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Kanji Lesson

The word Japan can be expressed in hiragana as にほん (nihon), or in kanji as 日本. It’s a combination of two kanji 日 and 本 which make up the word 日本. Each kanji has various meanings by itself or combined with other words.

日 + 本 = 日本

に + ほん = にほん

Most kanji also have various pronunciations as well. On yomi (音読み / おんよみ)is the adopted Chinese way of reading for the kanji, and Kun yomi (訓読み / くんよみ)is the native Japanese reading. Many kanji have the variation on pronunciations when kanji are combined. It’s easier to learn kanji and its pronunciations in specific word example, instead of individual kanji.

Kanji On yomi Kun yomi English
にち、に sun, day
ほん、ぼん、ぽん basis, book
日本 にほん Japan

Here are some samples of kanji with two readings. Some kanji have multiple meanings. The shaded columns are example words using kanji.

Kanji On yomi Kun yomi English
さん やま mountain
- ふじ山 ふじさん Mt. Fuji
せん かわ がわ river
- ナイル川 ないるがわ Nile River
でん rice field
- 田んぼ たんぼ rice field
じん、にん ひと person
- 日本人 にほんじん Japanese person/people
じょう うえ on, up,above
- いすの上 いすのうえ on the chair
ちゅう なか in, middle, center
- はこの中 はこのなか in the box
げ、か した under, down, below
- 木の下/ きのした under the tree
だい おお big, large
- 大きい おおきい big
しょう ちい small
- 小さい ちいさい small
めい name
- 名前 なまえ name
ぜん まえ front
- 午前 ごぜん afternoon
わたし I
- 私の名前 わたしのなまえ my name
こん いま now
- 今週 こんしゅう this week
せん さき ahead, point
- 先生 せんせい teacher
せい to live, birth
- 生きる いきる to live
えい English
- 英語 えいご English language
かた word, language
- スペイン語 すぺいんご Spanish language
こく くに country
- 中国 ちゅうごく China

・Not all readings are listed for On yomi and Kun yomi.

Post finder: Language guides to help with learning Japanese

November 15, 2017



There is a mistake. 午前 is morning, not afternoon.


...You didn't change it though...


haha... also couldn't help but notice your profile pic! I'm also curious on how you are doing in your Korean studies. I tried a while ago and since I didn't know any Korean prior to that, it was difficult to learn hangul. I don't Doulingo covers hangul enough. I'm trying to learn it again but, instead of learning through Duolingo I'm using online websites. Sorry for writing a novel haha.


It means noon, why on earth do we need to tell the Duo admins this?


Thanks Duolingo! I made some mnemonic pictures to help people remembering kanji http://www.sonnakanji.com


Woah, thanks for this!


I like how a lot of the pictures look like the kanji


Thank you so much, this is amazing!!

[deactivated user]

    Significant error here: " 午前 ごぜん afternoon " You wrote 'afternoon,' when the opposite is true; it should say, "before noon," as you're using the kanji 午 (noon) and 前 (before, in front).


    Duolingo should use more Kanji, I've already finished all the courses here.

    For every foreign or japanese person it is extremely difficult to read and understand japanese without kanjis, I've realized that in this course I didn't learn to much because of this, you find long and very complex sentences with all hiragana or just the kanji of water, I mean, come on, there's a huge lack of kanji in the Duolingo's Japanese course.

    I really love learning languages with duolingo, like, chinese, korean, german and italian. And I feel very sad that Japanese course is the worst of all of them in average teaching experience.

    You can't go everywhere writing like this: こんにちは、わたしはフェリといいます、なかよくしましょうね。 わたしはかいしゃにつとめたいですよ、にほんにもりょこうしたいんです、ほっかいどうとかきょうととか、にほんはひろいですよね、ですからぜんこくりょこうしたらいいとおもいます。 Not just writing, the average process of reading and understanding japanese gets difficult for every learner.

    The learning method of grammar and particles in Duolingo is pretty well done, it gives you good basis in the language, but you can't advance in the learning process if you don't have any kanjis in there, because kanjis are everywhere in the language, whether you live in japan or not.


    I don't think so. I think Duolingo Japanese course is one of the better japanese free courses we can find online. I started from zero and thank to Duolingo I noticed I am slowly beginning to learn a lot. I am italian and so far I studied English, Portuguese an Russian, but Japanese is a very difficult language for a neo-latin mother tongue! So far I am struggling with a lot of kanjis during the lessons. I think that they show too much kanjis mixed all together without any logical meaning.


    is there a way i can make the course use more kanji? i give all my answers using kanji, but i still find the kanji used in the course is very limited


    Thanks HelpfulDuo! This list is awesome!

    When do we use Kunyomi and when do we use Onyomi?


    When you have several kanjis together in a row, you are likely to read all onyomi or all kunyomi. So if you read all onyomi and it didn't make sense, try reading it in all kunyomi.

    There are exceptions called "juubako yomi" and "yutou yomi".

    juubako = 重箱     重=juu (onyomi) + 箱 = hako (kunyomi)→"hako" will be "bako"

    ex 軍手 = gunte  軍 = gun (onyomi) + 手 = te (kunyomi)

    yutou = 湯桶  湯 = yu (kunyomi) + 桶 = tou (onyomi)

    ex) 見本 = mihon  見 = mi (kunyomi) + 本 = hon (onyomi)

    But in most words, it's either all onyomi or all kunyomi.


    It's completely random, it's like the gender of the word in other languages, you need to memorize. Here's a tip: memorize the kanji in the word, not his single meaning/pronnounce.


    Totally agree with the genders comparison. I never understood (as a native Urdu/Hindi speaker) why truck is masculine and gaaRii (car) is feminine.


    My head...... all this symbols, i hope i could just add circle and use Alchemy using some this symbols

    JK. Do we have to memorize this kanji letters? or there's some kind of relations between it's shape and sound?


    Sometimes there is a relation between shape and sound, but in a rather convoluted way... For example, some kanji consist of a radical and a phonetic element. This phonetic element usually gives the given kanji one of its ON readings. Knowing this can be useful, as you can sometimes approximate the reading if you know that the given phonetic element tends to do that.

    For example, see how 優 to excel, kind and 憂 to grieve, to be distressed, to worry can both be read ユウ. Or notice how many of the kanji containing 寺 Buddhist temple element have ON reading ジ

    • 持 to hold, to have

    • 時 time, occasion

    • 侍 samurai

    • 峙 to tower, to soar

    But it's not a golden rule, those kanji 詩等特待 all have 寺 Buddhist temple in them but aren't read ジ.

    You can find more details on relations between kanji and their readings here


    This is very helpful! ありがとうございました。


    I really had a great time learning kanji by this app: kanji tree. I don't know the ways you study kanji but this app is really helpful and makes the kanji super easy


    This is super helpful, its s lot to memorize.


    すごいです。 本当にすごい。 どうもありがとう。 私漢字を好きです。^_^

    [deactivated user]

      Kanji GA suki desu.




      thank you very much, Duolingo


      Thank you for the post, it really helped!


      Very Helpful. Thanks.


      does the japanese course cover stroke order or how to actually write the kanji at some point? I feel like it would help to learn it if i could also write it out


      I am sorry, I am a Japanese so actually I didn't take the Japanese course on Duolingo. So I don't know about it. If you want to make it sure, you can check them here:


      Even Japanese doesn't know well 鬱 (depression) but it shows!! If you remember the stroke order about easy Kanji, probably you can write difficult one, too.


      Question: Is there a way to learn radicals here?


      how do you say your welcome in Japanese ? I always get different answers


      Thank you. - You're welcome. (ありがとう。- どういたしまして。) dou itashi mashite

      You are welcome to come to my house. (どうぞ、うちに きてください。) douzo uchini kitekudasai

      Visitors are not welcome. (ほうもんしゃ きんし) more like no visitors. houmonsha kinshi


      どういたしまして is I believe the most common translation.


      "どういたしまして" is the phrase that the the Japanese-English course tells me to use, it that helps.


      Hay un error, ふじ山 está mal dicho, debería ser 富士山


      Why do you write it in Spanish?


      One year late, but- Maybe because it's their first language..... and there is no Japanese course for Spanish speakers???


      Is Kanji in the Japanese course? I am still in the first intro...


      Most of the lessons are written in hiragana but I read somewhere that if you make your default language as Japanese and learn English, you will see a lot kanji in the lessons. I haven't tried it yet but the guy who posted did it and finished the course in 9th level! かっこいいですよね。


      yes, in japanese course. But What do u mean exactly?


      Awesome information!! THNX


      Thanks for putting this out there! I think we should have a lesson on this because this is something I did not know and I assume many others too! Since there aren't many Japanese lessons as there are with Spanish, German, French, or English I think we should have some more lessons on kanji. But I definitely learned something new!


      How do I know which reading to use?


      Very informative as always, HelpfulDuo! Thanks so much!


      Hi, I hope it's helpful and interesting for you. Kanji came from pictures: https://www.nippon.com/en/views/b05605/getting-started-with-kanji.html


      This is so useful. Thanks!


      thanks very helpful.


      I just learned a lot about Kanji from this post.


      I am struggling with kanjis reading. I think that they are the hardest part in learning japanese! I already know a lot of kanjis and their general meaning, but I still cannot read almost nothing without the transcription of kana!


      It is the hardest part... This website wanikani really helped me understand that each complex kanji is a combination of simple kanji and sort of makes it easier to understand.

      Simplistic explanation

      一 : one/ground

      二 : two

      Ok that’s easy, how about this though?

      ト : toe radical

      一 : ground radical

      上 : above 下 : below

      It kind of helps knowing this, but it’s still a lot to take in.


      left 5950 kanjis to learn


      So I’m assuming kanji sounds are made up based on which ones you put together


      Is there any sign (when ?) of Kanji appearing in the “Writing system” area alongside Hiragana & Katakana ?

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