After 10 years in Japan, you’d think I’d know the 2000 main kanji, right? Well, I only know about a quarter of that. But is it really important to know kanji in Japan? How has knowing only 500 kanji affected me? Here’s my answer.
There are three writing systems in Japan: hiragana (ひらがな), which is the main phonetic set of characters; katakana (カタカナ), which is the phonetic characters used mainly for foreign words; kanji (漢字), which is used throughout Japanese, and is taken from Chinese. It’s this last one that gives a lot of people trouble. It’s extremely important to know how to at least read kanji to be able to read a newspaper or book in Japanese. This week’s question comes from Ellen Hawley.
I had friends who lived in Japan, and even after years reading Japanese (not the phonetic alphabets but the characters) remained a problem. Have you been able to learn enough to manage well? If not, how does that affect you?
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