Learning the actual names of the radicals


So, I basically never use mnemonics when learning a language because they just tend to distract me. Here in WaniKani, I’ve just used the silly names as an additional memory game since there’s not really anyway to not learn them (I tend to cheat with them, though). But now to my question;

Has anyone used the actual names of the radicals and learned them by adding them to the notes? Such as ⼉ (ひとあし), ⼫ (しかばね), 气 (きがまえ) etc… I suspect that the Japanese school kids learn these at some point as well?

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Yes, Japanese people learn the Kangxi radicals in school. These are not the same concept as WK’s radicals, which are “kanji parts.” Each kanji only has one Kangxi radical associated with it, regardless of how many parts it has. As such, they’re just different things. There are more WK radicals than there are Kangxi radicals.

There’s very little utility to learning the Japanese names, unless you want to take the Kanji Kentei, a kanji proficiency exam (which I’ve done). If that’s what you want to do, knock yourself out.

I’ll point out that even in Japanese the radicals often have multiple names, so I don’t like the idea of calling them the “actual names”.


Thank you! Yeah, I did notice that multiple sources can give different names for a same radical. Could you maybe point me towards a source that you would consider the most accurate? Taking Kanji Kentei would be interesting, indeed. But they’re probably only held in Japan? Maybe that one could be in my future but for now I still have a lot of work to do with JLPT. :')

You can tale them in other countries, I believe, but I’ve never looked into it because I’m in Japan.

I used Kanken study guides to study for it. You can find them on Amazon if you search 漢検. But even the actual tests use all the applicable names, because it wouldn’t be fair to people who only learned one.

I learned them all, they’re not that useful. Most of them are also stand-alone kanji anyway, the ones that aren’t are usually just modified kanji. There are only 214 so you can learn em in a week or two on anki.

The most useful part for me is being able to recognize which radicals are actually just simplified/modified versions of other kanji. For instance, ⺖, ⺡, and ⺘ are just 心 , 水 , and 手 modified to be crammed into the left side of another kanji. It’s helpful since kanji with ⺖usually have meanings associated with something mental, like 悩 , 快, or 慣 and generally kanji with ⺘conceptually involve the hands somehow, like 投 or 捕. I think you get the point. Wanikani usually tries to preserve the connection, like ⺡(tsunami) obviously involves water but it’s differentiated from the actual water kanji and is better for mnemonics. Nailbat is a bit more of a stretch but you still hold a nailbat in your hands. I have no idea what they were thinking with fish stick though.


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