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In a recent post titled "Kanji identification?" the accepted answer stated that the "parts" for 「烙」 are "fire", "folding chair" and "mouth". Japanese native speakers don't understand what that means. Likewise, I don't understand.

An answer that is not understandable by native speakers seems a little weird. Japanese people memorize very, very, few radicals. What they memorize is the official name (so as to explain verbally how to write a kanji). The "meaning" is ancillary at best. Can someone elaborate to me why a radical discussion answered the question in the "Kanji identification?" thread? In this forum, I read most questions / answers to learn Japanese.

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I don't think it's necessary (or even helpful) to memorize all the Kangxi radical numbers. –  snailboat Oct 7 '13 at 22:30
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Just me personally... I learn this as 火 (semantic) + 各 (phonetic). The semantic element reminds you vaguely of the meaning, and the phonetic element reminds you of what the 音読み is. In some cases it's pretty accurate, and in other cases it's only approximate or barely useful at all. In this case, it's pretty helpful; 各 is カク and 烙 is ラク (at least in 烙印=らくいん, which is the only word I know for that kanji). I don't divide it mentally into a list of elements that look like Kangxi radicals. –  snailboat Oct 7 '13 at 23:01
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This strikes me as meta or chat material. –  dainichi Oct 8 '13 at 1:54
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This question appears to be off-topic because it is about a learning method, and the involvement of Japanese language is incidental. –  Flaw Oct 10 '13 at 14:27
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I don't see a big difference between learning arbitrary names in Japanese and learning arbitrary names in English. The main difference I see is that the Japanese names often (but not always) have the position added to them, which makes them a little bit more useful. (Though again, I don't think we should conflate radicals with elements of characters. Only one element in a character is its radical, and they can contain elements that aren't in the list of 214.) –  snailboat Oct 13 '13 at 19:08
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closed as off-topic by Flaw, Dono, ssb, Earthliŋ, snailboat Oct 11 '13 at 1:59

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3 Answers

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It is referring to a technique for learning kanji in which the various components of the kanji are given "names". In addition to breaking the kanji down into an easily quantifiable number of components, it helps to create a mnemonic sentence for the kanji out of the mnemonic words of each component. For example, "烙" means "burn", so a technique for memorizing this kanji would be to form a sentence related to "burn" out of the words "fire", "folding chair", and "mouth".

Note that some of the mnemonics come from the actual meaning of the component when it appears as a standalone kanji (such as 火, which literally means fire), while others are simply named the way they are because of their appearance, such as 夂、 which resembles a folding chair, but the actual meaning of it is "winter". When forming a mnemonic sentence for the kanji, there is also the option of using "winter" as the mnemonic for the 夂 component.

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Thanks for the explanation. Mnemonics looks fun. I'm going to give it a try. –  kinyo Oct 8 '13 at 0:15
    
quote: "It is referring to a technique for learning kanji in which the various components of the kanji are given "names"." Each 部首 has a Japanese name: 「のぎへん」、「ごんべん」、「りっしんべん」、etc. Is the romaji for those names used "nogihen", "gonben", "risshinben", etc. as the name in Engish? Or, are there formal English names for each 部首?Can you show me a link for the official English name of each 部首? can't find it with google. –  kinyo Oct 8 '13 at 0:25
    
@kinyo I'm not sure where you'd find the proper names for each radical. I've never bothered to learn them, personally. Just never found any use for them. I wasn't talking about the actual formal names, just names that you can informally assign to them: really anything that you can associate with that radical will work. –  Ataraxia Oct 8 '13 at 0:32
    
@kinyo Btw, if you find this technique helpful, I would recommend this book: Mastering Japanese Kanji by Glen Nolan Grant. It has a nice guide for mnemonics and even a table in the back of the book with a list of all the radicals where you can fill in the mnemonics you chose for them. –  Ataraxia Oct 8 '13 at 0:37
    
Where did you find that the meaning of 夂 is winter(冬)? I thought it was a picture of a leg/foot. –  無色受想行識 Oct 13 '13 at 17:56
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There are several useful systems for learning Kanji by building a memorable "story" based on (sometimes random) radical names.

My favorite example of a useful story is remembering the kanji for "tall", which is 高. Breaking it apart from top down, we see a cowboy hat over a mouth, above a space helmet with a mouth visible inside. Of course, this is Woody and Buzz from Toy Story, and you can see that Woody in his cowboy hat is TALL compared to Buzz in his space helmet! Bonus is that you know how to write and understand the meaning of this kanji.

Rinse and repeat for the remaining 2,799 Kanji you want to remember ;)

Helpful sites:

  • "Remembering the Kanji" by James Heisig is a series of books which show the author's method for breaking down over 2,800 kanji into simple memorable pieces, that you can recombine mentally in a story so you are building up and (more importantly) distinguishing similar kanji through these stories. A website that helps immensely is http://kanji.koohii.com/learnmore (Reviewing the Kanji) where you can put in your OWN stories for kanji you want to remember.

  • Another new system that has a built-in Spaced Repetition system is http://www.WaniKani.com which has a very nice interface and well-thought-out progression. It will also bug you to come back and keep progressing, which is a nice feature!

  • I have also heard and used KanjiDamage (.com) but it's a little too far out for me. YMMV. ;)

The official radical names are sometimes not meaningful for Westerners learning Japanese, so don't be afraid to make up your own radical names that mean something to you. You only need them for a while until the intermediate step of recalling the story isn't needed anymore, and you just recognize 高 as [mentally insert your recollection here] whenever you see it.

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To memorize something abstract like a kanji, you we must to connect it with something, like some nominal meaning (which doesn't have to be entirely accurate or complete).

(If we do not connect the form with something else, then what does it mean to memorize it and to recall it? If something has no association, yet we are able to recall it, all we can do is point at it and say "I am sure I have seen that form before": basically, the form is associated with a "Yes" or "No": yes, I have seen it; no, I don't think I have. And it ends there.)

A mnemonic device just serves to help retain and recall an association. The details of the mnemonic do not matter, as long as it makes sense to you and helps you remember. You can (and should) make up your own mnemonics.

Mnemonic devices can build on your existing knowledge. For instance, in regard to this 烙, I already know 各 which means "each", "every". I do not need a mnemonic for that character any more. (I do not remember whether I ever had one). So I might build a mnemonic based on treating this with two parts, rather than three: perhaps combining the concept of fire, with each and every.

Here is what might work for me: 烙印 (rakuin) means brand: a symbol that is burned on, like on cattle. How about: "Each and every one of my cattle is branded".

You don't have to associate 烙 with the nominal meaning of "burn" given in some dictionaries; you can use something else, like "branding". The accuracy isn't critical, because this meaning-word is only an access key to the other information you will later hang onto the character, like the words that it is involved in.

By the way, I could also reinforce my memory by noting that this character has a similarity with 客 (kyaku: guest, visitor, customer) and that sounds like yaku (burn). The customer lost his hat, and got sunburned. "The customer complained that he lost his hat, and got sunburned". (客 -> lose hat -> 各 -> burn -> 烙; kyaku, kaku, yaku).

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