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Learning Chinese Hanzi via Japanese Kanji?

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Has anybody tried to learn Chinese Hanzi via learning Japanese Kanji? Would that method work?


I'm trying to learn how to read Traditional Chinese, but my biggest stumbling block is trying to remember all the different Chinese characters.


I'm a visual learner, but those characters just look like a jumbled mishmash of strokes to me. To help visual learners, I know some books show the evolution of the Chinese character from its original oracle born form to it current form with all the evolutionary steps in between. But, those drawings don't really  help me remember those Chinese characters.


Instead, when I was at the bookstore, I skimmed the languages section and discovered this Japanese book, Kanji Pict-O-Graphix: Over 1,000 Japanese Kanji and Kana Mnemonics. And, the pictures in that book really seemed to help me remember the meanings. For example, they had drawings for deer and fishing next to the Japanese kanji for those words that made the characters pop for the first time in my mind and make them easier to remember.


I'm only interested in learning Chinese and not in learning Japanese so I'm concerned about the associative interference effect where the Chinese and Japanese blur together and I start confusing one for the other. I know that the Japanese Kanji were originally derived from the Chinese Hanzi so I was seeing overlap between the Chinese and Japanese characters where they both used the same character and both had when same meaning when I skimmed that book.


But, does anybody know how much overlap there would be between common Chinese Hanzi and Japanese Kanji? Is there a good source that shows which common Chinese Hanzi and Japanese Kanji overlap and which ones are different in either meaning or how they're written?


That Japanese book intrigues me enough where I'm thinking of buying it, but I don't want to buy it if it turns out I can't really use it to learn Chinese Hanzi. I was thinking I could buy that book, and cross out the Japanese Kanji that don't exactly match the Chinese Hanzi but I'd need to know which ones are exactly the same and which ones are different first.



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There are similar books like that for Chinese characters. As Japanese is a subset of Chinese, learning Japanese first would be the wrong way round. also although there are many similarities there are also many differences.


IMO it would be confusing trying to learn Chinese characters through Japanese characters.


There is a series of little books called Fun with Chinese Characters which also use little pictures and mnemonics to help explain and remember characters. there is also the very popular Heisig Remembering Simplified Hanzi and also available for full form.


There also many more books of this nature and there is a new addition to learning characters here http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/45912-outlier-linguistic-solutions/


IMO learning and remembering Chinese characters is best done through learning the etymology and by practicing writing.


You can use Hanzi Grids to practice writing.http://www.hanzigrids.com/


IMO the best tool for learning Chinese is Pleco here  https://www.pleco.com/, it has a good choice of dictionaries and a good flashcard section, and lots of other good things.


I hope this helps and you can find what you want studying Chinese characters and not Japanese. :)

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To answer your question, no I would not try to use Japanese books. They are similar but not that similar. Try Remembering Traditional Hanzi by Heisig. Heisig originally wrote his book for Japanese but this applies the same approach for Chinese, so he has done the work for you.

This will help, but to learn to read Chinese you have to read a lot of Chinese. When you say you are "learning to read", does that mean you can already speak? If you can't your next step should probably be going through beginner textbooks.

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Japanese use of Chinese characters is limited to around 3500-4000 (people argue) and most of them have the same or similar meanings but ENTIRELY different pronounciations.


also common Japanese has it's own "alphabet" if you will, two if you want to get technical about it.


The Japanese "alphabet" has two different "sets" of characters that represent sounds. Both "alphabets" cover most of the same sounds but which characters are written is according to the situation and traditional use.

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I think this would be a bad idea for a number of reasons:

  • Japanese uses a subset of Chinese characters. People tend to learn characters by learning the most common and useful ones first. The most common Kanji do not necessarily relate to the most common Hanzi at all. ie. you will end up learning some Kanji which are pretty useless in Chinese
  • Although the characters look similar (in general), they are pronounced very differently in Japanese to Chinese. There are no tones in Japanese.
  • The meaning of characters is not always the same in both languages (although it generally seems to be).
  • In Chinese, you generally chose to learn simplified or traditional characters first, and then perhaps learn both. Japanese characters have been simplified too, but they have been simplified differently (and generally to a lesser extent) than in Chinese. The Japanese simplifications sometimes look more like the corresponding simplified Chinese character, traditional Chinese or neither.
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If mnemonics like that work for you then fine, but they don't treat phonetic components as phonetic components (because Japanese has kun'yomi) and turn components into things that they aren't. In case you're not clear on the differences between Chinese and Japanese character, I wrote a blog entry about it here.

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