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A lot of Japanese restaurants, mangas and just paragraphs of texts in general (or not in general, used basically anywhere) use combined characters to make things appear shorter.

And I can’t understand them. I’m just now starting to practice Japanese. I can’t even memorize all of katakana let alone Dakudon so that might be why but can someone help me find an easier way to understand the combined symbols?

Combined symbols like: “私” from “わたし” (I/I am) and “鷹” from “たか” (Hawk/A hawk)

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    There are many resources for learning mnemonics for kanji if you search for that.
    – Leebo
    Commented Mar 19, 2022 at 6:12
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    @firuvi presumably a typo for dakuten
    – Leebo
    Commented Mar 19, 2022 at 7:32
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    I don't understand what you mean by combined characters. In what sense is 私 "combined"?
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Mar 19, 2022 at 15:45
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    @aguijonazo I'm pretty sure they're referring to how 私 is one character representing the 3 character reading of わたし. In other words, pretty sure they're just asking about how to memorize kanji readings.
    – Leebo
    Commented Mar 19, 2022 at 17:12
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    Are you thinking kanji are used to "make things appear shorter"?
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Mar 19, 2022 at 22:08

3 Answers 3

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The combined characters you are referring to are called "Kanji." It's a system of writing, like hiragana and katakana, but they use Chinese characters. Most kanji are made of different parts.

For example, the character "私{わたし}" is made of the grain radical (禾) on the left and "厶" on the right. It's helpful to remember these characters like so, along with their meanings and pronunciation.

Another example, the character "鷹{たか}" is made of the parts "广", "亻", "隹", and "鳥". Its radical is the bird radical (鳥).

Jisho.org is a great resource for this.

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I am just beginning too, but already I have some tips. First you can’t think of any kanji as derived from Kana. Japanese doesn’t start with a phonetic spelling of the word and then somehow cobbling together into a pictograph. In fact the Kana were originally kanji they’ve been (overly) simplified.

If you’re looking up single kanji in google translate you might get the pronunciation which you could translate into kana, but the two are not equivalent. When something like “bus“ translates into multiple kanji, I will use Google translate to work out the kana for pronunciation and check the meaning of each kanji. So “bus” is “ride go”. Maybe not the most sophisticated translation process but it does help me understand them better.

The best site I have found for understanding kanji components is https://jisho.org/search/%23kanji%20%E6%84%9B. In this example you’re looking at the Kanji for love. Not only does it give you the definition and lots of other information about this symbol but on the left-hand side it breaks it down into component parts. Some of those component parts have deeper meaning. Sometimes not. That can help you understand the character a bit better.

Finally, You have to also remember that these are Chinese characters adopted by the Japanese. Sometimes I can look at the Chinese word and understand the origin a bit better. If you understand Chinese you can also know that they build aggregates not just based on meaning but also on phonetics. So an aggregate kanji might have Chinese symbols indicating heart 心 and at the same time symbols that mean nothing at all 冖 to you but meant something to some Chinese living 2000 years ago.

I believe the word you are looking for is “inscrutable”. In any case this is the best help I have at the moment. Good luck.

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Look up "Remembering The Kanji". It's a book that helps with exactly this.

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