Is there a reason to learn Radicals?

Is it supposed to be like a starting area?

Otherwise I don’t see a reason to learn them since some of their meanings change in Kanji.

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They tend to give a hint a to what the kanji they’re in mean. Not always, but often.
You’ll come across a kanji you don’t know, or are unsure of, and think "well this radical means water… so this has something to do with water… oh yeah its this…"
They’re like tips. Don’t need them, but they can help.

Of course, sometimes they don’t relate at all, and will throw you off more than anything

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So it’s pretty much a tutorial to the word?
Seems about right.

Yes. The radicals make learning kanji many times easier. Recognising which radicals a kanji is built with is fundamental.


It’s not always a tutorial, but it could be. Also, the radical names used by wanikani may not be the official names of the radical, but may be chosen so that they the mnemonics are easier to write.

Also, check out this video:


I was under the impressions there is no “official” name. And that any place that says they have the official name, has just decided whatever they named them is “official”.
But, I could be wrong. It happens a lot.

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There are several lists of Chinese radicals (e.g. Kangxi radicals, or the older Shuowen Jiezi radicals) and presumably several Japanese lists of Kanji radicals, but this is a decent starting point for “official” names for kanji radicals, based off the Chinese Kangxi list: (some WaniKani radicals used I guess just for mnemonic/learning convenience don’t show up here, but so far every one I’ve checked has been on the Shuowen Jiezi list).

Also, as to why we learn radicals in the first place, think of them as letters in English. There’s nothing intrinsically “c”-like about the concept “cat”, but it’s easier to remember “cat” as consisting of the symbols “c”, “a”, and “t” rather than a single big symbol that looks like “cat”. If you think of it this way, you can “spell” a single kanji using a few radicals, which makes it easier to remember.

Generally speaking, chunking things into recognizable units makes them easier to remember. It’s easier to remember the number “2542” as “twenty five” and “forty two” than it is to remember it as “two thousand five hundred and forty two” - in the first method you’re remembering 2 simple entities (25, 42), in the second method you’re remembering either 1 complicated entity (2542), or 4 simple entities (2, 5, 4, 2).


Who needs letters anyway? What we really need are WORDS. It would be so much faster to learn words without knowing what letters are in them or what order the letters are in. I mean, letters don’t even have anything to do with the meanings of words, they’re so pointless!


Edit: Oops I was beaten to it by the far more helpful and less sarcastic post by tobek.


Once again, Tofugu has you covered:

For me at least, radicals help Kanji make more sense to look at. When you can recognise the shapes that make up a character, it starts to look more like something legible and not just a bunch of squiggles. Kanji’s a lot less daunting when you recognise pieces of it already I think.

these were what I was thinking about when I said “official,” but I couldn’t remember the names, and was too lazy to look them up =P Thanks for posting this

Radicals can help you look up kanji that you didn’t recognize! Last week, I saw a car with a bumper sticker that had three kanji on it. I didn’t know the kanji themselves, but I knew all the radicals in the first one, and one radical in the second one. I found out it was an aikido/合気道 bumper sticker by looking up kanji using the radicals I knew, mostly through Wikipedia (e.g. 口 --> +3 strokes for the “hat” and “ground” radicals --> 合).


4 more levels and you’ll have all 3 of those kanji down pat!

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The radicals in WK give names to kanji parts and uses these names in mnemonics. The kanji won’t be looking like 口.日.木 forever.

You need to see the differences in 椎.稚.推.堆, and then it’s good to have names to remember which one is which.


But letters have something to do with the pronunciation of words (and that’s what words are in the first place: things you say). OK, in English (or in my native language, French), the connection between letters and pronunciation can be complicated. But in most of the world languages written with an alphabet, the connection is straightforward, if you know the letters, you can read a text aloud even if you don’t understand a word (actually except for rare exceptions, if you know the very complicated spelling rules, it’s possible to do it in English too).

On the other way, radical have sometimes a relation with the meaning of kanjis or their readings. But most often… not.

WaniKani radicals are mostly made up (I know, I know, it’s quite surprising to know that Japanese people are not familiar with boobgrave, raptor cage and chester the molester).

They’re not equivalent to the alphabet, the analogy is that it’s simpler to memorise that 稚 is pine tree + turkey (along with a quirky mnemonic) than to go “oh, so these little scribbles in these shapes mean immature” 2000 times.


Considering there are over 500 in the Shuowen Jiezi it’d be hard to find something that isn’t in there. But while many are semantic components like in the Kangxi, some are just sort of groups of strokes that I’m not sure it is known why they were put in there. In China there is this which you might call the “Official radicals” but I don’t believe there is anything like that for Japanese.

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If I show you the kanji 鑑, which is a kanji on here, youre probably going to memorize it stroke by stroke. Overall this would take you quite a long time to do, no? To associate a meaning and reading with that bundle of strokes.

For me, I learned it with radicals. Technically the two radicals in there are also kanji, so I never had to even learn the radicals really. In total, I spent probably around 3 minutes on that kanji which includes the time I was on its lesson, 鑑定’s lesson, 鑑定’s reviews, and 鑑’s reviews.

3 minutes total, and I have never missed 鑑. Try memorizing 鑑 without using radicals and see how much effort you need to put into it so that you remember it 2 weeks down the line. Thats your answer.

EDIT: Thats 23 strokes, in case you were wondering.

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As everyone probably said, (I did not read because I am lazy) radicals are awesome and make learning new kanji way way easier. Once you use them for a while, you will see what we mean. Also, they can help with predicting/memorizing how the kanji will sound a decent portion of the time as an added bonus. Anyway, good luck.

Extra points if you remember that 監 is read as かん・らん for 濫・藍・鑑・艦 …