The GeneticKanji Learning System

The GeneticKanji system teaches Japanese characters by components, based on the order of frequency as outlined in the 学年別漢字配当表 the chart of characters issued by the Japanese Education Ministry that determines the grade level at which the first 1006 Kanji should be taught.

However, unlike many other systems of learning Japanese characters, the GeneticKanji system teaches all subcomponents of a complex character before teaching that complex character. Paradoxically, Japanese primary school students learn 線 before 泉, which reflects usage frequency, but misses the opportunity to use 泉 as a tool to remember the composition and pronunciation of 線. GeneticKanji teaches the logic of character composition. Instead of learning 線 outright and trying to memorize it, GeneticKanji teaches the five characters that build up to it.

Teaching the logic of composition aids recall of characters taught by GeneticKanji, and students who learn the logic of composition will find themselves equipped to better remember new kanji after completing the course.

Arranged in order of frequency and teaching the logic of composition, GeneticKanji makes the most effective use of a student's study time. Working at a pace of five characters a day, with this step by step systemic approach, a student can complete the primary school set in less than a year.

継続は力なり。keizoku ha chikara nari.
I taught myself to read over 2000 characters over the course of two years, spending 10-15 minutes each day devoted to memorizing them, using the step-by-step process that GeneticKanji teaches. The step-by-step technique is very good for recall. The key is to do a little every day. I found I could effectively memorize only five a day. If I missed a day, I couldn't make it up by studying ten the next day. Can't spare 15 minutes? The average TV show has over 15 minutes of commercials. How about when you're standing in line? on the train?  


Types of Characters

There are six types of characters:
In the following explanation, “pronunciation” means the original Chinese pronunciation of the character. In Japanese, this corresponds to the sino-japanese on 音 reading. Most characters will also have at least one native Japanese kun 順 reading.
There are about 200 pictographs and ideographs that can be combined as follows:
Study Tips

Be Conscious of the Components

For example, when writing “spring” 泉, think “white” 白 and “water” 水.

Learn the Meaning
The root meaning of a character is common to all of its readings and to its use in compounds. Once you learn how to write a character, and its meaning, you will be able to read and recognize characters in context, though you may not know how to pronounce it. This is how people with a Chinese language background are able to read a Japanese newspaper without being able to pronounce all of the characters on it.

Learn the On Reading
Japanese characters have on and kun readings. On is based on middle-chinese pronunciation, and kun is the native Japanese reading of the character. The on reading is often more useful when learning a character, as it indicates the pronunciation of a character that uses it as its sound-component (as in 泉 above), and is also the reading generally used in Kanji compounds.

The kun reading is the native Japanese reading of a word, and is used when reading a character independently. (For 泉 it is “izumi.”) I believe that even if you do not make a concerted effort to learn these here, you will natually learn them in your studies of spoken Japanese.

2008-2010 Jason Yang