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Reader Response
May-June, 2002

The United Nations of Kanji

So far, kanji "delegates" from the following 62 nations have visited the Kanji Clinic:

Arab Emirites, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Cocos Islands, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Czeckoslovakia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, England, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Phillipines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, and the Virgin Islands.
Does a Japanese woman's fate change when she marries and changes her name?!

Kanji Clinicを拝見いたしました 。内容的に濃くかつ豊富なので驚きました。ただ私の英語力では読むのに時間がかかりすぎてまだ十分目を通していない状態ですが少しずつ時間があるときに読ませてもらい日本語の生徒さんにも是非紹介してみたいと思っております。


名前と運命との関わりについてはどこまで信憑性(しんぴょうせい, authenticity、reliability)があるのでしょうか?一度中国人の友達と名前の画数と運命について話したことがありますが中国ではそういったことは多分ないと言っていました。中国から伝わった漢字なのに矛盾していますよね!



Spanish dad/Japanese mom give their daughter a kanji name

First of all, let me congratulate you on your "Kanji Clinic" project which I find really interesting and very useful for us, students of Japanese.

I am Spanish and married to a Japanese and we are living in Spain. We are about to have a baby (a girl, we have been told), and when I read this Friday's "Kanji Clinic" column, I decided to write to tell you how we chose the name for our future baby.

We wanted a name that "sounded good" both in Spanish and Japanese, that could be pronounced the same in both languages (I have to say that Spanish and Japanese have almost practically the same sounds) and, of course, that was not a problem in Spanish by having a "second meaning", i.e., that was not similar to another word in Spanish with a bad meaning (you know, children can be so cruel with names...)

That's why we first chose Japanese names that were easy to pronounce in Spanish and with no "second meaning". At this time we didn't think about the kanjis yet.

Once we had chosen several names, we put kanji to those names, resulting in another list of candidates. And finally, we chose the name that had a meaning in kanji we liked the most. The result of this quest: Ayami 彩実(Beautiful Coloring/Truth). You can imagine that we are very glad about the result, of course.

By the way, the baby will be born in about 7 week's time. I am really excited by the coming of our first child.

Best regards,
Francisco Gutierrez
Madrid, Spain
Australian/Japanese couple comes up with two perfect kanji names

My husband is Japanese and I am Australian. When our son was born we were living in Australia and didn't know where our future lay. We decided that Australians are used to "unusual names" while perhaps if we were to live in Japan a Japanese name would be easier. I had no Japanese at the time so my husband got a name book and started going through it. Some considerations we had were that there were some sounds I have trouble with - so Ryo was out of the question. My husband then came up with a short list of names for me to consider. I didn't dislike any of them so left the final decision up to my husband.

Our son was a November baby so my husband wanted a "winter" name and coming from Aichi he was reminded of the strong wind of Ibuki Mountain(伊吹). As he was a boy he wanted him to be stong like the wind and to be able to overcome adversity. He is named 威吹 (mighty/blow) - Ibuki.

The stroke count of the Ibuki Mtn kanji was not a good number so my husband searched and found the alternative first kanji. Although this kanji can have both good and bad nuances (mighty, majestic, threaten by force) my husband likes this idea as he hopes when he is older he can reflect on his name and decide on the appropriate action to take.

Our daughter is named Kie(希恵 hope/blessing). We wanted a short girls name and one that was not too common. I wanted kanji, because "if it's good enough for the boy then the girl gets it too." We also didn't want one that was too "girly" but still feminine, so Kie with the main idea of "hope" was it.

Melissa Senga
Announcing new online Java flashcards in French and English

Minasama bonjour! Allow me to introduce myself: I am a French citizen and I have been teaching French at Tokyo Nichi-Futsu Gakuin in Tokyo for quite some time. One of my interests is programming. I have developed for my own pleasure and during my free time "yet another" online Java flashcard program, including on-yomi, kun-yomi and meaning tests for 600 characters so far (90 kilobytes only).

Although my site has no official name, it may be referred to as "Drill The Kanji". As I see it, the program is not a learning tool, in the true sense of the term. To learn effectively, students need their teacher's explanation and guidance or the more detailed presentation they can find in a book. Flashcard programs are only good for reviewing what you have learned once and... forgotten!

Whenever you have the time, please check it out. I would be grateful to visitors of Kanji Clinic for your comments and suggestions. This is the only way pieces of software can get better over time.


There is a French version too, pour nos amis canadiens.

Roger Meyer
And Java flashcards in Spanish, too!

When I saw there were some web pages that had flashcards in English, I decided to write my own set of flashcards in Spanish. At the moment there are only 1,006 cards (教育漢字 kyouiku kanji), but I am working on the next pile of cards to reach the whole 常用漢字 -jouyou kanji- which I hope to finish by the end of the year.

The information covered on each card is the following:

Front: - [Upper left] Kanji number (numbering used in this set of flashcards) & Kanji level (the grade in which this kanji is studied in primary school), - [Upper right] Number & Radical - [Middle] Kanji character - [Bottom middle] Two compounds that contain this kanji

Back: - Pronunciation in On yomi (red color, katakana) and its meaning & Pronunciation in Kun Yomi (blue color) and its meaning - Meaning of each compound (in green).

I hope Kanji Clinic visitors will enjoy the cards.

Best regards,
Francisco Gutierrez
Madrid, Spain
Note: Thanks to Roger and Francisco for sharing their work with us. Wonder what language Java flashcards will be available in next?!

Rote memorization and extensive reading: His powerful learning tools

I have been learning kanji again for the past four years following a blank of eight and half years. My first encounter with kanji began in the mid-70s when I taught English in Japan for two years. The second of these two years, I picked up a mostly passive knowledge of about 500 kanji chiefly through a general study of Japanese and by using a small joyo-kanji dictionary. I used it to learn kanji in the order they appeared in the dictionary as well as to look up kanji in my environment that grabbed my attention. I also recall reading a book that gave a brief pictorial-etymological history of 300 kanji (Read Japanese Today, by Len Walsh).

Upon returning to the U.S., I decided to study Japanese formally, and took a total of four university courses in Japanese. The kanji in the first-year were just light review. However, I took second-year Japanese as a nine-week intensive summer program in which we were tested over some twenty or so kanji per day. Early that summer, one professor gave me a kanji-learning tip outside of class. He said to fold a letter-sized sheet of paper twice to form a small square, then write the hiragana for the kanji to be learned on the outside and the kanji on the inside. He told me that once I could write all of the kanji on the inside of the papers three times without a single mistake, just by using the hiragana as a clue, I could consider that I knew the kanji.

For me this was a key learning moment. It was my discovery of the power of rote memorization: the magical effect of simply writing something down repeatedly. With this advice, I was able to ace all of my kanji quizzes that summer and successfully apply this technique to my third-year Japanese course.

Although this "folded paper" style of rote memorization was a breakthrough for me, when the volume of kanji compounds to be learned in my fourth course, a newspaper reading class, jumped sharply upwards, I discovered that there was no time to even make the folded papers. Instead, I resorted to just writing the kanji as many times as I could, usually in the last hour or so before class and usually in a state of semi-panic.

Regardless of the course description for third-year Japanese that claimed all the joyo-kanji would be taught, and although I had even taken a more advanced newspaper reading course subsequent to third-year Japanese, when I returned to Japan for my second extended stay, I could not read even one simple news story without extensive and laborious dictionary work. Clearly, I was a long way from "knowing" the joyo-kanji. My reaction was to do an intensive review of kyoiku-kanji (1000 required characters for elementary school children), using a rather traditional textbook that provided vocabulary, readings and sentence translation exercises. Still, my goal of being able to read a newspaper fluently seemed a long way off.

It was not until I learned about extensive reading a couple of years later that I was able to break out of my impasse. I discovered much to my delight that I could read the newspaper fluently IF I were only willing to guess and shrug off the discomfort of not understanding 100% of what I read. Also, of tremendous help at this time were two other self-study books that helped me to increase my core newspaper vocabulary quickly and efficiently: An Introduction to Newspaper Japanese by Osamu and Nobuko Mizutani and Japanese Newspaper Compounds by Tadashi Kikuoka. The first book claims to include the 1400 most used characters, and the latter drills students in the 1000 most frequent newspaper compounds.

Now, after a gap of almost a decade I am facing new kanji learning adventures and challenges. I began with the modest goal of just reading the newspaper everyday, watching television news for reinforcement and trying to single out a minimum of one kanji a day for review/study, under the theory that I could easily cover 500 or so kanji a year at that pace, and thus have the joyo-kanji down pat in three years. I kept a kind of modified kanji quiz sheet in a loose-leaf notebook with the kanji I wished to remember on one side and the readings and meanings on the other. In addition, I usually wrote a few extra compounds using the target character to both expand my vocabulary and to anchor the kanji in my mind.

However, I found that since I wished to maximize my extensive reading time, I had little time left over to review kanji, and when I did, I was shocked by the high percentage for which I could no longer recall the reading, the meaning or both. To a certain extent, I know that such forgetting is part and parcel of any second language study. To truly learn a new word or character, it is necessary to see it and comprehend it in several different environments.

My solution was to write the sentence or phrase that the compound appeared in, hoping that this context would stimulate recall. Although time consuming, it has helped substantially since I find that I invariably remember the content of a news story longer than the language item itself. But writing sentences and phrases down provided additional unexpected benefits. I was surprised that more and more often I was able to write kanji when I needed to at work or when filling out forms at various public offices. Also, the mere act of copying sentences as the last phase of a kanji study facilitates grammatical and pragmatic usage analysis.

Summary of my current kanji learning approach: (1) Reading Driven: Especially with extensive newspaper reading. (2) Selective: Selected study of a small number of kanji culled mainly from reading. (3) Writing Magic: Record kanji I have studied in small loose-leaf notebook in "quiz sheet" format. Rely on the magic and rote memory effects of writing the kanji. (4) Context: Write down the entire original sentence to use context as a memory aid as well as to facilitate grammatical and pragmatic usage analysis.

Dave Mosher