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The Japanese kanji (kanji used in Japan only) are one of the most important elements in the language of the rising sun country. According to dictionaries, between 8000 and 10,000 kanji are listed in Japanese. But what is kanji?
The Japanese kanji are the “symbols” or ideograms used to write in Japanese. In Japan, when writing we use three different “alphabets”: the Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji. Hiragana and Katakana are the easier alphabets to learn because they are relatively low amount compared to the Kanji and also they have less complexity.
The Japanese Kanji (They say Japanese to distinguish them from the Chinese Kanji) have not always existed. They were introduce inJapanaware of the fourth century viaKorea, fromChina? Before that,Japanhad no official way of writing and everything was done by word. But the evolution of Japanese civilization in ancient times, forces the government of these days to find and adopt a viable method of writing forJapan. This is why many Japanese missions were sent toChinato study the Kanji and import them to Japan.
Since that time, the Kanji became the official alphabet of Japan. However, when they were imported, they were with the Chinese pronunciation, which did not correspond to the Japanese pronunciation. To compensate for this, two other complementary alphabets have been introduced: Hiragana and Katakana. And the Japanese pronunciation was also adapted to kanji. All this does adds to the understanding, drafting and use of Kanji. Indeed, there are two ways to read that have a high complexity level.
To help you understand this, I offer you some examples of Kanji (used for weekdays):
- 水 (water) MIZU SUI
- 火 (fire) HI KA
- 木 (tree) KI MOKU
In the end, so there are thousands of Japanese Kanji, each with several different readings (the KUN is generally used for combining words using Kanji and Hiragana, as saying that the ON is used for words using only Kanji). The Japanese government imposes to know 1945 kanji, called official kanji, otherwise you are considered incapable of reading the newspaper and do the activities of the daily living.
The Kanji and Gaijin in Japan
You will doubt that learning kanji for foreigners is not easy thing. Imagine learning about 2000 entries, which are sometimes complex (some have over 20 strokes)! It is not accessible to everyone because it is a kind of learning that takes time, efforts and sacrifices.
It is therefore common, to meet in Japan, foreigners who are completely unable to read and write in Japanese as they speak the language very well. It is indeed easier to learn how to speak than learning how to write in Japanese, which is totally different for the languages we are using because we have only 26 letters to remember? Personally, when I arrived inJapan in knew nothing about the Japanese language. So I have to study it seriously if I want to understand it.
In this section of my blog, I will try to share with you my experience, give you the methods I use to learn Japanese Kanji, and also the Kanji I like. Just a warning: I have no vocation at teaching you all the Japanese Kanji, since the day I arrived here I didn’t know any one of them. I just want to share my experience with you.