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Kanji in English
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Kanji are a type of "logogram" used in the Japanese writing system. Logogram= a symbol representing a word in a language, as opposed to a pictogram=a drawing that resembles an object, and an ideogram=a symbol that represents a concept. Sometimes a kanji is made up of 'radicals' which are smaller symbols. Often one can guess the meaning of a word by looking at the kanji, or the meaning of a kanji by looking at the radicals (although more often than not the reason for choosing those radicals was an obscure hundreds-year-old story).
Beginner Japanese learners are often amazed at this system to begin with "Pictures instead of words woohoo!" , and very soon after lose hope. Each kanji has multiple ways of saying it, at least a "Japanese" reading and a "Chinese" reading and sometimes an extra reading to make a specific word.
http://jisho.org/search/姦%20%23kanji
İmage
This kanji is used in the words for "rape", "wicked", "necrophilia","adultery", etc.
Looking at the jisho link we can easily see the readings as : KAN, KEN, kan, kashima, wa, midara. 6 possible readings for one kanji...

"KAN"                       as it's chinese reading
"KEN"                       another chinese reading just because it sounds better in certain words
"KAN"                       a japanese reading
"KASHIMA"               a japanese reading, part of the word kashimashii, meaning: noisy, boisterous
"WA"                        in "MAWAsu" , joining two kanji together for meaning and then making up a unique reading
"MIDARA"                 this isn't even used anymore, but it has the same meaning as "bawdy, improper,dirty"

A similar (obviously not as complex) case happens in English with the few symbols we do use. 

8                   the standard meaning when the symbol is by itself, said "eight"     
8th                here the 8 is read "ei"
80                 here the 8 is read "ei"
800               here the 8 is read "eight"
8ve               musicians use this shorthand for octave. read "oct" (from latin). 

so if we include my octave example, we have the readings as "eight" "ei" "oct".

If we were to use symbols more in our written language, we could have a symbol for "legs". That symbol would be read "leg" by itself, but next to the "8" the meanings suddenly come together to make a word we know, octopus. Nicely, this system can be used to link together meanings - the symbol for "leg" could be used in "to kick", "football" etc. Not so nicely, there is now a much more annoying divide between what is written and how to say it. Similar to the Chinese/Japanese readings problem, combining the symbol "eight" and "month" would be read as "August" instead of perhaps "octber", because we already used a different language for that word.
 
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