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  5. I'm confused about Kanji:


I'm confused about Kanji:

So I haven't gotten far enough on Duo to learn Kanji, but I have used other sites such as Wani Kani to learn Kanji.

I have these pens from MUJI that have Kanji on them, and what I believe is the English translation underneath. There are multiple kanji that do not match with what I have learned. For example, the Kanji for "cat" was on the pen, which doesn't make sense. The english underneath showed that it may have translated to a word in "smooth gel writing ink pen 0.5". When I used google translate to try and see if there were multiple meaning for neko (cat), it only showed cat.

Please help! Are there multiple meaning for certain Kanji?

June 22, 2019



Is it possible that the kanji was 描 (draw) and not 猫 (cat)? The radicals on the left do look similar and beginners often have trouble distinguishing them.

June 22, 2019


kanji DO have meanings associated with them, but a common misconception is that kanji = words. They do not. You use kanji to write words, but they themselves are not always words.

If you have some linguistic background, think of them as morphemes, not as words. (If that means nothing to you, never mind!)

For example, think of the word "impossibility" in English. It's one word but you can break it down to different parts:

the "im-" part says it's a negative word (not possible)

-possib- is derived from "possible"

-ility tells you that it's a noun (versus "impossible" which is an adjective) so we're talking about the character of something being impossible

See how not all of those parts are words, but they do carry meaning? Kanji work in the same way.

不可能性 is the word for "impossibility" in Japanese, by the way, and you could break each of those kanji down to their meanings very similarly to English, but that doesn't mean each kanji by itself is a word.

不 = not

可 = can, possible

能 = ability

性 = character/nature/-ness (but also in some contexts, sex haha)

(this is from reddit, It helped me a ton when I was first researching about Kanji)

June 22, 2019


Although one further wrinkle, the kanji doesn't always have meaning it can just be used as a sound. This is called ateji and one example would be 寿司 for sushi, where the individual characters are longevity and boss. To extend the example from "implausibly": "im-" doesn't always mean not, for instance implicate.

It's good as general strategy to break things down but remember language is messy sometimes certain words or phrases just are.

June 23, 2019


Mikeeezyy's explanation is pretty good, and if you need a website for learning Kanji, I recommend this website, which has the entire pdf of one of the best kanji books out there : http://simpleromanian.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/4805311169-Japanese-Kanji-and-Kana.pdf

June 23, 2019


Another piece of advice would be to try some of the kanji decks on TinyCards, they helped me memorise first grade kanji in one week!

June 23, 2019


Can you recommend any particular decks? There's an awful lot to choose from!

June 24, 2019


Yeah, here's the decks that I used for grades 1 & 2:


June 24, 2019


Hadsmitzy & Spahn was a very famous dictionary back in the day.

June 26, 2019


Ah yes, thank you so much EeveeLord! I see the slight difference now.

June 25, 2019
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