日本語の秘密 30/33


日本語の秘密/ The Key to NIHON-GO

by 岸本建夫 [Kishimoto Tatsuo] 1999
OCR/Corr by most.cyak@gmail.com, Oct 2014


Section 6 You Can Communicate with Japanese People Using Only Kana

→ You Only Have to Know the Meanings of Kanji,
   Not to Pronounce or Write Them

  I told you in the preceding clause that you don’t have to overdo it learning kanji, but you want to learn kanji because books, magazines and newspapers use it and because there are many kanji on the signs around town. It’s true that if you don’t know kanji, you won’t be able to understand most of what’s in the newspapers and magazines. That’s why it’s convenient to know the meanings of the kanji.

  If you want to learn something from written material, like newspapers or magazines, you can learn just the meanings of the kanji. What does it mean to understand the meanings but not be able to read or write the kanji? This may seem like an awfully strange rule.

  Even with an English word, you may be able to look at it and understand its meaning but not be able to pronounce it correctly or accent it in the right place. It’s the same with kanji. Being able to read it with the correct pronunciation or accents and being able to understand its meaning are two separate things.

  So far as understanding the meaning of a word is concerned, words written in kanji are easier to understand than words written in English. Kanji characters are ideographs, so it’s easy to understand and remember them, even if you don’t know how to pronounce them. It’s extremely simple to remember the meanings of certain kanji like 一 iti, 一 ni, ニ san, etc. Compare these to their English equivalents: one, two, and three. Kanji characters such as 山 ‘mountain’, 川 ‘river’, and 心 ‘heart’ are very simple characters. Kanji were originally pictures, so it goes without saying that you can learn their meanings from their shapes. This is an advantage that they have over the writing systems of languages like English that use alphabetic scripts. You will have a difficult time if you try to master the reading and writing of kanji. Each kanji has several different readings, learning these is difficult enough, but it’s even more difficult to master how to write them. You will need an enormous amount of time to master reading and writing kanji characters. I can only say that it’s a waste of time. It’s good enough to learn the meanings only.

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