Do You Love Kanji?

And then you’ll probably end up divorcing it, divorcing guy…

I’m so drunk.

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I love them! I’m an artist, a strongly visual learner, and I lived in Hong Kong as a kid and I enjoyed trying to decipher them then as much as now. I think it’s so cool how they take so much time to learn for native Chinese and Japanese speakers and effort for non-native speakers, and how they’re pictures rather than sounds. I also think it’s interesting how Korean replaced them with Hangul, which imo is a lot more similar to the Latin alphabet than it is to pictographs. They also look so beautiful as calligraphy!

If you want it, put a ring on it lol


Probably helps if you are autistic, kind of like me. I don’t half ass anything that I’m interested in, I go all the way. I don’t think that I can talk you into loving kanji. The best you can do is continue grinding and hope that the love will come with time. Because I’m sure it will. If you like patterns and puzzles, seeing what you’ve just learned in the wild through immersion will give you a kick.

OK, I got the definitive answer from one of my students. He’s an elderly Japanese guy, and he says that to love kanji you have to get into Shodo (書道) . This is the art of writing/painting kanji. By practicing shodo you’ll learn the deeper meaning of each kanji and gain a richer appreciation for it. Also you’ll be surrounded by other people who love kanji, since they’re all treating it as an artform.

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I didn’t love kanji when I first started trying to learn Japanese, but I think I started to love them maybe about four or five levels into WK. Now kanji are my favorite part of learning Japanese, and I look forward to learning new ones when I see them in my upcoming lessons.

As others have mentioned, it’s extraordinarily cool that kanji sort of make the etymology of words more visible. And of course, the origin of the kanji themselves is also cool! One thing that really helped me appreciate kanji is the Keisei Semantic-Phonetic Composition script, which is both very helpful and very fascinating.

I also love words like 火山 or 毛虫, where the meaning follows so clearly from the kanji, or words like 里心 or 花火 where the concept is a little more abstract, but still makes perfect sense. The imagery of the kanji accompanying those words makes their concepts so much more evocative to me.

Another thing that I love about kanji is that I can look at text with a bunch of unknown vocabulary, and if I can recognize the kanji, I can often puzzle out some of the meaning.

And it’s just cool that names spelled with kanji have all of these additional meanings sort of implicit in them. As a pro wrestling fan, it’s so much fun to look at the kanji in wrestling names and think about how they apply to the character! 石井 智宏, Tomohiro Ishii, is often referred to as the “stone pitbull,” and sure enough, the first kanji in his name means “stone.”

I think for me, the big shift in my own mindset happened when I stopped viewing kanji as an obstacle to my understanding, and instead started viewing them as something worth learning just in themselves. My WK reviews went from being a chore that I begrudgingly did in order to get to my real goal (which was being able to read and understand Japanese) to instead being something that I genuinely enjoyed doing every day because it was really satisfying purely to learn more kanji.

As long as I keep working at it, I’ll reach my goal of being able to read Japanese eventually, but in the meantime, I can still experience the pure joy of learning a new kanji and realizing that Konami’s name, 小波, is literally little wave (and thus it translates to wavelets or ripples on water), or realizing that the kanji for autumn, 秋, contains the tree radical and fire, which feels like it embodies the aesthetic of autumn perfectly.

One thing that really helped me love kanji more was using the lesson filter script so that I can learn a few kanji every day alongside my vocab lessons instead of trying to learn them in batches of 10 or more. If I go slower, I can appreciate them individually. It also allows me to have time to learn how to write them by hand. I’m not a skilled calligrapher by any means, but I am a book artist, so I love thinking about how writing tools and methods shaped the language.

I think WK’s system has the potential to be very punishing if you attempt to do it too fast, and that can make kanji less enjoyable if you see them as annoyances adding to the burden of your SRS reviews, or as an obstacle in the way of your understanding that you have to find a way to overcome as soon as possible. Taking it slower helps make the journey an end in itself instead of only keeping your eyes on the finish line.

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Please excuse my language

Well, let’s start with things one hears throughout one’s journey of learning Japanese:

Kanji is so damn hard :frowning:

I don’t like it, why do I have to learn it -.-

“Brooo, Kanji is like the worst like you know like enemy” - Chadowski

Yes, Kanji is hard. Yes, sometimes they don’t make sense (looking at you 味方).
BUT most of the time they are fucking great.

Nothings makes me happier than seeing some kind of connection while learning Kanji.
Feeling (感) + Feeling (情) = Feeling (感情)? Fuck yeah give me more.
Small things like this make it so much more enjoyable.

But what drives me the most is just reading some text on a random website and understanding wtf that Kanji means and therefore kinda understand the sentence.

In the end most of us are learning a language that probably has no to almost no connection to our mother tongue (e.g. English x Japanese just doesn’t sit right) and that is fucking cool.
How many people do you know that are currently learning another language and one without latin letters?
Damn, we are Chads.

But this makes perfect sense. What else could a tasty person be than your ally :upside_down_face:.

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And, it’s not like these kinds of ateji make zero sense… they are just taking things from a pronunciation angle, rather than the meaning angle.

Basically, there’s some stuff out there way more off the rails than 味方.

馬鹿 comes to mind.

Nah, it’s still got the ateji angle. There’s some reason why ばか is 馬鹿. The two characters have the readings ば and か.

I’ll have to think of a good example, but there’s stuff, usually just in the realm of trivia, that is completely disconnected from anything meaningful.

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What about 流石?

That one is more like what I was imagining, because the meaning has been jumbled and shifted over time, such that while originally the kanji made sense with a particular expression, but now it just seems baffling and modern people couldn’t explain why it’s like that without looking it up.

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What about 莫迦

Back when I learned that one I kinda just was like “ok” and was too lazy to look into the details, but now I’m kinda curious and at work so I can’t really look into it too deep

馬鹿 is described as ateji, and 莫迦 is described as on’yaku, which is “phonetic representation of a foreign word using Chinese characters”.

I’m not really sure what the difference between 当て字 and 音訳 is in practice… maybe just context.

So, once again, not that exciting. They’re used for their sounds.

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I love kanji because I also learn about the culture this way! And sometimes the kanji’s meaning is really funny or predictable if you look at the forms. It surprises many times!

But its also hard and I am only level 8, so what do I know lol

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Kinda like pianos

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You don’t need to be passionate about Kanji… You can be passionate about reading. Wanting to read Japanese is what kept me motivated to learn Kanji as reading kana-only text is very unpleasant and unfeasible. I like to think of Kanji as “part of the world’s most clunky writing system” as Jay Rubin wrote:

Kanji are tough. Kanji are challenging. Kanji are mysterious and fun and maddening. Kanji comprise one of the greatest stumbling blocks faced by Westerners who want to become literate in Japanese. But kanji have nothing to do with grammar or sentence structure or thought patterns or the Japanese world view, and they are certainly not the Japanese language. They are just part of the world’s most clunky writing system, and a writing system cannot cause a language to be processed in a different part of the brain any more than it can force it to some other part of the body (excepting, of course, Lower Slobovian, which is processed in the left elbow).

Perhaps looking at the origins of particular kanjis would give you some motivation? The Kanji 止 originally depicted two footprints (of someone who had stopped). If you like stories like this, check out

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One thing I love about kanji is how they allow the same word to be spelled different ways to give a different inflection. It’s fun to come across a familiar word spelled with a new kanji.

Wanikani contains the example 生まれる / 産まれる but there are so many more.

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Nope, I’m Professor Layton-like