淡々 [たんたん] – disinterest; indifference
- 淡 [タン・あわい] – thin; pale; fleeting
- 々 – symbol that indicates repetition of the previous character
To me, the kanji 淡 is a great example of how understanding pieces parts can help you to both understand and remember characters. It comprises 3 distinct radicals, 2 of which are repeated: 水 (water) + 火 (fire) + 火 (fire) = 淡.
Does it make sense that adding water to fire would make the fire appear fleeting or faint? Does this give you a picture of how the Chinese may have thought of this concept when formulating this character?
When water is used as the 部首 [ぶしゅ] (radical of a kanji), it is called 水部 [すいぶ]. When it is in the left portion of a kanji and rendered as 氵, it is called さんずい. It looks like 3 droplets of water, doesn’t it?
When fire is used as a radical, it is called 火部 [かぶ]. Often, it occurs in its full form (火) in the left or right portions of a character (偏旁 [へんぼう]). However, when it shows up in the bottom–literally the “foot” (脚 [あし]) of a character–it is rendered as 灬.
As mentioned above, 々 is a symbol, not a character. It indicates that you should pronounce the previous kanji again. 々 acts as a shortcut, making it so that you don’t have to write out the character twice.
See if you can use this information to help you crack open unfamiliar kanji!