Radicals - anyone else?

Am i the only one who finds learning separate meanings for radicals useless and confusing? I can remember kanji without them just fine, and i find it annoying that i have to learn almost an entire new set of ‘characters’ just for mnemonics i dont need.

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No especially when you find near look alike kanji.


The purpose for the silly names is to make them more memorable, and easier to create stories around that could tie in to the meanings of very many different kanji. So, I’m not bothered by the silly names.

But since I don’t rely on the mnemonics to learn the kanji, I have often added my own synonyms to the radicals, like so:

You could even add the same synonym to all radicals, if you wanted, so they’d all accept “rad” as an answer, for example.


There were numerous levels where I was more blasé about learning radicals. I felt like they were easy, and I was doing fine. Hoo boy, I regretted that.

Radicals from that period of time weren’t cemented very well for me, and that came back to bite me with complex kanji later on. While trying to name all the radicals to myself in the hope of jump-starting the mnemonic, I’d struggle to come up with the names of some of them, creating leeches that could have been avoided.

It wasn’t until it was causing active problems that I could see how it would have benefited me to keep focussing on the radicals as much as I had done at the start.

Everyone is different, and others might not have that problem. All I can say is that I personally ended up wishing I had done things differently.


Learning any given kanji is not particularly challenging. When you have to learn 8 kanji that all look very similar, the mnemonics do start to come in handy. Even if you don’t want to use WaniKani’s mnemonics, I wouldn’t so quickly dismiss the concept.


Its not about silly names, i think the most annoying thing to me is when i fail cause say, i enter the name of the kanji instead of the radical. Its happened so many times and i keep being bombarded with stuff i already know because i made a silly mistake. I didnt realise you could add synonyms though so thank you for that maybe ill try that.

If the radical is a kanji, I add the readings & meanings as synonyms. If the radical has a name, such as 糸 ito-hen, I add that. Usually I shorten it to ‘ito.’ Some of the WK radical names don’t make sense to me, but a few do. Saida’s approach of several synonyms is good.

Eventually 1 name for the radical becomes easier for me to remember - the WK radical name, kanji name or traditional radical name - so that’s what I use in reviews.

If I know the vocab word before seeing it in WK it is usually easy for me to remember the kanji. For a new word, such as 想 (level 13) I think " ‘tree eye heart’, like a Picasso painting it is a concept. So そうbeautiful " Makes it much easier to remember.

What really puts me off is when the meaning of the radical and the kanji is different. For instance 非. The radical is “criminal”, which I remembered perfectly fine. But then the kanji came and the correct meaning was “injustice”. I just totally got it wrong and began to mix up both and it really bothered me.

I have added a synonym later, but whenever it comes up, I still think about, “Oh, criminal!” and then have to stop myself, because I know it’s not criminal, but something else. That kanji has been giving me problems from start to end, because I just always focus on “don’t think about the radical”.

Same with 示 (indicate). For me it makes it extra difficult and even though I have added the synonym for the radical, I have a lot of problems remembering the kanji.

I get the idea behind it, but for my brain it’s just awful to distinguish and makes it extra hard for me.


Just to be clear, it’s only itohen if it’s on the left side like in 約 or 紙. When it’s somewhere else, looking pretty much like its normal self, such as in 索, it is indeed just called ito.


Just have a look at the gate radical and all the stuff that can be put in between, like 間、聞、開 and many more.

These are the purest cases of radical beauty :joy:


Very off-topic, but that happens to clear up some confusion I had about one of the questions used in the ハイパーボンバー section of the most recent ネプリーグ episode. :+1:

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Ah, I watched that. What was it? Oh, was it specifically itohen?

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I still had the video pulled up, so I looked up the question:


I guess I didn’t know enough about Japanese radicals and radical terminology to grasp the question fully, and watching them play the round didn’t immediately make it clear to me.

I’ve watched quite a few episodes since you mentioned it in the gameshow thread. Been enjoying it a lot, so thanks! Now I can use words like プチプラ. :joy:


Ah, yeah, nice.

But yeah, へん refers to a left side radical. つくり, such as さんづくり in 形, refers to a right side radical.

Other locations impart other names as well.


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