Have Fun With Japanese: Create Your Own Kanji Compounds

When you learn Japanese, inevitably you have to hit the wall that is “kanji.” For an English speaker, having entire words comprised of one or two semi-complex symbols can be an unfamiliar and daunting prospect. On top of that, unlike Chinese, Japanese kanji have multiple pronunciations, depending on which words they’re being paired with or how they’re being used. English simply doesn’t do this.

But in time, as you familiarize yourself with kanji more and more, your mind starts to connect the words to the characters, and when you hear a new vocabulary word, your brain may start to try and figure out the kanji behind it. Kanji can hint at the meaning of a word, even if you’re not sure what it is. And even the vocabulary you’ve learned previously starts to look fresh and new, as you realize that they too have kanji behind them.

At this point, it’s time to play a fun new game: creating your own kanji compounds.

A kanji compound is any word consisting of multiple kanji. One that most people might know is 日本, or Japan, pronounced as “Nihon.” 読む, or “yomu,” to read, 書く, or “kaku,” to write, each have kanji in them. When you take the two kanji together, they become 読書, or “dokusho,” reading as a noun.

My favorite imaginary kanji compound is 光線欠, or “kousenketsu.” It means “lack of lasers.” Use it well in your daily Japanese studies. And then try it yourself! See what you come up with.

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5 thoughts on “Have Fun With Japanese: Create Your Own Kanji Compounds

  1. Nice post!

    I try to explain this concept a lot. There’s a reason why “Super Iron Fist Technique” doesn’t sound quite as ridiculous as it does in English.

    Hero, the Chinese movie, has a character named “Nameless”- “Mumei” in JP, which is a little more unique than saying “Namae Nashi” (no name) or such.

    You could do an awesomely interesting series on that..

    PS: I did not know that Chinese is only interpreted one way (within a given dialect?). I only knew that as a whole, they have many dialects and only the written word can be understood by all.

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  2. I read some articles a while back that said Japanese was well-suited to a programmer’s mindset because of its structure.

    I tried to translate an 8-Bit Theater quote into Japanese, but I probably didn’t get it right. (It came out as “俺がなかったことを盗んだ”.)

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  3. There are multiple pronunciations in Chinese for some characters, like 行 that can be read as háng, hàng, héng, xíng or xìng. Well most of the time, when there’s a difference, it’s not as noticeable as háng/xìng, and there’s not many characters that have multiple pronunciations. But still, there are. ^^”

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  4. Looks like fun, let me try.

    不心配生活道 ぷしんぱいせいかつどう, Despreocupied life-style.
    私無限大宇宙知識 しむげんだいうちゅうちしき (If it wasn’t by that 私 the world would actually exist, that’s why I added it xD) Private knowledge of the infinite universe

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  5. What if we tried to simplify all japanese grammar into chinese characters? that would sound even more funny.

    Example : 僕、買い物に行った。 僕買物行(ボクバイブツコウ) Wierd.

    hahah that doesn’t look possible. We’d need to replace all grammar by a corresponding kanji, then it might work.

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