I speak Japanese and people often ask me how I memorized kanji when I was learning Japanese. Actually I don’t really remember because it was a long time ago, I started learning Japanese in 1998. I went to a Japanese language school in Tokyo for a year in order to learn Japanese.
Let’s see… I remember we did weekly kanji quizzes so of course I did a lot of cramming for those quizzes. When I graduated, our teacher told us that we had learned like about 1,000 kanji. You know we need about 2,000 kanji to read newspaper and pass JLPT level 1 (now it’s N1), so I memorized the rest by myself, and this I did by looking up new kanji I encountered when I was reading books/news articles. My electronic dictionary helped a lot. Now there are a lot of apps available and they’re cheaper than an electronic dictionary so maybe you don’t need to buy one. I didn’t use memorization tools like Anki or Quizlet because they didn’t exist at that time, but I remembered all those kanji anyway because they immediately became useful and used over and over again as I continued reading. And I was young, I had a better memory. Now I can’t memorize Korean words without conscious effort, that’s why I’m glad I can use Quizlet.
At the Japanese language school, the teachers gave very minimal explanation about kanji. They didn’t give us tips to memorize, just a short explanation that this kanji is the shape of a tree (木), this is water (水), each kanji has on-yomi and kun–yomi, and there is an order of how to write it. And that’s all. Oh, and then they gave weekly quizzes and harsh judgement about your intelligence if you failed. OK, I lied, they didn’t. The teachers were nice. We made the judgement to ourselves and among ourselves. It was a school. Students compete with each other at school, you know.
That’s all that happened at my school. No magic trick or anything special.
Teachers don’t have the power to give you fluency, it’s something you achieve by studying and practicing every day.
For the tricks to memorize kanji? I looked for books about it at Kinokuniya bookstore in Shinjuku by myself.
So I think… you can easily get the same information about kanji from textbooks. You can learn Japanese on your own. No need to go to Japan or Japanese language school. Just study every day. And so I believe I don’t need to go to Korea or Korean language school to learn Korean. Every time I say this, people don’t believe me. Or they become angry. Or they give long lectures about how important school is. As if I haven’t been there. *sigh
Wait, where was I? Hahaha.
So recently, I read an article in Japanese about Taka of ONE OK ROCK on the internet.
*I love Taka, he’s so cool, I want to marry him! which is totally a lie, but I love saying it!
In the article I found a kanji character I couldn’t read! Oh, no! I translate Japanese books and I never knew about this kanji! How could it be possible?
So, what to do when you find a kanji you couldn’t read?
1. Copy paste it to Tangorin (http://tangorin.com/kanji/), and click search!
And then I found that it’s actually read まとう [ma-to-u]. This word is usually, almost always, written in hiragana. But it’s so easy to type in kanji, maybe people have started using its kanji version.
2. Remember the kanji as a part of a word!
Kanji is a part of a word, so if you want to use that word, you must use the kanji, too. 纏 is a part of 纏う [ma-to-u].
3. Study each part of the kanji, and use mnemonics to memorize it!
In the article the kanji is used in this phrase: オーラを纏う [o-ra o matou] which means ‘to have some kind of aura with his presence’ to describe about Taka.
Part of the kanji is: 糸 (thread, cloth), a roof top or a room, 黒 (black), and 土 (soil).
So I imagine Taka wearing a cape (cloth), in a room, and his face is black because he has dirt on his face.
4. Write the kanji a couple of times, while trying to remember it, with a pen or just your finger.
糸 (ito, thread)… a roof top… 黒 (kuro, black)… 土 (tsuchi, soil). 纏う [ma-to-u]. OK.
Now I know how to write and read オーラを纏う [o-ra o matou]. Wow, I’m smart.
I hope this helps… or at least you can see that memorizing kanji or 한자 [han–jja] is not that hard. ###