences as I go. How did you two learn or how are you learning kanji? Are you just learning the different readings and pronunciations as you go?
- mog86uk September 25, 2013 at 12:08pmPersonally, Practice on this site has helped me a lot, and the nice community here. Mostly, for kanji readings, I just learn them when I encounter them.
However, I've used so many different resources for learning Japanese, and I am not good at sticking to just one website/book/software. There is so so ssooo many great resources, and I keep finding ones that seem much better, but forget or never realise how great the stuff I've previously used actually was.
My order of priority for learning Japanese is probably:
Reading (in head) > Listening > Writing (on computer) > Speaking > Reading (out loud) > Writing (on paper)
I think this order is because I don't see myself getting around to going to Japan any time soon.
Therefore, I'm unlikely to be: speaking to Japanese; reading menu items out loud to Japanese; or filling in forms in Japanese.
Currently, I'm mostly aiming to be able to: read Japanese websites; listen to Japanese music, radio, and video without subtitles; and write posts on forums and email in Japanese.
Because of this, for kanji I've focused a lot more on being able to understand their general meaning, than thinking about how I should pronounce what I'm reading.
If you want to be able to understand the meanings of kanji, I recommend learning about 'radicals' which are the building blocks of kanji. Once you learn most of the radicals, you'll have a very good chance of understanding the meaning (but not the pronunciation) of kanji you've never seen before -- even if you haven't learnt or even heard the Japanese word.
I also recommend typing Japanese on computer.
For kanji, you type the readings in kana first, then afterwards the computer gives you a list of kanji to pick, and you convert the readings into their kanji. This might be helpful for learning readings. You just need to know some vocabulary and be able to pick the correct kanji for the words; and don't need to think about 音読み and 訓読み at all.
-- sorry for rambling on for ever, lol. ^^;
- Jade September 26, 2013 at 3:59amActually, I'm studying Japanese at University, for two years I've had Kanji classes.
I write Kanji at least for 30 minutes everyday. The best way to learn Kanji is to write them on paper and read them out loud.
By the way, I agree with mog86uk, a good way to understand the meaning of a kanji is learn their radicals (it doesn't work always. I mean, 箱 [box] is written with bamboo, three and eye, if you it read radical by radical). Also, it can also help with the readings: it happens a lot that one part of the kanji gives the on'yomi reading (for example, 編 [ヘン、あ・む] is composed by 糸 [thread] and 扁 [level, small]. The on'yomi of 扁 is ヘン, and as you can see, it's also the on'yomi reading of 編). Learning radicals also helps remembering how to write a kanji.
- geekielove October 5, 2013 at 6:21amThank you so much for all the information! All of your advice is really helpful. Thank you. :)