How are you learning proper nouns?


As if kanji weren’t cumbersome enough, proper nouns take kanji to another level. These don’t click easily to me like they do with normal words. I’m currently studying a premade deck in Anki. For the most part, location names and surnames aren’t that bad. Personal names, however, are awful. I want to scream at the variations of ひろし、つよし、and みのる.

I’m thinking I’ll go slower with them. It’s seriously enough to make me want to quit learning kanji.

Edit: Here is the Anki deck I am using:


Maybe just learn them when you actually meet someone with that name. :stuck_out_tongue:


I don’t get people’s names at all. I usually have to either guess or look it up online on what’s the most common reading for a certain name. It’s by far the hardest part of Japanese for me since it can actually be very different from what you thought.


Even native speakers frequently can’t guess a name on reading the kanji. That’s why business cards and internet forms always have a space for furigana.


Whenever I get friendly with someone, I ask them for the kanji their name uses and I just memorize. When I hung out with a group of Japanese friends, only I knew the kanji of one of those friends.


I’d rather have a decent collection of common names like I have in English. I know that even Japanese people have trouble with names, but almost all of them are able to read the common names with counterintuitive readings. I can’t be the only one who has tried to make a concentrated effort to learn names. On the bright side, I can now read every prefecture and major city in kanji.


Tofugu created a list, which you can buy in their store:


Aye, I was going to make a similar comment - basically, I know nothing about how your Anki deck is formed, but your best option is to focus on the most common names.

Also found this:


Since I’m pretty new at Japanese, I have a hard time even knowing that something IS a name. At least in English, you get a pretty good hint due to the case differences, but here it’s just kanji, which at least looks like it could be a noun…

[Edit: with personal names specifically, さん or the other honorifics are a pretty good indicator, I suppose. Place names, I dunno]


I still feel it’s more important for me to work on my grammar or speaking/listening skills, rather than focusing on names. Maybe when I get everything else up to a decent level, I’ll start working on names, but I feel like by that point I’ll start getting used to seeing the common names just by context…


I put the Anki deck I’m using in the OP. I believe the names in the deck are arranged by commonness, or at least the names you see at first are fairly common. I recommend everyone give it a go.

I’m starting to realize I shouldn’t waste my mental energy trying to memorize names, as there are plenty of other stressful matters of the language to worry about. Still, it’s nice to vent.


I heard all you need for last family names is 田[ta]、中[naka]、山[yama], 村[mura] and put them together in any combination. :wink:



That’s probably a good call. The deck’s page even says “Additionally, there are very many names such as ひろし that may be written in more than 50 different ways–obviously there is no need for any sane human being to memorize all of them.”

Nice work on memorising the prefecture and city names, though - I probably ought to get around to that sometime too. Next trick: remember where they are. :slightly_smiling_face:


My city repetoire is about the four five I’ve learned through WaniKani: 東京、京都、名古屋、大阪, 広島…
[Edit: thanks @Belthazar]


広島 :stuck_out_tongue:


Well I guess I’m not sane :smile:
And I’m one step ahead of you. I took that exact sporcle test and one where you click the prefecture location on a map years ago.
. . . I guess I am insane. きもい地理オタクな。


I don’t really see any reason to explicitly spend study hours on names.


Well, when you put it like that . . .

I still feel I learned much I would have otherwise not from the deck in my OP, but it’s definitely no longer a priority.


I mean, do whatever you want to do if you enjoy it, but the title question kinda framed it as though it is something that people should devote at least some time to, which I think we agree that it doesn’t reach that level, even just from a return-on-investment perspective.


For surnames I found this list with frequencies (the order of the readings per entry are not really sorted):

When it comes to given names there is great freedom how to assign readings, maybe it would be best to search for a list of most common kanji readings in names, at least for 美、子、奈 or something you will know what to expect.

Edit: this specifically means that you can’t know how to read a name just from the kanji. There are probably some restrictions that 「一」 cannot be read as “Würstchen mit Senf”, but at least jmndict says it can be Itsu, Kazuha, Susumu, Tsukasa, Osamu, Hajimu, Kokoro, Hajime, Makoto, …