In every 漢字 lesson on the site, you will be introduced to fifteen characters. There is a lot that you should study to "know" any given 漢字. Things that should be considered include the following.
This is perhaps the easiest character ever. That's at least what I think. You make a line from left to right. You're done! This character comes from a pictograph. Some say its of an extended finger, but I think it's just a line probably first scratched on a wall, in the dirt, or on the shells of the poor tortoises used as the templates for writing in Ancient China.
It may be easy to write, but it isn't the easiest of ALL in regards to how to read it. It has both ON and KUN readings as well as certain readings found in names. You aren't expected to learn the readings for names, but there are just some names that come up all the time just like Ashley or Michael.
Note: A hyphen denotes that a reading is used as a constructive element in other phrases and is not used in isolation by itself.
イチ is the most important reading and is the word for the number one. It is generally in most words. However, when the sense of "one" is used in a less concrete manner in words like uniformity （キンイツ), the other ON reading イツ is used. The other reading is used in native counter phrases. Since this has not been taught at this point in IMABI, you just need to look at the example words.
Note: All ON readings will be given in カタカナ and all KUN readings will be given in ひらがな. You are not responsible for other characters not taught at this point. So, for now, you're just responsible for 一.
There is already a lot of vocabulary used in the lesson text. However, the more vocabulary you know, the more useful the grammar and 漢字 that you are learning will become.
|一回||イッカイ||One time||一言||イチゴン||One word|
|一言||ひとこと||Utterance; a word||一緒||イッショ||Together|
1. There are important sound changes in some kinds of expressions. This is what explains why イチ becomes イッ in "one time".
2. Nuances will be sorted out and discussed as we progress. As you know more Japanese grammar, example sentences will also be incorporated.
This came from a pictograph of a sun with dot in the middle. Circular strokes in 漢字 have become much more rigid and boxy over the centuries. This is harder to read, but it's not that bad. It can mean sun, but it can also mean day, which makes sense because the "day" starts whenever the sun rises.
It has four strokes, not five. Its readings are as follows.
ニチ is the most common reading that you will encounter. It can also be used in words in reference to Japan, even the name itself! If you had to guess the reading in a word, guess this one. ジツ is used when its not the first character of a word, but that doesn't mean ニチ could be used. It just really depends on the word. ひ means "day" or "sun". It is a very important word and is also in compound words. -か is used as a counter word for "days" of the month. You will not be responsible for this until Lesson 31.
1. Refer back to the lesson text for the differences in the readings for Japan.
2. Note that in the word for Sunday that the くんよみ is voiced because it used as a suffix in the names of the week. This is the case for all of them. Refer to Lesson 31.
本 is much easier to read. You'll see why. It has several meanings and you can find words for them all. By itself it's usually used to mean "book". It can also be used in words to mean "this" or refer to the truth of something. It can even count things that long and cylindrical. Lastly, it can be used to mean "root" as in the root of something.
This character comes from the more simple character 木 (tree) which we'll see later for this lesson, and the line is the base of the tree. After all, the roots go below the ground in most cases. All of these added meanings evolved from this. After all, trees are long and cylindrical for the most part. They can be cut and used as paper to make books. The others are stretches.
もと is used to mean root and ホン is all of the above.
|根本||ねもと||Root||根本||コンポン||Root (of things)|
Note: ねもと is broad in usage but the other reading コンポン is restricted as stated.
One was one line and two is two lines. Like that was hard...not. Thankfully, though, ニ is easier to read than 一. It only has two readings. One is for Sino-Japanese (words from ON readings) and the other in native words. Both readings are just used to mean two.
Americans may say "cheese" to get people to smile for a camera, but Japanese people say にー! It's quite fitting. This is also where the Katakana ニ comes from.
One was one line, two was two lines, and three is not surprisingly three lines. People are so predictable. The readings behave the same way just like for two. One is in Sino-Japanese words and the other is in native words.
This character reminds me of a person doing the splits. This is a good mnemonic because the character actually means "person". It may be easier to write, but it's not easier to read. Many people struggle to figure out which ON reading to use.
ジン is in words for people/humans. ニン can be rarely seen as a stand alone word to refer to one's character. It is also seen in words for people that have a certain role. It is also used in words for counting people. The readings -たり and -り are very restrictive counter readings that you'll learn about soon. ひと is the word for person.
|人間||ニンゲン||Human being||日本人||ニホンジン・ニッポンジン||Japanese person|
This is supposedly from a stylized pictograph of flames, but do you know what it really looks like? It looks like someone's being burned at the stake. 人 is person, the sparks being the evidence that the person is on fire. This really shouldn't be surprising as people have definitely been being put to the stake throughout history. As you can guess, this character means "fire".
くんよみ: ひ, ほ-
|火あぶりになる||ひあぶりになる||To burn at the stake||火山||カザン||Volcano|
Common sense has to fail you somewhere, so it might as well be for the number four because it's unlucky after all. That's because its ON reading is homophonous with the word for death. Four did used to be expressed with four lines...if only...
四 used to mean breath. The inner part looks like the tonsils and 口 is the mouth. That seems reasonable enough. So, why does it mean four!? The most likely reason is that the shape is an approximation of four fingers being able to fit in the mouth. Obviously the person that started using it in this way continued to suck on his fingers throughout adulthood.
くんよみ: よん, よ
I say よん. People from the Kansai region and a lot of older people say シ. よ is used in words, and you'll just have to learn when the ん is dropped. You'll see some examples of this in Lesson 7.
|四月||シガツ||April||四日||よっか||Fourth day of the month|
This symbol really does look like a tree.
ボク are both pretty common モク. It really does take knowing quite a few words to get a feel about guessing between the two. き is, of course, the word for "tree".
This character means "river" and comes from a pictograph of water flowing between two banks.
花 means "flower". The top part is the radical for grass and comes from 屮屮. 化 is the character for change. Thus, a change in state of a plant. This refers to the budding of a flower.
This means "king". It is three connected with the force of 1 (person). This is technically wrong because it actually came from a pictograph that looked more like a battle ax. Whatever the case may be, it's very easy to read.
The first reading is almost always used. The second is the original word for king, but オウ, though Sino-Japanese, is used in isolation for this.
It looks like a mountain; it means "mountain".
サン is more common and can be used as a suffix to mean "Mount". Don't disregard the other ON reading, though, because we've already seen one important word with it--火山.
This character comes from a pictograph of a crescent moon. It can mean "moon" or "month".
ガツ is typically used for just the names of the months of the year and ゲツ is the most common.
|月夜||つきよ||Moonlit night||三日月||みかづき||New moon|
Exception Note: 五月雨（さみだれ） ＝ Early summer rain.
The symbol for water comes from a pictograph of a river. This seems reasonable enough.