Tag Archives: kanji

Learning Japanese – An Infographic

16 Mar

Here’s a great little infographic from Lingualift that we discovered. We thought we would post it here as well it’s likely to be interesting for anyone studying Japanese.

Click Image to Enlarge
Learning Japanese infographic: Steps to success & fluency
Source: Learn languages online at LinguaLift

Quick Kanji 2 – 竜 & 龍

2 Mar

Consider the following two kanji 竜 and 龍. Both are read as リュウ (ryuu) and both pertain to the giant, fearsome mythical creature known in English as simply the dragon. In modern Japanese both kanji can be found fairly easily, though 竜 is more popular (more on that in a bit).

So you might be thinking why are there two kanji for dragon…well, 竜 is considered to be the simplified and more popular form of 龍, which is said to be the more archaic of the two (known in Japanese as 旧漢字. There are quite a few kanji like this – 国 & 國, 黒 & 黑 and 舟 & 船). The modern, simplified version is the most accepted version, though 龍 is also allowed to be used in names. Strictly speaking in Japanese they actually have the same meaning, though further investigation does uncover some differences in their etymology and the nuance that they both convey.

For the sake of everyone’s sanity let’s start off by stating the obvious – dragons are NOT real – but you could say that there are actually two types of dragon. First we have the dragon that existed in medieval Europe and soared through the skies indiscriminately roasting innocent townsfolk, knights in shining armour and anything else that moved. Think the Welsh flag and Harry Potter.

The second type of dragon we have comes from the East, that is, China. More serpent-like than its European cousin and supposedly more placid, Chinese dragons are more likely to live around water and frolic in waterfalls in their spare time. Their heads are more crocodilian with a couple of deer-like antlers on top with short stocky legs.

The general consensus seems to be that 竜 is associated with dragons from the West whereas 龍 tends to refer to oriental dragons. A quick search of either kanji in Google Images also gives you a similar result (although not exactly academic…). However there really isn’t a need to make this kind of subtle distinction in your use of the two kanji. It’s actually best to use 竜 given that it is the most widely accepted form, unless the situation governs that you should use 龍 instead. As an example, consider the following words; 青龍 (せいりゅう – blue Chinese dragon), 烏龍茶 (ウーロンちゃ – oolong tea) and 恐竜 (きょうりゅう – dinosaur).

So while we don’t recommend losing sleep over whether you should be using 竜 or 龍 (if you see either in the wild, RUN!) it is important to recognise the history and unique stories that kanji have to tell. Understanding this background knowledge is not only interesting but can really help you to appreciate the language you are learning.

 

 

Quick Kanji 1 – 猫, 鴉, 蚊 & 鳩

1 Mar

Welcome to our very first Quick Kanji post. We’ve designed these entries to give you some quick, quirky facts about kanji that we think you might find interesting.

Have a look at the following animal-related. Do you know what they have in common?

猫 (ねこ) cat

鴉 (からす) crow

蚊 (か) mosquito

鳩 (はと) pidgeon

Upon first glance there aren’t really any great similarities. In fact the only visual similarity is the 鳥 (ねこ- bird) radical in 鴉 and 鳩, which for those of you who know your kanji is somewhat unsurprising given both represent a type of bird. However the similarity does in fact have something to do with a radical used in each of the kanji.

One of the radicals actually represents the sound that that animal is said to make in Japanese – essentially it represents the animal’s voice. Let’s have a look in more detail.

鳩 (pidgeon) contains the radical 九 (ku). Pidgeons are said to make a kuu-kuu sound in Japan.

鴉 (crow) includes the radical 牙 (ga). Japanese crows don’t craw, they gaaa instead.

蚊 (mosquito) is made up of 文 (bun) and 虫 (mushi). Mosquitos in Japan go bun-bun not buzz.

猫 (cat) is a little different. 苗 (nae) doesn’t refer to the Japanese sound but rather the original Chinese sound myou.

And there you have it! Who would’ve thought that kanji would contain something as specific as the sound of an animal?

Gaaaaaaa!

Review: Chugakusei Kanji Kakitori

7 Feb

Japanese: 中学生漢字(書き取り編)
Level: All
Format: App
Available on: iPhone/Android
Price: Free
Publisher: Gakko Net
Site: http://www.gakko-net.co.jp/

Chuugakusei Kanji Kakitori 4This is the second app published by Gakko Net designed to test your knowledge of kanji. Chugakusei Kanji Kakitori follows on from the previous app in the series, Shougakusei Tegaki Kanji Drill 1006 (see our earlier review here). Both apps work off the same formula and design features however this version doesn’t introduce any new kanji but does continue to test your knowledge of vocabulary.

The vocabulary appearing in this app is of a higher difficulty than that in the Shougakusei edition and is generally around N3 or N2 level. The kanji are presented more frequently in kanji compound words (熟語), which require you to know a kanji’s onyomi reading. This is in contrast to the Shougakusei app where kunyomi readings are more common. This isn’t that surprising considering the app is designed for middle school children so naturally they will have a much larger understanding of their language.

Words are divided into three difficulty levels with two groups per level. In total there are 600 questions, which means just only half of the 1006 kanji taught in the previous app appear here. This is a bit of a shame as it would be nice to have the ability to review all of the kanji available in the other app.

As in the Shougakusei version you draw the missing kanji in the compound on the screen to answer the question. This app is also pretty good at recognising handwritten kanji but we did encounter an occasional problem where it wouldn’t accept the correct kanji we had drawn. The answer button makes an appearance again providing you with the correct kanji for you to trace.

We did find a couple of glitches while testing the app that made us answer the same question twice in a row. Overall the stability of the app was good on our Android test device. We also noticed that the advertising along the bottom of this app was slightly more intrusive but it’s free it is a small compromise to make.

Chugakusei Kanji Kakitori is a decent app to practise your knowledge of kanji readings and handwriting. It isn’t as thorough as the previous app in the series since it is lacking quite a number of kanji but nevertheless makes a good revision tool. We recommend completing the app designed for Shougakusei students first before moving onto this app as the difficulty is significantly higher.

Score: 7/10

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Review: Shougakusei Tegaki Kanji Drill 1006

30 Jan

Japanese: 小学生手書き漢字ドリル1006
Level: All
Format: App
Available on: Android, iPhone
Price: Free
Publisher: Gakko Net
Site: http://www.gakko-net.co.jp/Shougakkou Tegaki Kanji Drill 1006 (1)

This is a fantastic app for anyone who is learning kanji. Shougakusei Tegaki Kanji Drill 1006 covers all 1006 kanji learnt by students in Japanese elementary school and tests your ability to be able to recall and write kanji from memory. The app is available for both Android and Apple devices and best of all it’s free!

All kanji in this app are categorized based on the grade in which they are taught at Japanese elementary school, so 上 belongs to level 1, while 密 belongs to level 6. There are only 80 first grade kanji while there are in excess of 150 kanji for each of the remaining grades, again reflecting the curriculum taught at school in Japan. Within each grade, kanji are broken down into groups of five and when completed gives a score based on how well you did.

The app is easy to navigate with bright colourful menus and cute anime-style characters. However as the app is designed for students in Japan, there is no English to be seen. But as we are all students of Japanese, this shouldn’t pose too much of a problem! After selecting the level and group of kanji you would like to practice, a blank canvas appears with a word written in kanji or hiragana at the top.

A circle (or maru in Japanese) indicates which kanji you need to draw onto the canvas. Continuing with the above example, for 上 the phrase つくえの○ is given, and for 密 it’s 綿○な計画. The higher levels can be quite challenging, particularly if the word given is unfamiliar. You might find yourself having to rely on your knowledge of onyomi and kunyomi to make an educated guess! If you are completely stumped then the answer button is always there to save you…

Most of the time the app can accurately read the kanji you have written, or at least it will match it to the kanji it thinks is the closest. Sometimes it will ignore stroke order mistakes, while other times it will refuse to accept what you have drawn. On occasions we became so frustrated with the app not accepting our drawing, despite it being correct, that we hit the answer button and traced the kanji just so we could move on.

One thing we love about this app is the flexibility it adds to your study schedule. If you find yourself with five minutes or even an hour to spare, you can just whip out your phone and do a few reviews. Another great thing is the portability. It is great to be able to do kanji practice while on public transport, waiting for an appointment or laying in bed without having to lug around a huge kanji textbook!

As the app is free it is unsurprising that a small advertisement banner appears across the bottom of the app. This is no way detracts from the app’s usability and do not intrude on the user experience as a pop-ad may do. We didn’t experience any stability issues or crashes on our Android device while using this app either.

For those studying Japanese who are keen to practice kanji on-the-go and already have some knowledge of kanji, we highly recommend this app. Intermediate students will probably benefit the most from Tegaki Kanji Drill, as beginning students may find that they are unfamiliar with some of the words or the readings of kanji. Likewise, advanced users will find the earlier levels simple but will get a nice challenge out of the higher levels. Best of all it’s free, so really you have nothing to lose!

Score: 9/10

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