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Learning kanji can be a difficult task for the most seasoned Japanese speaker. Kanji have two distinct readings – On and Kun. Many use different readings for completely different words. On top of that, many have multiple On and Kun readings to further complicate which one to use to pronounce a word. In general, the On is used in compounds, words with more than one kanji in them, and the Kun is used when the kanji is by itself. You’ll come to see that is not always the case though, as the language is riddled with exceptions and exceptions to those exceptions. For the time being, I’ll try to simplify it for everyone with some simple definitions of the two readings and explanations as to when to use them.

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