At this point in time, I have already introduced resources and uploaded detailed videos on how to study vocabulary. In this article, I cover everyone’s favorite topic of all, and that is Japanese Kanji! I attempt to demystify Kanji for you and will give reasons why you don’t need to study Kanji.
First, I am sure you’re wondering to yourself, “Why do I not need to study Kanji?”. The statement that one does not need to study Kanji is a very controversial and provocative one if I do say so myself. It’s so shady, the figurative red flags will go off everywhere. You might be thinking that everything that I have written so far could have been an elaborate attempt to make you buy some sort of product like the Milky t-shirt at the NSK store. But no, there is no wonderful shiny product for you to purchase here.
As you may or may not know (but I am hoping that a majority of you do know) Kanji are the written characters aside from ひらがな and カタカナ which originate from China but were carried over to Japan. In the midst of screaming the names of the dancing young Japanese women in front of your computer screen, you may have wanted to learn Japanese or entertained the idea of it at some point. However, what usually happens next is that your enthusiasm will die down immediately after realizing you have to learn Kanji in order to be halfway decent at the language. Or you may have diligently learned Hiragana and Katakana but now you’re feeling sick in your stomach because you now have to learn Kanji. If you don’t, you won’t be able to understand the テロップ which means you won’t be able to understand shows like AKBingo!, which means you’ll have to wait for fan subs that won’t come out until months later…
However the bottom line is that, it’s there, it’s in the language itself and it is widely used by a lot of people – even more if you count Chinese people. So why not study Kanji? As I said in my last article, I could have ended this Learn Japanese series with just the three articles that I have up already right now. All that’s necessary for learning Japanese is the abundant amount of resources available to you, some technology, time, motivation, and a lot of vocabulary. A lot of vocabulary.
The thing with the written Japanese language is that it’s just one huge puzzle waiting to be solved. It kind of makes sense when you think about it because even the characters are made to fit a certain block of space. Kanji is certainly a part of the puzzle but in the grand scheme of this puzzle called the Japanese language, Kanji is rather negligible. I am not saying you could do without Kanji but instead of trying to solve the mini-puzzle (Kanji) within a bigger puzzle (Japanese language), it’s more time efficient to tackle the bigger puzzle as a whole by slowly accumulating the relevant pieces (vocabulary and grammar) and putting them together. I guess you could go and learn the meanings and readings of 10,000 Kanji for all I care but none of that is going to matter because there is little to no practical value to it. When put that way, the process becomes more of a logical one and all that’s left for you to do is put the pieces in the correct places.
I linked this video in one of the previous articles already but now that I am on the topic of Kanji, I feel it is more relevant to show it here again as a visual representation of what I mean.
Continuing on with the puzzle analogy, even Kanji themselves are a mini puzzle once you realize that the simple Kanji are what make up more complex-looking Kanji. What’s more is that there is a pattern and these radicals, or simple Kanji/pieces that make up Kanji, are often reused in a way that writing Kanji becomes easily predictable.
Make no mistake, I too was a victim of Kanji at one point many years ago. I couldn’t stomach that I had to learn this writing system and I find it somewhat miraculous now looking back on it that it all somehow worked out one way or another. Bypassing Kanji and going straight to learning vocabulary and grammar isn’t some revolutionary idea that I came up with – it’s something that many people have found on their own as they’re learning Japanese but by the time they’ve realized it, they’ve probably already spent a lot of time learning Kanji or are already somewhat far in their studies. I just happened to notice it quicker than most people after I created my study method based on some hacked AJATT and Antimoon ideology and methodology.
What I want to do now, especially with my AKBros, is inform people of this as quickly as possible so I can save them the trouble of having to worry about “how many Kanji they need to know” or “how much Kanji they have left to study”. Don’t worry about Kanji because there is no need to worry! I’m pretty sure that the fear of Kanji is irrational and is one most likely based on the exoticism that surrounds Asian languages in general. Not to mention that it’s also a type of fear created by capitalism because of the countless of books and flashcards designed to help you “master” Kanji and if you don’t have these things, you might fool yourself into thinking that is learning Japanese as a whole is impossible.
Let me assure you, myself and many people are living proof that it is not impossible. It’s a long and hard journey indeed but it is not difficult. Once the fear clears away, all that’s left for you to do is to start actually doing something about learning Japanese. I am sure for most of you on this Japanese Idol based website called New School Kaidan will naturally have motivation because of all the 青春 you’ve surrounded yourself with, which means it really all boils down to time management and keeping up with studying daily. Also if you’re wondering how much Kanji I know, the answer to that is, “I don’t know”.
Hopefully after reading this, you’ve gained more confidence about studying Japanese and begin to schedule learning Japanese as a part of your daily routine. In the next article, I intend to cover a more general topic about knowing when and how to take or not take advice and suggestions as it relates to Japanese language study. If by any chance you’ve read this article and you 悟った, definitely share what you’ve found out in the comment section below. Otherwise, do leave a comment anyway if you have any more concerns on why you should or should not study Kanji. Until next time, good luck with studying and may Acchan be with you.
So applying what I said about Japanese being a puzzle, here is how I would break down the first sentence of this article using pipe separators.