Studying hanja

I’m slowly wrapping up the third chapter in Useful Chinese Characters for Learners of Korean.

Learning hanja is a time consuming process. First you look at a character and you might think “oh sh*t” (e.g. 萬 meaning: 일만, pronunciation: 만), then you go over it stroke for stroke and suddenly it doesn’t look as scary. If I can associate the character with some mental image I find that it’s easier for me to remember it. Just memorising stroke order works for some chacters, but it takes me longer to retain them. Mostly I cannot retain more than just a few characters per day.

I was revising hanja with one of my language partners this week, and whenever I had inevitably forgotten one, he would try to make me think of an image. E.g. 수 for 수요일 which has caused me some trouble. He told me to think of “ice”. At first I didn’t catch on.

水 meaning: 물, pronunciation: 수

It looks a bit like a snowflake, right?
By adding one stroke, you get “ice” which is of course just frozen water:

氷 meaning: 얼음, pronunciation: 빙

Now it looks a lot more like a snowflake, right?

As for the character 불, 화 (fire) in 화요일 I think of a person 人 running with arms in the air to escape the flames 火. It might be a bit childish, but it works for me.

It makes sense if you know that 人 is person, and once you put the person inside a box, you have the preposition “inside” 內 !

The concept of “radicals” is still difficult for me, but I guess it will come gradually as I work more with it and learn more and more characters.


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