I learned by studying a kanji, it's on pronunciation, and learning at least one usage example. By learning kanji this way, they will serve as memory aid for learning new words. Japanese makes words from kanji much as English makes words from latin or greek roots. You will learn new words faster if you know the meanings of the kanji that make it up, and each new word will reinforce your knowledge of its component kanji. Take the following examples:
When learning a new kanji, the following process enabled me to learn all the Joyo Kanji in about two years.
This dictionary is written with romanization so that students can
get started immediately, without prior knowledge of the kana
syllabaries. Starting the study of Kanji immediately, rather than
discouraging students, excites them and makes kanji more accessible to
them. For many students fascination with the written language is one of
the initial draws to Japanese.
Choose the number of characters you study every day such that it:
- is sustainable: decide how much time you are willing to commit each day, and tailor the # of kanji accordingly.
- allows you to retain the kanji you study: you'll find that
retention drops as you increase the number of kanji you learn each day.
This means you should decide an upper limit, and discipline yourself
not to get so excited about studying kanji that you go over this limit.
(Almost everyone I've explained the GeneticKanji approach has attested
to this being a problem.)
At Yale, the Chinese department quizzes students on 7 characters
every day. If you did this six days a week, you'd learn all the Joyo
Kanji in less than a year. I did only five a day because I wanted to
spend only about 10 minutes each day. Each day, I would learn 5 new
kanji, and review ones I had previously studied.
After the first 1000, I ramped up to 10 a day, but I found this
actually takes more than twice the amount of study time, since I had to
spend more time reviewing.
Involve multiple channels of memory
Train your auditory, visual, and kinesthetic memory. Training multiple channels of memory embeds the kanji.
Pronounce the character kanji aloud, while thinking of its meaning. This trains your auditory memory. Then, write it a few times on paper. This trains your kinesthetic memory. Then write it a few times on imaginary paper
in your head, without moving your hands. This trains your visual memory.
Be conscious of components
When you are learning, you should be conscious of the components as you
write. For example, when writing "think" 想 you should think "tree" 木,
and "eye" 目, to make 相 and then "heart" 心, to make 想.
This example is a sound-meaning compound, with 相 indicating the sound, and the 心 indicating the meaning.
Construct a story to connect the elements.
You can also create a story for yourself that helps you to
remember. To use "think" 想 as an example, For example, 相 has a meaning
"facing" and you might imagine that facing 相 someone in your mind 心
means that you are thinking 想 about him.
As time goes on, you will use this skill to memorize increasingly
complex characters. Students who learn by rote, when faced with
hawk 鷲, must learn the position of 22
strokes, but students who learn the GeneticKanji approach can picture
the hawk as a bird 鳥 swooping down until it attains 就 its prey.
These stories work best when you construct them. With few exceptions, I
stick to traditional etymologies, and let you construct them.
Learn at least the on pronunciation
The on pronunciation is the most commonly used when
the kanji is seen in conjunction with other kanji. This pronunciation is actually based on the pronunciation of this character in middle Chinese. Additionally, this
pronunciation will allow you to guess the pronunciation of new kanji
you encounter, since sound-meaning compounds are the most prolific kind
of kanji. Suppose you learned "to pass by" 経 and "light" 軽. Both these
are pronounced kei, and share a common 圣 component. If you
later encountered 径, you would be able to guess (correctly, in this
example) that it was pronounced kei, and had something to deal with movement, as you would have learned the radical 彳. The character actually means "path."
The kun pronunciation is the native japanese pronunciation of the character. It is the reading when a kanji is used in isolation. If, in your studies of spoken Japanese, you have learned this word, then you can memorize this reading, as well.
Remember one example usage