I just love kanji
  • So I've been studying Japanese for about four years now. Three of those years was entirely 自分で, but I just finished my freshman year of college and took an intermediate class the whole year. The studying I did on my own was mostly based in written Japanese; I taught myself the kana, and from there basic grammar and a many kanji. That's mostly what I did; I knew I couldn't really teach myself grammar but kanji is simple to learn on your own.

    Anyway, a trend I've noticed is that people just do. not. like learning Chinese characters. In class, every time sensei busted out more kanji for the next kanji test all my classmates would moan and cry, and I spent a while getting to know a Chinese foreign exchange student in my hometown, and we talked a lot about kanji 'cause that's what we could bond over. Long story short, he said he, like most Chinese, just hated learning more characters.

    The thing is, that's probably my favorite part about learning Japanese. Kanji are, simply, beautiful. The English language, like the majority of languages without ideograms, lack this entire wonderful aspect of their orthographies. Granted, it's difficult to learn because of the sheer number of characters, but it's still wonderful.

    Honestly I don't know why I made this topic. I just like the forum here at Jisho, and granted it's slow paced and has few visitors, I like the discussions here (plus the dictionary is great, and kanji by radicals has been the biggest effing help EVER). Just trying to breathe a little life into the discussion board, as well as introduce myself, in a way.

    So yeah, I'm 18 years old, about to be a sophomore at university; I've been studying Japanese for almost five years now, mostly on my own, mostly self taught, and I'm born and raised in West Texas, which explains my lack of opportunities to learn this beautiful language and why I had to rely on my own self to start learning.

    Anyway, you guys obviously know how great kanji are. Most of y'all are fluent anyway (うらやましいぃぃぃ). I just wanted to get a discussion started about how great kanji are.
    To start: I think the Chinese practice of kanji simplification is horrible. Honestly, looking at written Chinese, I think the characters are ugly compared to Japanese. For example, how 貝 has turned into a weird thing devoid of shape, Oor just how most simplifications lose beauty. I dislike it. I actually angered the Chinese exchange student mentioned earlier because I told him that, and his response was, "Well, it's not about looking pretty. It's about communicating," to which I replied that Japanese manages to look beautiful AND communicate efficiently.
    Yeah, I know that kanji, just like any language anywhere, is constantly changing. But still.

    So what do you guys think of this simplification of these beautiful characters.

    EDIT: Yeah, bastardization was a totally harsh word to use. I apologize, it was pretty rude. Yeah, I'm aware that Japanese has simplified lots of kanji, and that the kana are just small representations of kanji, too. I just feel like Chinese has simplified hanzi to a much further extent.
  • The thing I like about written Japanese is the contrast between the relatively sparse kana scrips and the complexity of the kanji. I have no desire to ever learn chinese (the more you give to one language you take from another), but hanzi alone just doesn't do it for me.

    In my opinion the Japanese language is one of the greatest treasures of human civilisation. I'm currently trying to decide whether to finally visit Japan for the first time in a few weeks with my girlfriend, or instead keep the money and focus on furthering my studies at home.

    It's a tough decision...

    I'm far from fluent, I've only been properly learning for just under a year.

    Welcome, by the way.
  • Posted By: Jumex
    So what do you guys think of this bastardization of these beautiful characters.


    Hmm, I'm not surprised the Chinese exchange student was annoyed. I actually started learning Chinese before Japanese, though I never got as far with Chinese. Because I was on the mainland I learnt simplified characters. I don't think they're that horrible.

    Japan has taken a different approach to simplifying its language in recent years, which is to largely abandon using the less common kanji altogether and use katakana or hiragana instead. This is most noticeable in the names of animals and plants. Chinese doesn't really have this option.

    Overall, I think there's nothing wrong with simplified Chinese characters. Hiragana and katakana are also 'bastardised characters' and I find them aesthetically pleasing too. Bit of cultural sensitivity, maybe.
  • Is anyone on this site fluent? Once and a while we have some Japanese visitors, but it's almost all non-native speakers. Hopefully in 5 or 10 years I'll be fluent, but who knows.

    Anyway, Japanese have simplified some characters also, for example 国 or 来. (And of course the traditional characters themselves are vastly simplified from their original form.) Like Richard, I started with Chinese first, though with traditional characters. I personally think the traditional characters are much more aesthetically pleasing, and you can see more of the meaning in the character in general. Advantages to learning the traditional characters are you can use them to communicate with Japanese, Koreans (less so now though) and Taiwanese, and any written Chinese that's over 60 years old uses the traditional form. I also think it's easier to recognize the simplified characters if you've learnt the traditional rather than vice versa, though I never went the other way so I can't really compare.

    However, you can't argue with the fact that simplified characters greatly helped literacy in China. I also think that languages tend to evolve from the complex to the simple, and one instance of this is the evolution of Chinese characters from ages ago to their present. Like it or not, this will probably continue, but probably not much in our lifetimes.

    On a side note, why the change in the stroke order for 青? In Chinese, you write the two horizontal stokes on top first before the vertical stroke. But in Japanese, the top vertical stroke comes after the first horizontal stroke. I didn't realize that I was writing it 青い in the "wrong" (Chinese) stroke order until recently.
  • Oh, and how could I forget 氣 → 気. That and 国 were the ones that pissed me off. Damn Hirohito! I count this as one of your war crimes!
  • Although this is a Japanese forum, I would still like to say, as a Taiwanese using tranditional Chinese characters, I am extremely delighted to hear that there are foreigners who also consider simplified Chinese as being "bastardization". I cannot agree more.

    The so-called "simplification" of Chinese characters does not only detroy the beauty of Chinese characters, it also destroys the FUNCTION of many characters. For example, "麺(noodles)" is simplified to "面(face)", and "遊(to play)" is simplified to "游(to swim)". Such "simplification" is an utter absurdity, even worse than simplifying "you" to "u".
  • Posted By: ccpan
    [p]Although this is a Japanese forum, I would still like to say, as a Taiwanese using tranditional Chinese characters, I am extremely delighted to hear that there are foreigners who also consider simplified Chinese as being "bastardization". I cannot agree more.[/p][p]The so-called "simplification" of Chinese characters does not only detroy the beauty of Chinese characters, it also destroys the FUNCTION of many characters. For example, "麺(noodles)" is simplified to "面(face)", and "遊(to play)" is simplified to "游(to swim)". Such "simplification" is a utter absurdity, even worse than simplifying "you" to "u".[/p]

    I agree with you. Please keep the beaty of language!
  • We're adults putting a lot of time and determination into learning the characters, many of us use smart techniques to do so. However, the people who NEED to learn these characters, the children, lack such things, they just need to become functional as fast as humanly possible, and therefore, it makes sense to have simplified characters and it's not something foreigners from a completely different point of view should comment on really.

    Personally, I think many simplifications are both good and beautiful. Less is more, and if fewer strokes can give the same feeling, that's art in itself. There are bad simplifications (麺 to 面 is a good example) but there's no problem with the act of simplifying sinograms.
  • With all due respect, allow me to sound a dissenting note here: we (myself included) are a bunch of adults (mostly non-Japanese, I assume) with WAY too much time on our hands, willing to spend inordinate amounts of time on learning to read – and, for some extremists, even write (in the correct stroke order, naturally!) – kanji. Meanwhile, millions of Japanese children are wasting enormous amounts of time, energy AND money, over long periods of time, trying to come to grips with this monstrous writing system for no reason other than “it has always been done this way”.
    What kanji fetishists (particularly westerns who already have invested the resources necessary to attain a significant measure of kanji skills) refuse to admit is that forcing kanji down the throats of people (including, in particular, children) who would be better off spending these resources of other things (yes, like learning English – and please don’t bother attacking me for being Anglocentric or whatever the current PC nickname is: I speak English as my THIRD language) is fundamentally wrong. It probably won’t happen in the foreseeable future, for various reasons, but the ideal solution would be to abandon the kanji REQUIREMENT altogether in favor of hiragana (yes, while we’re at it, we might as well get rid of that OTHER idiotic writing system…) and leave kanji to those of us who have the time, money and inclination to continue to study it. It has been done in the past – in Korea, in Vietnam. Even better would be to just romanize the language altogether – that, too, has been done in Turkey, for example – but I’m not holding my breath…
  • Yeah, or force kids to convert to SRSism.

    Now that's a fun childhood...
  • Every language has shorter and longer words, for example, "I" and "beautiful" in English, or "一" and "鼻" in Kanji. Does any English-speaker claim that "beautiful" should be simplified to "butfl" or something? Perhaps one century ago, Taiwanese people were mostly illiterate, but now all Taiwanese people are using traditional characters without difficulty. The reason that China uses simplified characters is a political one rather than an educational one, not as good-hearted as some people believe.

    Now back to Japanese. Actually, long time ago, Japanese government did try to get rid of Kanji, but failed. The major reason is that Japanese does not have spaces between words, therefore a sentence written by kana alone is hard to read. Compare the followings and see which one is easier to read.

    大人に便利なように作られた製品のため、子どもが傷を負い、時には命を脅かされる。
    おとなにべんりなようにつくられたせいひんのため、こどもがきずをおい 、ときにはいのちをおどかされる。
    otonanibenrinayounitsukuraretaseihinnotame, kodomogakizuwooi, tokinihainotiwoodokasareru.

    On the contrary, Korean successfully removes the kanji, because Korean alphabets are assembled into distinct characters, not as a string of kanas as Japanese.
  • It's not hard to add spaces to Japanese. In fact, many books and games for kids are in all hiragana and they have spaces. Go play a recent pokemon game and you'll see.

    It's not that there's a big problem of illiteracy, it's that it takes ages. In our western countries, kids learn to write and read in the first grade, then they learn words from life and from reading in school. They don't keep learning how to write until college. There is a difference and it's important. Remember, while kanji weren't removed from Japanese, the system was simplified and the amount of official kanji were set to a pretty low level, just 2000. Sure, that list is being extended now, but there is quite a bit of debate in Japan whether or not that's a good idea because it will take even more time from the curriculum.

    Is it impossible to have a fully literate society in countries using sinograms? Hardly. Could the burden for students be reduced? Absolutely.

    The comparison to Korean and Viet is quite valid. Ask any Korean nowadays what they feel about hangul and if they would like more sinograms in their daily life.
  • Incidentally, the following article is pretty interesting:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_script_reform

    I like how it links to a couple organizations promoting switching to romanji at the end, but if you go to the sites, neither of them are in romanji.
  • Posted By: mongrel
    [p]With all due respect, allow me to sound a dissenting note here: we (myself included) are a bunch of adults (mostly non-Japanese, I assume) with WAY too much time on our hands, willing to spend inordinate amounts of time on learning to read – and, for some extremists, even write (in the correct stroke order, naturally!) – kanji. Meanwhile, millions of Japanese children are wasting enormous amounts of time, energy AND money, over long periods of time, trying to come to grips with this monstrous writing system for no reason other than “it has always been done this way”.
    What kanji fetishists (particularly westerns who already have invested the resources necessary to attain a significant measure of kanji skills) refuse to admit is that forcing kanji down the throats of people (including, in particular, children) who would be better off spending these resources of other things (yes, like learning English – and please don’t bother attacking me for being Anglocentric or whatever the current PC nickname is: I speak English as my THIRD language) is fundamentally wrong. It probably won’t happen in the foreseeable future, for various reasons, but the ideal solution would be to abandon the kanji REQUIREMENT altogether in favor of hiragana (yes, while we’re at it, we might as well get rid of that OTHER idiotic writing system…) and leave kanji to those of us who have the time, money and inclination to continue to study it. It has been done in the past – in Korea, in Vietnam. Even better would be to just romanize the language altogether – that, too, has been done in Turkey, for example – but I’m not holding my breath…[/p]

    Are there actually movements in Japan calling for the removal of kanji and katakana? Because if not, I can't see who you're arguing for here. If Japan is largely content with its writing system, who is anyone else to suggest that they should completely change it?
  • Beautiful was never simplified to 'btfl' but colour was simplified to color in the US along with a lot of other spelling simplifications. In fact, this debate reminds me a bit of the disputes between US and UK English or between standard and regional English. People will say that things like 'I could care less' or double negatives are illogical, but accept other equally 'illogical' parts of the language if they are used to them.

    On the loss of distinction between different characters like 遊 and 游, I'm sure it's not that difficult to tell which is which from context. The same way Americans can tell when 'practice' is being used as a noun or a verb, even though the distinction has been lost in US English.

    It takes a big effort to change a writing system radically and I'm not sure it's worth it. Japanese will probably continue its slow simplification though, as more and more complex kanji gradually get abandoned in favour of hiragana or katakana.
  • Although theoretically it is possible to add spaces to Japanese, in reality I do see such hope is quite dim.
    Kanji has other benefits. Kanji is often shorter than kana. A typical example is 承る, a word commonly seen on advertisements and signboards. It is composed of 2 characters, but when it is spelled out , it is うけたまわる, 6 characters. You could imagine that when all the kana were spelled out, how many papers does a 新聞 would take.
    Another psychological issue is that kanji is sometimes taken as a symbol of eruditeness. The more kanji you know, the more educated you appear to be. At times I read unusual kanji instead of very simple kana, for example 曾て for かつて. I cannot but think the author just wanted to show off his kanji ability.
    Finally, there are people who do care about different kanji even the meanings are the same. Following is an example. Some handicapped people want to change 障害 to 障碍, because they don't want to be labeled as 害.

    http://www.asahi.com/culture/update/0413/TKY201004130454.html

    As for the dabate about traditional and simplified sinogram, it should be noted that the debate is not about the concept or act of simplification. It is about the simplified sinogram created by the PRC. The simplified sinogram is a creature of the disastrous "cultural revolution", an atrocious political movement under the pretense of education.
  • Posted By: ccpan
    As for the dabate about traditional and simplified sinogram, it should be noted that the debate is not about the concept or act of simplification. It is about the simplified sinogram created by the PRC. The simplified sinogram is a creature of the disastrous "cultural revolution", an atrocious political movement under the pretense of education.


    From what I read on Wikipedia, the changes that survive today were made before the Cultural Revolution. There were changes made in the Cultural Revolution but they were abandoned. See:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_round_of_simplified_Chinese_characters

    There's an interesting point in this article about the failure of the second round compared with the first round (which was successfully introduced):
    "90 percent of the changes made in the First Scheme existed in mass use, many for centuries". I'd like to know more, but from this point it seems that China's simplified characters were not arbitrarily introduced.
  • Coming at this discussion from the opposite angle, I see no reason for Japan to abandon kanji, and switching to romaji seems a fairly bizarre suggestion. It doesn't take very long to learn either hiragana, katakana or the alphabet.
  • I personally would lament the removal of kanji from Japanese (as with Korean), but the romanji proponents idea seems to be that using a different script separates them from the rest of the world, which is true to some extent. But I think as language computing advances, this is becoming less and less of an issue. (I couldn't actually be bother to read their webpages.) Though I do believe in the long run (hundreds of years?) the Japanese writing system will be considerably simplified.

    For those interested, I think the following article has a pretty good summary of arguments for and against simplified characters in China:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debate_on_traditional_and_simplified_Chinese_characters
  • A different script does separate Japan from much of the world- but that isn't necessarily bad. Cultural buffer, if you will. Of course, being surrounded by water doesn't hurt, either. Either way, the influences which need to cross over back and forth will, and a lot of useless stuff doesn't (though some does).

    The Western world needs Hotto Motto, though. It's not even in kanji! There's no excuse.
  • The most difficult part of kanji for me is not its writing, but its pronunciation. One same kanji always has many different 音読and 訓読in different words. It is not easy to memorize them all the time. If there is anything in Japanese that should be simplified, I would recommend that unifying the 読み方of kanji is the first step.
  • This is why Japan needs kanji and Korea doesn't (as much):

    生 せい 생
    性 せい 성
    姓 せい 성
    製 せい 제
    正 せい 정
    精 せい 정
    勢 せい 세
  • Posted By: Kanjimancer
    [p]This is why Japan needs kanji and Korea doesn't (as much):[/p][p]生 せい 생
    性 せい 성
    姓 せい 성
    製 せい 제
    正 せい 정
    精 せい 정
    勢 せい 세[/p]

    An interesting comparison, but hardly important. Like I said before, a lot of media is actually written in just hiragana with spaces, and it's not hard to understand at all.
  • Yes but I'm sure you'll appreciate there's a difference in the level of vocabulary needed between playing pokemon and comfortably reading academic literature.
  • Posted By: Kanjimancer
    [p]Yes but I'm sure you'll appreciate there's a difference in the level of vocabulary needed between playing pokemon and comfortably reading academic literature.[/p]

    Are you claiming that writing somehow precedes speaking in Japanese? Because of course you realize that in academic lectures in Japanese, they aren't supplying kanji subtitles to the lecturers speeches. Anything you can hear in Japanese and understand, you can read in hiragana and understand just the same.

    Just because academic literature is harder to understand than Pokemon doesn't mean kanji are vital, you could easily read academic literature in just hiragana with spaces.
  • I must be missing something basic - can someone please enlighten me as to why traditionalists are so adamantly against adding spaces to hiragana? I would have thought that of all reform proposal this would be a no-brainer!
  • I just don't see why anything should change. It's not as if Japanese literacy rates are lower than anywhere else. And as for the "it takes too long" argument, it's not as if Japan has some huge problem of kids leaving school having not learnt important things due to them having spent so much time learning kanji. Again, if there's no real appetite in Japan for reform, which there certainly doesn't seem to be, I can't see where people outside of Japan arguing for completely changing the script are coming from.

    As for me, I can't speak for Japanese kids leaning the language, but as a non-Japanese person, the presence of kanji has made learning it and picking up vocabulary far easier than it would be if the language was composed entirely of hiragana. You can read newspaper articles and know exactly what high-level words you've never seen or heard before mean, purely because their meaning is made so clear via kanji.

    Posted By: tamatama
    [p]I personally would lament the removal of kanji from Japanese (as with Korean), but the romanji proponents idea seems to be that using a different script separates them from the rest of the world, which is true to some extent.[/p]

    I don't follow this argument at all. What does it mean to be "separated" from the rest of the world by the script a country uses?
  • The thing is Louis, you're assuming Japanese people don't see any problem with kanji, when they in fact do. Any study on kanji usage nowadays shows clearly that most adult Japanese have big difficulties writing kanji from memory, they always rely on their mobile phones. Do Japanese leave school knowing too little? Maybe not, then again, just to get into a decent university they have to spend their whole childhood going to 塾.

    There are practical and functional issues with kanji. The only real reason to keep them is because it's cool, there's no practical reason to prefer kanji over kana, which is why Japan will eventually go down the same road as Korean, and eventually, Chinese will too. Maybe not in our lifetimes, but it's inevitable.
  • Tobbertroth brings up a very interesting point indeed - the assumption by traditionalists that the Japanese "have no problem" with their writing system. I have no idea where this notion originates from (other than in the feverish minds of the kanji true-believers...); as hard as I tried, I couldn't find any reference to any public opinion survey (trustworthy or otherwise) which provides any indication of Japanese attitudes to kanji specifically and the writing system in general. Any reading material would be welcome.
    Not only that (and, in my opinion, much worse) - it's very difficult to find any information about the effect of the current writing system on Japanese literacy rates. While Japanese officials have apparently claimed in the past a 99% literacy rate, I couldn't find a reference to any literacy survey in Japan since 1956! Not that I would necessarily believe data produced by the Japanese government on a sensitive issue like this, but the fact (if true) that no attempt has been made to conduct such survey is, in my opinion, tentative proof that something is really wrong.
  • Certainly there are books and games for kids all written in hiragana with spaces, but did you ever find a textbook (not for kids), journal, novel, newspaper all in hiragana? Sorry I did not and I cannot imagine one.
    Every language has its easy and difficult parts. I bet most of English-speakers only know less than half of the vocabulary in Webster dictionary. But does any one propose to delete those less commonly used words altogether? They still live and communicate well. As a foreigner, I am deeply troubled by those irregular forms. Why not "write", "writed", "writed", but "write", "wrote", "written". Why nobody tries to "simplify" them? Why "die", "der", "das" in German? Do those funny articles have any "function"? Why not delete them altogether?
    Japanese students spending their whole childhood going to 塾 does not have much thing to do with Kanji. Koreans do not have kanji, but their children go to 塾, too. Taiwaneses only have kanji but Taiwanese children go to 塾, too. It is a common phenomonen in the far-east educational systems.
    Two things I entirely agree with you. First, kanji has practical and functional issues and it is cool. Second, "the road" will not open in our lifetimes. As long as kanji is practical and functional and cool, it will remain since people use them and people like to be cool.
    By the way, Chinese will not go to the road you mentioned because kanji is the only characters Chinese people have. Unless Chinese can create another kana, hangul or alphabet system, they cannot but keep using kanji. But I really doubt that they want to be "koreanized","japanized" or "westernized" that way.
  • Various thoughts:

    I think that if there was serious dissatisfaction within Japan about their writing system it might be a bit more visible. There would be regular debate in newspapers and on TV. That's probably where the notion that the Japanese are happy with their writing system comes from.

    The difference with Korean is that when they came up with their own writing system they switched to it pretty quickly, whereas Japan came up with hiragana and katakana hundreds of years ago and still use kanji.

    If Japan really wanted to reduce the burden on their school children they could easily keep the same number of kanji and simply reduce the emphasis on being able to write them by hand. Outside the education system, writing by hand is becoming rarer and rarer anyway.

    The future of language is extremely difficult to predict, but I don't see any sudden switches. I could imagine the number of kanji that are used slowly going down, as the rarer ones are abandoned, but the more common kanji will certainly remain in use (in my opinion!)

    I remember reading an interesting comment about English's irregular spelling and why it's a good thing because it reduces the number of homonyms, aiding communication. The same can be said for kanji. I wonder who thinks that English will inevitably entirely regularise its spelling.
  • [p]Are you claiming that writing somehow precedes speaking in Japanese? Because of course you realize that in academic lectures in Japanese, they aren't supplying kanji subtitles to the lecturers speeches. Anything you can hear in Japanese and understand, you can read in hiragana and understand just the same.[/p][p]Just because academic literature is harder to understand than Pokemon doesn't mean kanji are vital, you could easily read academic literature in just hiragana with spaces.[/p]


    That's a really good point actually. But I still think that once learnt kanji help rather than hinder the reading process.
  • A Japanese perspective on why kanji is still used:

    Initially, Japanese didn't have their own concrete and systematic letters. They began to use chinese character to describe the japanese pronounciation. The meaning of chacacters were also introduce all together.

    If Japanese stop using chinese character, they lose 80% or more of their culture, heritage, perception ability, thinking extent...

    Language is not only for a communication tool but also a thinking tool.

    The most appolling thing to stop it is discontinuity of history associated with reduction of intellectual perception.


    Source: http://www.jref.com/forum/showthread.php?t=2067
  • Let's remember than tons of words which used to be written in all kanji are written in kana today. It's a tendency which is bound to continue. It was the same in Korean, they still often use hanja in academic situations, but it's slowly going extinct, because the average Korean don't care. As kana takes over more and more of most texts for the average Japanese, they will care less as well. At the moment, knowledge of kanji is very important to a Japanese person, you can't live in Japanese society without it, which is why they deal with it. If you could live the exact same life in Japan without kanji, trust me that a lot of Japanese students wouldn't care to learn it.

    ccpan, there has already been movements in China to start using pinyin instead for educational purposes.

    Richards comment about hangul isn't really true either, hangul was created in the 15th century but didn't become widely used until the 20th.
  • [p]ccpan, there has already been movements in China to start using pinyin instead for educational purposes.[/p]

    The pinyin IS for educational purposes. It is a phonetic system designed chiefly to assist foreigners (perhaps now for Chinese children) to pronouce chinese characters. Taiwan has another peculier phonetic symbols called 注音(bopomofo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhuyin). It has been used for half a century in elementery schools and nowadays it is still in use. However, no one propose to substitute bopomofo for Chinese characters, and hardly can I believe Chinese people, even those Mao-Zedong's followers brain-washed by cultural revolution, would propose to abolish all chinese characters and adopt those romancized pinyin as their language instead.

    Rarely used word become obsolate, a common phenomen for all languages. But I am not sure about the tendency Tebberoth expects. With heightened interaction between Japan and adjacent Chinese-speaking countries, it is likely that Japanese people will keep using Kanji and take their Kanji ability as an advantage. The recent increase of 常用漢字表 from 1945 kanji to 2136 is a sign. Even in Korea there has been voices asking for getting Hanja back; one voice came from their President. Let's wait and see when Chinese characters go extinct inevitably.
  • I prefer talking about Japanese than talking about Chinese or Korean.
    Posted By: Tobberoth
    [p]Let's remember than tons of words which used to be written in all kanji are written in kana today. It's a tendency which is bound to continue. [/p]

    It is actually contrary to my experience. This morning I opened 朝日新聞 and found that there are obviously more Kanji than kana. I made a quick analysis. I found that most of kana belong to the following categories. 1. particle, 2. 語尾, 3. On-mim. 4. auxillary suffix or cupola (e.g.ない, だ, です, ます). 5. short verbs (e.g.ある,いる,きる,みる,いく,くる,いう,やる,くれる,もらう). 6. conjuction, pronoun (e.g.あの,それに,かつ), 7. short noun or adverb less than 5 kana (e.g.こと,もの,はず,つもり,すべて). On the contrary, the majority of nouns, suru-verbs, na-adj and i-adj are not spelled out, and words with more than 4 kana are preferentially written in kanji (e.g.改めて for あらためて). It seems to me that as long as the words can be written in Kanji, they choose kanji rather than kana. Even funny kanji like 是非 is not uncommonly used for ぜひ. Only those archaic kanji used in classics were made obsolate.
    I believe in casual handwriting, Japanese may prefer kana, but with the help of computer, now typing kanji is not difficult. This will likely boost, rather than diminish, the usage of kanji .
  • Ah yes, I was wrong about Korean. My bad. I'd be curious to know why exactly hanja disappeared when they did, if there are any kind of reliable sources. Was it a fading out? (OK, I know hanja haven't entirely disappeared, but I didn't see much evidence of them when I lived in Seoul).

    In terms of the future of kanji I don't think there's anything inevitable about what will happen. On the one side a number of kanji are decreasingly used, particularly in informal contexts. Katakana loan words that are used instead of existing Japanese words also reduce the number of kanji used. On the other hand we have the relative ease of writing kanji on computers, and the probable (though not inevitable) rise of China as a regional power.

    I think that kanji will survive personally because they are useful as well as being pretty cool. It's quicker to get the meaning by reading kanji than reading hiragana and a lot of words that have the same pronunciation and similar meanings are nonetheless subtly different, which would make them very confusing if everything was written in hiragana. Also, a lot of language is primarily written language rather than spoken language even if it might be used in an academic lecture.

    PS I was quite interested to hear about bopomofo on another forum just before going to Taiwan this May, but I got the wrong impression that it was widely used. To be honest I was a little disappointed not to see it anywhere other than once on a computer keyboard. (An inflammatory comment in the context of this thread perhaps, but I wasn't disappointed because I hate Chinese characters! Just I was interested in a different way of writing Chinese.)
  • Posted By: ccpan
    [p]I prefer talking about Japanese than talking about Chinese or Korean.[/p][quote]
    Posted By: Tobberoth
    [p]Let's remember than tons of words which used to be written in all kanji are written in kana today. It's a tendency which is bound to continue.[/p]
    [p]It is actually contrary to my experience. This morning I opened 朝日新聞 and found that there are obviously more Kanji than kana. I made a quick analysis. I found that most of kana belong to the following categories. 1. particle, 2. 語尾, 3. On-mim. 4. auxillary suffix or cupola (e.g.ない, だ, です, ます). 5. short verbs (e.g.ある,いる,きる,みる,いく,くる,いう,やる,くれる,もらう). 6. conjuction, pronoun (e.g.あの,それに,かつ), 7. short noun or adverb less than 5 kana (e.g.こと,もの,はず,つもり,すべて). On the contrary, the majority of nouns, suru-verbs, na-adj and i-adj are not spelled out, and words with more than 4 kana are preferentially written in kanji (e.g.改めて for あらためて). It seems to me that as long as the words can be written in Kanji, they choose kanji rather than kana. Even funny kanji like 是非 is not uncommonly used for ぜひ. Only those archaic kanji used in classics were made obsolate.
    I believe in casual handwriting, Japanese may prefer kana, but with the help of computer, now typing kanji is not difficult. This will likely boost, rather than diminish, the usage of kanji .[/p][/quote]
    Really? My experience is that tons of words are written in kana for no real reason. 面白い is written おもしろい all the time. Is it because Japanese people can't read 面白い? Hardly, it's just getting more and more normal to write it in kana. Same with the たち suffix, 人たち is so common that it's even the first hit on Google IME. We've had loads of discussions about this on forum.koohii.com and the general consensus among (the few) japanese users seems to be that using kanji just because it possible makes you sound formal, academic or even braggy (this is generally concering how khazu at alljapaneseallthetime.com writes everything in kanji all the time). Some words are always written in kanji but in many words, you choose yourself, and using more kana and less kanji makes the text seem more approachable.
  • I believe in casual handwriting, Japanese may prefer kana, but with the help of computer, now typing kanji is not difficult. This will likely boost, rather than diminish, the usage of kanji .


    I often contact Japanese people by e-mail for my work, and only the most formal contacts will write 宜しくお願い致します.

    Most of the time it's よろしくお願いいたします or よろしくお願いします or even よろしくおねがいします.

    I don't think they're dumbing down their Japanese for me - I use varied vocab, including technical jargon, and plenty of kanji when I write to them (as do they in their replies). Nevertheless I find that this phrase is often/usually written in kana even though there are kanji available for it.

    Your point about ease of use may be correct, but obviously a lot of people choose not to use them anyway.
  • [cite]Posted By: roro[p]Your point about ease of use may be correct, but obviously a lot of people choose not to use them anyway.[/p]

    I would not argue. I too, write a lot of kana to my friends in email. Sentences like まかせてください indeed look more friendly than 任かせて下さい. I have no problem with kana at all. However, for my limited experience, words like 連絡 or 指導 are rarely, if ever, spelled out. ご指導のほどよろしくお願い申し上げます looks much better than ごしどうのほどよろしくおねがいもうしあげます.
    In academic and official literature, kanji still occupy a huge portion. In those fields I really couldn't observe obvious decline in the usage of kanji.
  • Posted By: ccpan
    [quote]
    Posted By: roro[p]Your point about ease of use may be correct, but obviously a lot of people choose not to use them anyway.[/p]
    [p]I would not argue. I too, write a lot of kana to my friends in email. Sentences like まかせてください indeed look more friendly than 任かせて下さい. I have no problem with kana at all. However, for my limited experience, words like 連絡 or 指導 are rarely, if ever, spelled out. ご指導のほどよろしくお願い申し上げます looks much better than ごしどうのほどよろしくおねがいもうしあげます.
    In academic and official literature, kanji still occupy a huge portion. In those fields I really couldn't observe obvious decline in the usage of kanji.[/p][/quote]

    These are business contacts that I write to, not friends. I agree with you that the trends no doubt vary considerably depending on the context, though.
  • I never meant to imply that this decline is visible in academic literature. The point was that for the average Japanese person, there is a decline in most contexts. Obviously academic literature will be the last one to have any noticeable decline, which is why hanja are still used in korean academic literature.
  • Posted By: Tobberoth
    [p]Let's remember than tons of words which used to be written in all kanji are written in kana today. It's a tendency which is bound to continue. It was the same in Korean, they still often use hanja in academic situations, but it's slowly going extinct, because the average Korean don't care. As kana takes over more and more of most texts for the average Japanese, they will care less as well. At the moment, knowledge of kanji is very important to a Japanese person, you can't live in Japanese society without it, which is why they deal with it. If you could live the exact same life in Japan without kanji, trust me that a lot of Japanese students wouldn't care to learn it.[/p][p]ccpan, there has already been movements in China to start using pinyin instead for educational purposes.[/p][p]Richards comment about hangul isn't really true either, hangul was created in the 15th century but didn't become widely used until the 20th.[/p]

    This is like saying that because there's a trend of mor an mor ppl writin like dis that that's the way that the entire language is heading and that official spellings of words are going to be simplified.

    I don't think that the inevitable result of people opting not to use kanji in most contexts is that kanji will be officially phased out. English is simplified and abbreviated to buggery but I don't think anyone's going to suggest that you're going to start seeing that sort of language in books and newspapers, etc. Of course, the English language has no central authority which can make those kinds of decisions, but the point is that people simplifying a language in certain contexts doesn't have implications beyond those contexts. If there's plenty of people outside of Japan arguing for the continued existence of kanji, how many must there be in Japan itself?
  • Posted By: louis
    [quote]
    Posted By: Tobberoth
    [p]Let's remember than tons of words which used to be written in all kanji are written in kana today. It's a tendency which is bound to continue. It was the same in Korean, they still often use hanja in academic situations, but it's slowly going extinct, because the average Korean don't care. As kana takes over more and more of most texts for the average Japanese, they will care less as well. At the moment, knowledge of kanji is very important to a Japanese person, you can't live in Japanese society without it, which is why they deal with it. If you could live the exact same life in Japan without kanji, trust me that a lot of Japanese students wouldn't care to learn it.[/p][p]ccpan, there has already been movements in China to start using pinyin instead for educational purposes.[/p][p]Richards comment about hangul isn't really true either, hangul was created in the 15th century but didn't become widely used until the 20th.[/p]
    [p]This is like saying that because there's a trend of mor an mor ppl writin like dis that that's the way that the entire language is heading and that official spellings of words are going to be simplified.[/p][p]I don't think that the inevitable result of people opting not to use kanji in most contexts is that kanji will be officially phased out. English is simplified and abbreviated to buggery but I don't think anyone's going to suggest that you're going to start seeing that sort of language in books and newspapers, etc. Of course, the English language has no central authority which can make those kinds of decisions, but the point is that people simplifying a language in certain contexts doesn't have implications beyond those contexts. If there's plenty of people outside of Japan arguing for the continued existence of kanji, how many must there be in Japan itself?[/p][/quote]
    Why wouldn't the exact same be true for Korean then? They were phased out in Korean and pretty much no one wants them back, why would it be any different in Japan? We're seeing a tendency, it has been carried out in other countries. And don't be too sure that ppl won't be an accepted spelling in a hundred years, it's far from impossible.
  • Posted By: Tobberoth
    [p]Why wouldn't the exact same be true for Korean then? They were phased out in Korean and pretty much no one wants them back, why would it be any different in Japan? We're seeing a tendency, it has been carried out in other countries. And don't be too sure that ppl won't be an accepted spelling in a hundred years, it's far from impossible.

    That's really not the same thing at all. Hangul was created in the 15th century specifically for the purpose of allowing the masses to become literate, removing the perceived barrier that hanja provided in confining literacy to the upper classes. Since then it has pretty much been Korea's only script in popular use by commoners. The point I'm making is that there was never a time in Korea where use of hanja was widespread in all contexts from casual to academic, after which it was phased out due to it being unnecessary, as you're suggesting will happen with kanji. Whereas in Japan, kanji is already here in widespread popular use in all contexts. Japanese people are already highly literate with kanji. You can't analogise the history of hanja with the future of kanji at all.
  • Posted By: louis
    [quote]
    Posted By: Tobberoth
    [p]Why wouldn't the exact same be true for Korean then? They were phased out in Korean and pretty much no one wants them back, why would it be any different in Japan? We're seeing a tendency, it has been carried out in other countries. And don't be too sure that ppl won't be an accepted spelling in a hundred years, it's far from impossible.[/p]
    [p]That's really not the same thing at all. Hangul was created in the 15th century specifically for the purpose of allowing the masses to become literate, removing the perceived barrier that hanja provided in confining literacy to the upper classes. Since then it has pretty much been Korea's only script in popular use by commoners. The point I'm making is that there was never a time in Korea where use of hanja was widespread in all contexts from casual to academic, after which it was phased out due to it being unnecessary, as you're suggesting will happen with kanji. Whereas in Japan, kanji is already here in widespread popular use in all contexts. Japanese people are already highly literate with kanji. You can't analogise the history of hanja with the future of kanji at all.[/p][/quote]
    Like I wrote earlier in this topic, widespread use of hangul didn't start until the 20th century. It's not like they realized they were illiterate, invented hangul and then started using it. They invented it, then went over to it, which took 400 years.
  • This is a massive topic, but I read that Hanja aren't as necessary in Korean because they have a lot more sounds in their language.
    Hanja is certainly used in academics, and to remove ambiguity. But that doesn't happen too often, because they don't have as many 同音異義語 as Japanese.
    Just look up the word こうき and you'll see there are like 13 or 14 definitions. Probably 5 or 6 are necessary for normal life,
    but that's still a lot. Almost every 二字熟語 I look up has at least one homophone word.
    私立学校 and 市立学校 have basically opposite meanings but the exact same reading. (Usually there is a city name attached to the 市 school) But still,
    there are ambiguities and people sometimes resort to using the kun'yomi reading わたくし立学校

    As far as I've studied, Hangul components represent sounds more like the roman alphabet, in a fine grain way. Chinese characters and kana are all syllabries (says my almighty God wikipedia). As a result of either Hangul-ish alphabets, or just having more sounds, ancient Koreans were able to imitate Chinese a whole lot better than the ancient Japanese were (and continued that in the modern day by transcribing what pronunciation they heard into modern Hangul).
    When you look up Kanji in Denshi Jisho it shows you the current Chinese and Korean readings. After a while you'll start to see
    that several different sounds in Chinese like "ling" "leung" and "liang" (these are just guesses) were flattened down to something "りょう" (just 1 sound) in Japanese, creating ambiguity.
    In addition, the intonation isn't present in the on'yomi reading.

    It's just my observation, but usually, the Korean readings I see look closer to the Chinese reading (especially with words ending in "ng" and starting with "y" or "w"). Of course the displayed Chinese reading is modern, but if you think really generally, you can kind of connect the dots. If you look hard enough you can find information on the web that tells you what the Chinese would have been at the time the Japanese used it as a loan word / character. But that's for mega nerds.

    So why use Hanja in Korean? Hypothetically, what if we used the old Viking characters to write loan words English has from Danish and Norwegian (hypothetically... assuming the words were imported, not the result of invasions)? At the time of importing the words, they would all sound pretty much unique and we can almost express them in the Roman alphabet. Eventually there would be no need to use the Viking characters. If it's not ambiguous, and you already know what it means, what's the point of using an extra writing system?

    Japanese have a different situation I think. The same thing that happened with Kanji readings is happening now with Katakana English. バス can be "bath" or "bus."
    Things become ambiguous. It would be more meaningful to just write it in the roman alphabet haha further convoluting the Japanese writing system :-P
    This practice of "approximation" with a coarse grain sound system is the most prominent obstacle for Japanese people learning English in my opinion.
    I see it every day when I correct papers at school.

    So, they're pretty much stuck with Kanji in my opinion. There are so many ambiguous words that I often confirm what my conversation partner is saying
    by referring to a Kanji example. People always say "oh but an ambiguous word could be understood from context" and i'm like... "sure, for YOU mr. snot nose" haha.
    I'm not that good of a guesser. So, I just rely on my mental database of kanji. I couldn't learn Japanese without it! So I'm totally down with Kanji.

    Also, the meaning associated with each Character helps me memorize and guess words. When I try reading a children's book
    with very few kanji, it becomes annoying because sometimes there are no spaces between the words. If the language is intended to be informal, a lot of the particles
    disappear and my reading speed is about 66% of something written for high school / adults. Whew! :-P
  • WTF, this thread is still going??
    The Japanese like their kanji, abandoning them is a western concept, and an arrogant one at that.
  • Sorry, I didn't realize you were the conversation police and that adding a comment (which the correctly functioning software permits) was something that would cause you such anger.
    Chill out, or write your own code for posting boards that have a preset expiration date on a topic.

    My post, which apparently you didn't read, tried to express a logical explanation based on the frequency of homophones, as to why Kanji and Japanese cannot be fully separated,
    but Korean and Hanja can. Also, Kanji is a great way for me to remember vocabulary, so I don't think I could learn Japanese without it. I am agreeing with the topic's title.
    I love Kanji. Sorry if I came in late, but I've lost interest in this forum as some reactions to users' questions and discussions have become more like youtube shit-talk-fests than like an exchange of ideas. There are a lot of beginners who want to ask "newbie" questions, yet terse and "oh you should've known that" kinds of answers don't create a good environment for learning in my opinion.

    The sad fact is, the Japanese are abandoning Kanji by themselves. I hear people increasingly using words like リスニング instead of the correct word 聴解 or 聞き取り能力
    or ウォーキング instead of 散歩 Electronic devices have been causing people to write a lot less.
    I had to use a dictionary to prove to my friend that she was writing 達 with one stroke too few. She is a nurse and blamed it on using computers only at work to
    enter patient information. The scientific parts of medical language are mostly Chinese derived, the procedural parts seem to contain a lot of German and English.
    Original Japanese words or expressions must have existed before the introduction of those loan words. In that sphere, it seems many Kanji words are being replaced by katakana English.
    Will the word 医院 disappear entirely and be replaced by クリニック ? Who knows. And originally the character for 医 was more complicated but that too was abandoned.
    Not a lot of people I meet can write country names and animal names in Kanji anymore. I believe that Kanji can't completely disappear for the reasons I mentioned.
    While Jouyou Kanji have increased in number this year, I'm guessing the average joe isn't going to be able to write all of them (read them, yes).
    Now, the characters for "Ramen" are officially jouyou kanji. Quiz your Japanese friends next time ;^)

    Also, I'd like to point out that posting a message that asks if a thread is "still going" does in fact cause the thread to keep going (i.e. appear higher in the list than it would have had you posted nothing).

    Anyway, bye for now forums.
  • As I've already covered paulusmaximus, it's a myth that homonyms is a logical argument against getting rid of kanji. They don't speak with kanji, they speak with sounds. Hiragana represents those sounds. Anything which is clear when spoken is clear when written in nothing but hiragana. If there WERE problems with homonyms, those would turn up in conversation long before the problem came to writing.
  • No one ever said that they need kanji in conversation. Kanji is a WRITING system that makes the reading of Japanese more effective. It is OK if kid's books, postcards or short letters all in kanas, but I really cannot imagine how awkward it would be if a 12 pages newspaper or a hundreads-page book are all filled with small crowded kanas without spaces. And I don't think Japanese people can tolerate that. That is possibly one of the reasons why their じょうようかんじ are increasing, rather than decreasing.
    By the way, the kanas are not the same kind of characters as Roman alphabet or hangul. As paulusmaximus points out, kana are syllabries rather than a system of consonants or vowels; and kanas cannot be assembled as hangul into distinct words.
    Also, you may have known that the vocabulary they use in writing are tons more than the vocabulary they use in talking. Generally, the Japanese do not talk like writing an article, and it would be too そや if they write like they talk. This does not mean that they cannot catch the meaning if the article is recited out, but basically they don't need to pronounce those kanji when they read them. Obviously it takes more time in reading いっしょうけんめい than 一生懸命.

    Finally, I often found Paulusmaximus' posts quite stimulating, and it would be a pity if he left the forum.

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