Kanji Structure is Similar to Roots of English Words’

Kanji is one of the most complicated areas of study for Japanese language students, but if you know its structure, you will find it unexpectedly interesting. Basic kanji developed originally from pictures. Take for example, “Mountain.” You can imagine a mountain from this kanji’s shape. There are many other similar examples. “River” comes from the image of streaming; “Tree” comes from the shape of a tree. It may not be so difficult to learn kanji when you look at a learner’s dictionary in which the process where a picture transforms into a kanji character is described.

The combination of these basic kanji can create other kanji which express more complicated meanings. Writing two “tree” kanji meaning forms “woods,” while writing three means “forest.” The kanji for “flower” consists of two parts. The upper part means “grass” and the bottom parts means “change.” It represents a grass becoming a flower.

The structure of kanji is similar to those English words taken from Latin (about 60%). For example, “unhappy.” “Un” means “not,” and “happy” means “satisfied.” So it means “not satisfied.” “Psychology” also consists of two words, one is “psycho,” which means “mind,” and the “logy” which means “study.” Therefore, it becomes “study of the mind.”

It will also be fun if you know how place names are made. Take for example “Tokyo.” “Tou” is also read as “Higashi,” which means east. “Kyo” means Kyoto, the previous capital before Tokyo. Since a new capital was placed in the east, they named it Tokyo. As you can see, by looking at kanji as a puzzle and learning its structure, you will find learning kanji becomes more enjoyable.

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