Unlike written English, which uses a mere 24 letters, kanji is made up of 2,000 commonly used characters.
As a Japanese language learner, mistakes are totally understandable, but can be nonetheless embarrassing—especially when a few missed strokes can turn a samurai 侍 (さむらい) into a temple 寺 (てら)!
While many Japanese language learners opt to master verbal skills before written ones, eventually you’re going to have to master kanji to claim complete Japanese fluency.
So, how do you learn 2,000 kanji characters?
With kanji flashcards!
Effective Ways to Use Kanji Flashcards
Spaced Repetition System (SRS) combines memory and repetition into one effective learning method. Instead of bombarding your brain with flashcards, with this approach, you’ll space out your studying sessions for better results.
The key to spaced repetition is setting a spaced repetition schedule. This will include studying specific kanji flashcards at various time intervals that become more spaced out over time.
Anki is an excellent tool for implementing this method.
Kanji are ideograms, which means that each one tells a story.
Embrace your creative side and create some fun mnemonic devices to help you remember the kanji you’re learning!
Here are a few examples:
困 (こん) — trouble is represented by 木 (き) — a tree in 囗 (い・こく) — a closed border or box.
A tree closed in a box is in trouble because it can’t grow.
美 (び) — beauty is represented by 大 (だい) — big and 羊 (よう) — sheep.
Big sheep certainly are beautiful!
It’s a good idea to try to combine memory devices for both pronunciation and meaning.
Kanji Damage is a great resource to get some ideas flowing.
Reading and Writing Daily
Actively using kanji will create a sort of muscle memory effect in your brain!
The most important takeaway here is that you expose yourself to kanji and consistently practice reading and writing it.
The Ultimate Kanji Flashcards to Kick Your Kanji Up a Notch
Kanji Flashcards Made Just for You
Kanji Cards offers you several free-to-download PDFs of kanji flashcards. You have the option to download the PDF with or without stroke order diagrams.
You can easily download and study these cards straight from your phone or computer.
This site also gives a nice introduction to learning kanji and breaks down all the kanji characters covered here based on JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) level.
The flashcards contain stroke order, example sentences and meanings.
If you’re looking for something simple and straightforward, Kanji Cards is definitely worth bookmarking!
Study Kanji is another website that offers pre-made flashcards arranged by JLPT difficulty.
With this site, you can change the settings to test your knowledge from Japanese to English or vice versa. Going from Japanese to English is easier, especially if your native language is English; the other way around can prove to be quite the challenge.
Try pushing your limits and stepping out of your comfort zone with this one!
And, don’t let Study Kanji’s minimalist design trick you—this resource has hundreds of kanji for you to memorize! Unfortunately, there’s no way to track your progress within the site, but you’ll be able to save your preferred settings.
Kanji Koohii is one of the most useful sites for studying kanji.
After you register for a free account, you’re free to explore all the eye-catching flashcards available. Kanji Koohii incorporates all the elements needed to help you remember kanji.
The program comes with concrete examples and creative ways to memorize hundreds of useful kanji.
The design and color scheme alone is enough to get you hooked on learning kanji in style!
Memrise doesn’t limit you to the flashcards that are already created. This site takes flashcards to another level by allowing users to share flashcards that they’ve created!
You’re no longer limited to what’s on the JLPT exam.
Instead, you can choose topics like anime and manga from which to study new vocabulary.
Apps That’ll Help You Study Kanji Flashcards the Smart (Phone) Way
Skritter is a sleek app designed for powerful kanji memorizing. It puts great emphasis on being able to write kanji, so get ready to put your hand to some serious use!
The app takes some of the most common kanji from frequently used Japanese textbooks. Over a short period of time, you can get familiar with stroke order and radicals.
It’s important to mention that input equals output when it comes to practicing your writing.
The more you write, the better you’ll get.
Skritter makes motivating yourself to practice writing kanji a lot easier than getting out pen and paper.
This app will help turn your brain into an actual kanji database!
Kanji Tree grows your understanding of kanji by breaking the characters down by radicals.
Radicals are those components of kanji that make up a kanji’s story.
Some kanji, like 木 (き) — tree, are very simple and make up other kanji such as 林 (はやし) — forest or 机 (つくえ) — desk.
Radicals are not only helpful for memorizing characters, but they also can aid you in memorizing pronunciation.
Who knew studying kanji could be so cool?
Drops Kanji isn’t your average flashcard app. It’s designed to feel immersive and challenging.
You’ll get repeated exposure to words based on the topic of your choice. Plus, the graphics offer a very visual context of the new words you’ll learn.
Drops Kanji is based on the freemium model, so some of its features will be restricted if you continue to use the free version. However, the free version offers great study material.
This app can also help you with pronunciation.
The only downside is that Kanji Drops only focuses on the meaning of the kanji and not so much on the part of speech or conjugation.
Apps for Creating Your Very Own Kanji Flashcards
FluentU offers more than just the tools to create study lists for kanji flashcards. FluentU is designed to get you comfortable with everyday language by combining all the benefits of complete immersion and native-level conversations with easy-to-read and interactive subtitles.
The FluentU app has a library of content that consists of practical, everyday kanji for you to study. Its organized dashboard and seemingly infinite material make learning kanji convenient. And, you won’t have to go through the hassle of creating your kanji flashcards from scratch.
As you watch any of the thousands of authentic Japanese videos, you’ll be able to save and add the kanji you want to study to your very own customized flashcards.
FluentU also tracks your progress and rewards you for staying consistent with studying kanji.
StudyBlue is a free online hub of kanji knowledge.
This high-quality digital studying tool gives you access to hundreds of different kanji flashcard sets and lists. Many of the kanji flashcard sets are based on textbooks commonly used in Japanese classrooms.
You also have the option to create your own set of kanji flashcards.
You’ll be able to continually test yourself with StudyBlue’s built-in quizzes and see how much your kanji skills are improving over time.
Operated by Duolingo, Tiny Cards is a flashcard app with cute designs and noticeable payoffs. This free app allows users to make their own decks or search for pre-made kanji decks.
While there’s not very much focus placed on memorizing stroke order, Tiny Cards does ensure that you’re building your kanji vocabulary.
Brainscape has an adaptive system of flashcards that’ll keep you on your toes with learning kanji. This site also lets you study kanji flashcards generated by other users. You can also create your own kanji flashcards.
Some of the kanji flashcard sets available on Brainscape are divided into different levels, which is very helpful when searching for a set to study.
Remember, learning kanji is challenging, but with persistence and consistency, you can do it one flashcard at a time!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Japanese with real-world videos.