Kanji is a word that can strike fear into the hearts of anyone wishing to learn Japanese. Thankfully there are a vast number of books, apps and resources to help achieve this, however, I want to talk about one specific resource that helped me immensely, the Kanji Study app.
To achieve reading fluency, you must fully learn 2136 kanji according to the Japanese government and be able to memorise them.
Suffice to say this is no small feat.
Kanji Study gives you the ability to learn all these plus many more. But what makes this particular app useful among the vast number of other options that you could potentially go for? Lets dive in and take a look at everything the Kanji Study app has to offer.
(For those interested the following PDF is the official Japanese document pulled from the Japanese Ministry for Cultural Affairs .jp website, containing all 2136 kanji)
Total kanji comprehension
When you need to learn something as complicated as kanji, you’re going to need a dedicated resource, that’s exactly what ‘Kanji Study’ is. It’s an encyclopedia of Japanese symbols that covers everything you need to know. Not only does it contain the magic number of 2136 we all need, it actually contains a total of over 6000 kanji. (This is more than many native Japanese would know confidently).
There is more to this app than just the numbers, there is a ton of information on each is and is presented to the user in a manageable way. Each Kanji has its own dedicated entry and page full of information you could ever need. Inside each page you will find the following:
- An animated drawing of the Kanji
- The meaning
- The different readings (On-Yomi and Kun-Yomi)
- The number of strokes required to write
- The components and radicals used to form it
- Examples on how to use each reading
- Recommended words to learn associated with the kanji
- The full list of words containing the kanji
- Example sentences
- Usage within Japanese names
As you can see it’s quite comprehensive.
To cover this more effectively I’m going to break down why this is my recommended way to study Kanji.
Kanji at the core
The page for a single Kanji will include every piece of information you will need, some you didn’t know you needed, and some you may not have wanted to know.
There is the grand debate when it comes to Kanji as to what you actually need to study; Just the meaning? the meaning and the reading? That is the main discussion. Do you need to know how to write it? What radicals and components are used? Whatever your thoughts, ‘Kanji Study’ gives you everything and I feel this is only a benefit leaving you with the choice of how much you want to learn.
The app often provides multiple meanings per kanji with the main highlighted in bold. This helps to understand how a kanji’s meaning can change depending on the context and are often variations on the primary meaning.
Numerous readings are also present with the Kun-Yomi’s coloured blue and On-Yomi’s coloured green, it even includes irregular and outdated readings which are greyed-out suggesting these are not as important to learn but just makes the user aware of their existence.
Just under all this is a section dedicated to the radicals and components used within a kanji. This where I meant ‘things you didn’t know you needed’. On the face of it it just seems like an irrelevant piece of information, however, as you begin to learn hundreds upon hundreds of kanji they can give a useful hint to remember what they represent and makes the task of how to draw them much easier.
Here’s an example: 糸 means thread and 己 means oneself, put them together you get 紀 chronicle, account, narrative (a thread about oneself).
Number and vocabulary
I’ve already mentioned how there are over 6000 kanji included in the app which is more than any book and most other apps on the marketplace, it’s also the extensive library of words and sentences that are available.
There are recommended words to learn that are associated with the kanji which tend to be the most common; therefore, only a handful are presented. This is a good tool to help familiarise yourself with the new kanji; rather than being a floating sound and shape, it gains tangibility and association your memory can refer to.
But we can go even further.
It’s quite possible that ‘Kanji Study’ contains almost the entire vocabulary of the Japanese language. Alongside the recommended words you can also display all words where that kanji appears — often being several hundred words. This potentially turns the app into a serious vocabulary builder where you can search and discover new words based on a specific meaning or idea.
For example, 買(う) means to buy; so, viewing all words associated with it could help to learn words associated with buying, and transactions.
What’s more, many words are marked with tags that can indicate a common word or JLPT status for example, helping you to quickly distinguish whether it’s particularly useful to you — or not.
To put it simply there is a lot of content here; how that content is organised however can make the difference between being completely overwhelming, or manageable and accessible.
‘Kanji Study’ does a good job at displaying core information where you need it while subdividing further information into separate pages. It allows you to see only as much as you wish at any one time while allowing you to dig deeper should you want to.
You can choose to see an overview of ten or twenty kanji with their readings, click on individual kanji for further analysis, or then further click on the image, composition data, associated words etc. What matters most here is that despite these options, it’s hard to get lost within menus and the ‘layers’ it provides.
Sorting this information for each user preference is also very important. You can change the order of Kanji that is displayed; that is to say, whether you’d prefer to learn the same way as Japanese students (elementary 1, 2, secondary 1 etc) or by JLPT test requirements for example. Also, you can even sort the kanji by how often they are used in the media if you want to learn the ones most used in everyday scenarios.
Price and options
Let’s get straight to the point when it comes to price; ‘Kanji Study’ isnt a free app. Sure, it’s free to download and you gain access to a small portion of kanji to get started with, but to unlock full access to over 6000 kanji is going to cost a one-off £9.99. However, for that price you’ll be getting the only Kanji resource you will ever actually need.
More recently there has been some new add-ons that introduce a couple of added tools. These include a sophisticated Kanji dictionary that introduces the logic behind Kanji, and access to graded reading tests.
I haven’t felt the need to indulge in either of these other additions for a couple of reasons: firstly, both of these are double the price of the original app, secondly aside from ‘Kanji Study’ itself, many people will have a second go-to resource/app/site to learn the core Japanese language — of which both additions should be part of in some way.
Don’t let it put you off as there are no ads or interruptions or even heavy suggestions to go for these once you unlock full access to the app yourself. You can study Kanji blissfully.
Before trying the Kanji Study app I have tried numerous other resources: ‘Kanji From Zero’, ‘Remembering the kanji’, ‘Kanji Flashcards’ and other apps etc. Even other major players like ‘JapanesePod101.com’, doesn’t give the same breadth and depth or even accessibility that ‘Kanji Study’ offers.
There is the big caveat to all this being, it depends on how you want to study and how you work best; however, finding another resource that offers as much as ‘Kanji Study’ does will be a heroic task in itself.