I mentioned in an earlier post the need for a good dictionary when learning a language. The peculiar thing about Japanese is that there are three different ways of writing the same word. Hiragana and katakana, which provide pronunciation cues, don’t offer much in terms of word meaning. Kanji characters, based on ideographs from Chinese, provide cues to word meanings but can leave a person dumbfounded when trying to pronounce them. There are well over 2000 different kanji characters used in Japan today; so start learning early!
P.G. O’Neill’s “Essential Kanji” is another nicely priced book that provides a good starting point for beginners. It shows pronunciation, stroke order, and word meaning for 2000 kanji characters. The book is arranged so that simpler characters are found earlier, while the more complicated characters are later. I wish the book grouped characters together by JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) levels, but the character ordering is fairly similar.
If this book interests you, check it out at:
Essential Kanji: 2,000 Basic Japanese Characters Systematically Arranged For Learning And Reference