Q: Hello, I really love this site and you post lots of really good information about the Japanese language and I love how you tell us the ‘everyday’ Japanese not the ‘textbook’ which probly makes us sound really strange and very gaijin to Japanese people.
My question though, is how can you translate Kanji from a book without the use of Furigana? I want to know this because the company for my favourite manga has gone out of production and Im thinking of buying the real Japanese mangas, but I wont be able to understand the Kanji. I’ve found a good website for translating kanji from the internet on http://nihongo.j-talk.com/kanji/ its really good but it wont help me if I want to translate from a book in my hands. If you could help me I would be very grateful! Thank you! – Rebecca
A: Hi Rebecca,
Another good question. One way is to get something like the penpower pen that you wave over a kanji. But I’m sure how well it does with Japanese.
Or there are a couple of old school ways to do this using a standard kanji dictionary. The first one is to count how many strokes make up the kanji e.g. if you see 八 then it has two strokes, or something like 車 has 7. Or you can look up the left or top part of the kanji e.g. if you see 明 then you can look up the 日 part and get a list of all the characters that include it. Of course both of these methods require that you know the first 100 or so kanji really well, hence why I recommend learning those as quickly as you can.
Or the easy way is to wait until someone writes a kanji-look-up-from-the-camera app for the iPhone, where you can just take a pic of the kanji and see the meaning. Apparently Chinese ones are already out, so we just have to wait for the Japanese ones!