I have been studying Japanese for nearly 3 years now - it’s my major at university, and frankly I’m not particularly happy with how I’ve been doing with it. Not just in facets of kanji, but it’s one area I feel like I really want to crack down and get ahead on it.
I’ve only recently started sitting down and understanding mnemnonics and how they work - I think my brain is more accustom to just having a list of things and remembering that list for the time being, but I’ve been fascinated in trying to ingratiate my language studies with mnemonics. I know of Dominic O’Brien’s means to remember lanugages (though I haven’t read/listened to it yet), but with a non-Romance Language like Japanese, it’s been an arduous process.
So lately, I’ve been trying to find a way to incorporate a way to really memorise them, and I think I’ve come about something that could come to decent fruition with more time spent on it. This isn’t a 1-to-1 use for PAO with kanji, but I think it’s somewhat incorporated.
Let’s take 定 as an example - a kanji that represents ‘fix’.
Radicals: Roof + Coat Rack (going off of this spreadsheet that lists every radical Kanji Radicals Reference - Google Sheets).
Onyomi: テイ (Tei)、ジョウ (Joo/Jou)
Kunyomi: さだ（める）、さだ（まる）、さだ（か）- predeominantly Sada
I ascribe a person to any onyomi reading to a kanji I’m unfamiliar with. A common reading is コウ, which I assign to a character called Kou from a PS2 game I play all the time. In this case, where there’s two readings, I have two people at a point that link to Jou [a Joe I know] and a Tei [as it’s phonetically Tay I have a few options for this one].
The action ascribed is the English meaning, which helps a lot more with verbs. However, the props involved are the radicals; imagining Joe and Tay(lor) both fixing a coat rack on my roof, or a roof, or something else that’s quite bizarre helps me remember them.
The object will be the Kunyomi - so Sada reminds me of ‘Saddle’ and I envision Taylor riding Joe with a saddle, which both helps me remember the kunyomi in a more unique way while making the entire scene more memorable.
I think there are some weaknesses to this idea that I’m aiming to iron out; for one, using radicals as props for the kanji whilst incorporating unique objects in the kunyomi could potentially lead to a bit of confusion, but as there are a finite number of radicals, it’s easy to make a blacklist of kunyomi items to not crossover with to avoid this situation.
However, I do wonder further if there is a potential issue in having 200 common items in a memory list which could crossover with others and end up muddling my thoughts/processes to remember what certain kanji means.
The main merit I find is having a person for every individual Kanji reading, as it works similar to the 00-99 list of people in there being a limited number of people which I can envision through phonetic association. I do think it’s effectiveness in a memory palace has to specifically avoid using the same person back to back, although someone more accustom to memory palaces may find I’m wrong, which I’d be happy to hear if that’s the case.
Otherwise, I think it’s a strategy with some merit! It does take a lot for me, but maybe after a month or two at chipping away at it I’ll be much better off for it. I thoguht it was also worth sharing to see how others think about it as I don’t see a whole lot on remmebering kanji other than using the visual element of the characters, which don’t really work for me.