Kanji are characters that the Japanese language has borrowed from Chinese. These Kanji characters are often used instead of Hiragana to help distinguish between different words that may sound the same.
There are 1945 different Kanji that the Japanese Ministry of Education expects the people of Japan to read and write. This means that if you plan on truly learning Japanese, you will need to learn how to read and write these 1945 characters.
Don’t get discouraged, though.
Although the thought of memorizing nearly 2000 new characters on top of Hiragana and Katakana may seem daunting, just keep in mind the main theme behind learning Japanese: break things down into small manageable chunks.
The best way to learn Kanji is to take a few at a time. Maybe one or two a day. Practice writing them several times, and if you’re at that point in your study of Japanese, you can practice writing them into a few sentences.
You can focus your time and effort to learn Kanji even more effectively though, if you spend your time learning the 1000 most commonly used Kanji. These Kanji are the ones taught to Japanese children between first and sixth grade, and they also make up around 95% of all the Kanji you’ll find in most magazines, newspapers, and signs. If you can get these then, you should be able to get around Japan relatively easily.
(Sign up for my six-part mini-course, and I’ll send you a list of the 1000 most commonly used Kanji)
Just like the Kana, when you learn Kanji, you also learn the correct stroke order to write them in. There are so many different characters though, it can be tough to memorize all the stroke orders. There are a few rules of thumb, however, that you can use to help you get in the habit of writing each character the correct way.
- First, when you are writing the characters, start in the upper left-hand corner and work your way downward to the lower right hand corner. Basically, left to right, top to bottom.
- Secondly, never close or complete any part of a character until you have added all the strokes that go inside of that portion of the character.
- Third, stroke that span an entire character are done last.
- Fourth, when writing diagonal strokes, always make a right-to-left stroke before a left-to-right stroke.
- Fifth, when a character is symmetrical vertically, start in the center and then finish with the sides.
- Sixth, save the dots or smaller strokes for last.
This is just a basic introduction to Kanji. Unfortunately, it would take too long to go over every single Kanji on this one website, but there are plenty of resources you can use to get started and learn Kanji right away.