Learn Kanji | 1st Grade

小 (ちいさい)






Definition: small
Kun-yomi: ちい・さい、ちい・さ(な)
On-yomi: ショウ

Overview


The Kanji for “small” is almost as easy to visualize as its opposite (), if you think of the strokes as representing three tiny things.
Similar to 「大きな」, 「小さな」 is another one of those funny adjectives that you can’t conjugate and only use as is. Stick with the i-adjective 「小さい」 for conjugations eg 「小さくない」 NOT 「小さじゃない」.

Examples

Example 1

  1. なんでもちいさくすればかわいくえるよね。
    Anything looks cute if (you) make (it) small, doesn’t it?

Example 2

A: しょうがくせいときなにになりたいとおもってた?
A: What were (you) thinking (you) want to become when (you) were elementary school student?
B: う~ん、よくおぼえてないね。そっちは?
B: Hmm… (I) don’t remember well. How about (your) side?
A: パパのおよめさんとうちゅう ひこうしこどもってバカだよね。
A: Papa’s bride and astronaut. Kid(s) are stupid, huh?
B: そこはほほえましいっておうよ!
B: Let’s call that heart warming!

Next Suggestions

  1. 大(おおきい)
  2. 少(ない)

大(おおきい)

Definition: big
Kun-yomi: おお・きい、おお・き(な)
On-yomi: ダイ、タイ

Overview


As you can see by this image of the Pope, 「大」 is yet another one of those simple Kanji that is easy to memorize AND visualize.
The only tricky part is figuring out which reading to use in Kanji compounds. There is no rhythm nor reason for why 「大学」 is read as 「だい」 vs 「大使館」 as 「たい」 except perhaps those readings roll easier on the tongue. If you’re new to Kanji, you’ll see this is often the case for common characters with multiple readings.
As for 「大きな」, this is one of those funny adjectives that you can’t conjugate and only use as is. Stick with the i-adjective 「大きい」 for conjugations eg 「大きくない」 NOT 「大きじゃない」.

Examples

Example 1

  1. たくさんべないとおおきくなれないよ!
    If (you) don’t eat a lot, (you) can’t become big, you know!

Example 2

A: おおきさより、やっぱりかたちだいじだよね。
A: (The) shape is more important than size, isn’t it?
B: なんはなしをしているの?
B: What are (you) talking about?
A: えっ?いや、ひこうきめるてにもつはなしですが・・・。
A: Huh? Um, (it’s) about hand luggage that (you) can take into (the) airplane…
B: それ、ぜったい うそだよね。
B: That’s definitely a lie, isn’t it?

Example 3

A: ねえ、だいじなことをわすれてない?
A: Hey, aren’t (you) forgetting something important?
B: ああ、あれ?なんとかごまかせそうだからだいじょうぶだよ。
B: Oh, that? Looks like (I) can somehow fake it so it’s ok.
A: そう?まあ、おおごとにならなければいいけど・・・。
A: Is that so? Well, as long as it doesn’t become a big incident.
B: いまちがたんごおなかんじで言わなかった?
B: Did you say a different word by the same Kanji right now?
A: なにっているの?かんじかいわえるわけないでしょう?それとも、なにわたしっていることがぐげんかして、えてるわけまんがじゃあるまいし。
A: What are (you) saying? There’s no way I can say a Kanji in conversation, right? Or what? Are you concluding that what I’m saying materializes and is visible to the eye? It’s not like this is a Manga.
B: だから、なんでそんなまぎらわしいかんじや、むずかしいたんごぶんぽうつかっているんだよ?!かんじべんきょうはじめたばかりのひとがパニックになってげちゃうだろうが!
B: So why are you using such confusing Kanji and difficult words and grammar? People that just started studying Kanji will fall into a panic and run away!
A: はあ?
A: Huh?

Next Suggestions

  1. 小(さい)
  2. 太(ふとい)
  3. 犬(いぬ)
  4. 多(おおい)

口(くち)

Definition: mouth
Kun-yomi: くち
On-yomi: コウ

Overview

You might be asking why is mouth a square, not a circle? Honestly, I have no frickin’ clue. Oddly enough, circle is a shape that is not used in Kanji (○ is a symbol, not Kanji). Even the Kanji for “circle” (丸) is not round in the slightest! Maybe something to do with how brush strokes work, I dunno.
Anyway, it is what it is, a square to symbolize a big, open mouth. Take EXTRA care to learn the stroke order because this is also a very important radical that will be used in quite a few other characters.
Also, this is visually identical to the Katakana: ロ but totally different OBVIOUSLY. (Rolls eyes)

Examples

Example 1

  1. ひとくちまるいのに、くちかんじは、なぜかしかくになっている。
    Despite people’s mouths being round, (the) Kanji for “mouth” is square for some reason.

Example 2

Cover face
A: ねえ、にほんじん じょせいは、なんでわらときくちもとかくすの?
A: Hey, why do Japanese women hide (their) mouth with (their) hand when (they) laugh?
B: たぶんがやばいことになっているからでしょう?
B: Probably because (their) teeth are in serious trouble.
A: しつれいね!そんなのとかんけいないよ!きっとぶんかちがいよ。
A: That’s rude! That has nothing to do with it! I’m sure (it’s a) cultural difference
B: もうわかってんなら、おれくなよ。
B: If (you) know already then don’t ask me.

Example 3


Even though Alien registration card is no longer a thing in Japan, the individual words are still very worthwhile to learn.
A: わたしにほんったときは、がいこくじん とうろく しょうめいしょがないとぎんこうこうざひらけなかったな。
A: When I went to Japan, (I) couldn’t open (a) bank account without alien registration card.
B: へえ、そうなんですか?
B: Huh, is that so?
A: でも、それがとどくまでさんかげつかかって、きゅうりょう みができなくて、ほんとうたいへんだった!いまはどうなんだろう?
A: But that took months to arrive and couldn’t get payroll direct deposit and (it) was really rough! How is it now (I wonder)?
B: へえ、そうなんですか?
B: Huh, is that so?
A: はなしいてないし・・・。
A: (You’re) not listening to my story…

Next Suggestions

  1. 儿(じんぶ)
  2. 八(はち)
  3. 四(よん)
  4. 中(なか)
  5. 兄(あに)

四(よん)

Definition: four
Kun-yomi: よん、よっ・つ
On-yomi: シ

Overview

Well, the easy ride is over but it was great while it lasted, wasn’t it? 「一二三」, let’s see, that’s 3 out of about 2,000+ characters so… progress?





Why Japanese People??
漢字いけるかもしれない?

There’s several explanations on how 「四」 came to be and most of them involve the fact that it comes from a combination of: 口+八. However, the inside part more clearly resembles the 「儿」 leg radical (note: this radical is not a kanji by itself). If these Kanji are new to you and you prefer to learn in radical order, you may want to skip to the next suggestions.
One suggested memonic was an image of an open mouth to signify that your breath is impossible to count (one, two, three, many). This one must go back to the caveman days where four was considered a bigly number? In any case, this Kanji is still common and simple enough you could probably memorize it by brute repetition anyway. Hmph!

Examples

Example 1

  1. よんかんじはどうしてこうなったのよ!
    Why did the Kanji for 四 become this way?!

Example 2






よつばと!

A: のクローバーをつけたらしあわせになれるんっだって。
A: (They) say if (you) find a four-leaf clover, (you) can become happy.
B: じゃ、わたししあわせじゃないってっているの?
B: Then, are (you) saying I’m not happy?
A: いや、べつに・・・
A: No, not particularly…
B: わたしいまでもじゅうぶん しあわせだよ!
B: I’m plenty happy even now, you know!
A: あのう、だいじょうぶ
A: Um, (are you) ok?

Example 3

A: いになって、なにしているの?
A: What are (you) doing crawling on all fours?
B: コンタクトをとしちゃったんだ。
B: (It’s that) I dropped (my) contact lens.
A: たいへんだね。じゃ、またね!
A: (That’s) rough. Well, see you later!
B: ちょっとてつだってよ!
B: Hey, help (me) a little!

Next Suggestions

  1. 儿(じんぶ)
  2. 三(さん)
  3. 五(ご)
  4. 口(くち)
  5. 八(はち)

人(ひと)

Definition: person
Kun-yomi: ひと
On-yomi: ニン、ジン

Overview

This one is pretty easy and given my (lack) of drawing ability, this is what my pathetic attempts to draw a person typically look like. My drawing ability is so bad, xkcd practically looks like Monet in comparison.
xkcd
However, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security as the tricky part is remembering whether to read it as 「じん」 eg 「日本人、未亡人」 or 「にん」 eg 「職人」. Not to mention some of those tricky words with readings completely divorced from the actual characters: 「大人、一人、二人、仲人、若人、玄人」 etc. Don’t worry about them if you’re still relatively new to Kanji for now.

Examples

Example 1

  1. ひとおおきくなると、おとなになる。たぶん
    When people become big, (they) become adults. Maybe.

Example 2


A: PDAってひととしてありないとおもわない?
A: Don’t (you) think PDA is inconceivable as a person?
B: なにそれ?
B: What is that?
A: そんなのもらないの?ひとまえでイチャつくことだよ。
A: (You) don’t even know that kind of thing? (It’s) getting all frisky in front of people.
B: へ〜、なんりゃく
B: Huh, what’s (it) stand for?
A: ええと、ええと、「パブリック・デート・ああ、はしたない」だったっけ?
A: Umm, umm, was it “Public Date Ah, so shameful”?
B: よくわかんないけど、それ、ぜったい ちがう!
B: (I) don’t know all that well but (that’s) definitely not it!

Example 3

A: にほんじんは、さ・・・
A: Hey, about Japanese people…
B: ちょっとって。まさか、じんしゅ さべつはつげんをしようとしてるんじゃないでしょうね?
B: Wait a sec. (You’re) not by any means about to say something racist, right?
A: しんがいだ!おれは、どんなひとおもっているの?
A: How could you think that! What kind of person do (you) think I am?
B: う~ん、じゃ、いちおう いておこう。それで?
B: Ummm, then, let’s hear (it) for now. So then?
A: にほんじんは、どうしてにほんじんなんだろう?
A: (I) wonder why are Japanese people Japanese?
B: いてそんした。
B: (I) listened/asked and lost out.

Next Suggestions

  1. 大(おお・きい)
  2. 口(くち)
  3. 木(き)

三(さん)

Definition: three
Kun-yomi: みっ・つ
On-yomi: サン

Overview

This Kanji thing is a cinch! At this rate, we’ll learn everything in no time, right guys?
wink wink

Examples

Example 1

  1. さんかんじぜんぜん むずかしくない!
    (The) Kanji for “three” is also not hard at all!

Example 2

In this next example, 「姦しい」 is not very commonly used (better to memorize 「やかましい」 or 「騒がしい」). However, the proverb is interesting in terms of the actual Kanji, I just had to include it here.
A: おんな さんにん ればかしましい。
A: If 3 women gather, (it) gets noisy.
B: にたいのかしら?
B: Do (you) want to die?
A: ことわざをべんきょうしてるだけだよ!
A: (I’m) just studying proverbs!

Example 3

A: さんかく かんけいって、なんかいいですよね。
A: Something about love-triangle, isn’t (it) nice?
B: うん、たぶんいま そうぞうしてるのは、ぜんぜん ちがうから。
B: Yeah, (what you’re) probably imagining right now is totally wrong so…
A: かわいいおんな ふたりかこまれてですね。
A: (You’re) surrounded by two cute girls and then, right?
A: やっぱり。まっ、ゆめがあっていいんじゃない?
B: I knew it. Well, (I guess it’s) good to have dreams.

Next Suggestions

  1. 二(に)
  2. 四(よん)
  3. 口(くち)
  4. 八(はち)

二(に)

Definition: two
Kun-yomi: ふた・つ
On-yomi: ニ

Overview

Just two horizontal lines to mean “two”. Awesome, Kanji is so logical. You got this!
This Kanji also happens to look exactly like the Katakana 「ニ」, which is also how it’s read! I don’t know if that’s helpful or confusing.
If we’re talking about 「に」, how could I forget the Knights who say Ni! I assume not the same word but at least it sounds the same!

Examples

Example 1

  1. かんじかんたん
    (The) Kanji for “two” is also easy!

Example 2

A: いっせき にちょうだ。
A: One stone, two birds. (Kill two birds with one stone.)
B: それ、どうぶつ ぎゃくたいだよ。
B: That’s animal abuse.
A: ことわざだよ!
A: (It’s) a proverb!

Example 3

A: ふつか あたまがガンガンするよ。
A: (My) head is pounding from (a) hangover.
B: にじかいくからそうなるのよ。
B: (It) ends up that way because (you) went to the after-party.
B: にじかい、あったっけ?
B: Was there (an) after-party?
A: だめだこりゃ
A: This is no good.
In case you’re not familiar with the expression 「だめだこりゃ」, check out the video below.
Sorry, has nothing to do with Kanji!

Next Suggestions

  1. 一(いち)
  2. 三(さん)
  3. 口(くち)

一(いち)

Definition: one
Kun-yomi: ひと・つ
On-yomi: イチ

Overview

What could be easier than this single-stroke Kanji for one! Maybe Kanji isn’t so hard after all?

Examples

Example 1

  1. いちは、いちばんです!
    One is number 1 (the best)!
Oh right, counters. Yay.

Example 2

A: わたしは、いっさいです。
A: (I’m) one year old.
B: じゃ、なんではなせるの?
B: Then, how come (you) can talk?

Example 3

Chucky
A: このかわいいにんぎょうひとください。
A: Please give (me) one (of) this cute doll.
B: あのぶきみなチャッキーのようなおにんぎょうですね。かしこまりました。
B: That disturbing doll that looks like Chucky then? Certainly.
A: …
A: …

Example 4

A: ひとりたびするの?
A: (You’re) traveling alone?
B: そう、じぶん さがしのたび
B: That’s right, trip to find myself.
A: かのじょ、いないんだ。
A: You don’t have (a) girlfriend, (I see).
B: ちがうよ!
B: That’s not it!

Next Suggestions

  1. 二(に)
  2. 人(ひと)


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