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Posts Tagged ‘kanji’

Each kanji has multiple readings–音読み, the Chinese reading., and 訓読み, the Japanese reading. The author of the hilarious manga 『日本人が知らない日本語』 (The Japanese That Japanese People Don’t Know) goes into the reasons for this–namely that when the Chinese brought over kanji, the Japanese already had their own words for things like mountain, river, and person, so they took both their own word for what the kanji represented AND the Chinese pronunciation. Hence, the character 山 was read san in Chinese and yama in Japanese, and the character means mountain.

Take 読 (to read). In Japanese, the 訓読み is usually used when the character is on its own (読む, yomu, to read); the 音読み is used when the kanji is in combination with another kanji (読書, dokusho, reading)–and sometimes not, like 読み物, yomimono, reading material.

Now, ordinarily I find kanji readings to be somewhere on the outer circles of hell, as my ability to recognize more characters than I can pronounce occasionally makes me look illiterate. Sometimes, it’s fun, though.

Today’s kanji is 風車. This one is great because it can be pronounced two different ways, AND the meaning changes based on the reading.

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Fun with Diseases

As a public employee in Japan, I get to have the 微妙な pleasure of a mandatory health check. On one hand, since I have had past medical problems discovered at check-ups, I really believe in the importance of the annual check-up. Furthermore, I’m lucky to be living in a country with good public health care, so I can get said check-ups without paying a lot. On the down side, as an “obvious foreigner” (does not appear to be ethnically Japanese; has an obviously non-Japanese name) in a rural town, doctors frequently have no idea what to make of me. Some doctors are nice and want to practice their English, which I don’t mind if I can understand them. Some doctors and nurses are rude and treat me like a child, referring to me as ~chan; refusing to call my name (my full name has all of 5 syllables, there is no excuse); refusing to answer my questions asked in Japanese.*

The mental stress of visiting rural doctors has made me want to avoid them as much as possible, even though this is one of the first times going to a doctor has been incredibly cheap and relatively easy.

But I digress.

Today I have to fill out a preliminary health survey about my medical history. As you can imagine from my background in media and gender studies and my relatively good health, my medical vocab is fairly crap. I can describe symptoms pretty well now—I’m dizzy, I have eye discharge, this is swollen, this hurts, why are you putting a camera in my nose?—but my knowledge of disease names is a bit lacking. Interestingly enough, though, I’ve managed to decipher quite a few just based on the kanji.

Here’s part of the list:
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Fishing for Kanji

Rainy season 梅雨 has come to Japan, and with it comes a never-ending train of farewell parties for my friends leaving the Program, summer festivals, and the dreaded new version of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.  I will be spending my4 July NOT legally drinking in public with the rest of my fellow American expats but crammed in a stuffy university exam room at the mercy of JEES. However, while the parties, get-togethers, and festivals have all been a blast, between all the fun and all the studying, I haven’t had a lot of time to write. I am dying to get started on a couple big posts about class and gender in BeruBara, but, no, it’s all kanji all the time. So you can all suffer learn with me, でしょう?

魚 is fish, and it and insect 虫 are used in most names of fish and sea-creatures.

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Or, “The Horror of Kanji,” in which our heroine learns that disgust can be a legitimate memorization technique.

The offending kanji: 腺

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There’s no better feeling, I think, than realizing you can read a new kanji. Recently, I learned 衛 (e, ei, mamoru: defense, protection), which is used in 護衛 (goei: guard, convoy) and 近衛 (konoe: Imperial Guard). This kanji doesn’t particularly capture my imagination and is not really practical in a day-to-day sense at my job. However, since I’m reading 「ベルサイユのばら」 (The Rose of Versailles) and Oscar Francois de Jarjeyes is in the Imperial Guard, I see 近衛 and 護衛 on nearly every page. Now that I’ve learned that kanji, I can read the manga faster!

As for kanji that have caught my eye in the last month, I have some new favorites.

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The Beauty of Kanji

As a long-time student of Japanese, kanji have always been one of my weak points. There are just so many of them! Recently, I’ve started studying all the Heisig kanji via an online flash-card maker, and I have to say, I’ve fallen in love with kanji.

Especially the ones I’ll likely never use.

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