日本語の秘密 32/33


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

→ Use Hiragana Times

  I am a reader of Hiragana Times, and I think Hiragana Times is an excellent means for studying Japanese. Other magazines and newspapers do not have kanji readings. It’s not all that much trouble to include the readings, but they don’t do it in these publications because Japanese people can understand most of the kanji readings by the time they’re old enough to read those publications anyway. Before Japan lost World War II, Japanese newspapers and magazines did include the kanji readings. Why did they stop including them? Before the war, there was no limit to the number of difficult kanji they used. Also, few people were educated beyond junior high school. For this reason many Japanese people did not actually have the ability to read many kanji characters. They could read Japanese and get the information they needed with the help of the readings though. After the defeat, many people believed that Japanese was too difficult, so they put limits on the number of kanji that could be used and they simplified the more difficult kanji characters. For example, the complex character 學 gaku ‘learn’ was changed to the simpler gaku. This was a good thing in itself, but readings were abolished as a result because it was presumed that all Japanese people had mastered kanji.

  Japanese would be a lot simpler if readings were attached to the kanji characters. We must revive the use of readings. It would be extremely useful both for Japanese children and for non-native speakers who are trying to learn Japanese to have the readings alongside the kanji text.

  There are those educationalists among the Japanese people, however, who strongly believe that this would show contempt for the Japanese language, and they are standing in the way of bringing back the use of kanji readings.

  From this point, the Hiragana Times, which is trying simply and purely to spread knowledge of Japanese to foreigners and to promote cross-cultural exchange, is not standing in the way with this kind of strange educationalism. The Hiragana Times and its related publications are extremely useful for Japanese language study. Since they contain information about all kinds of areas; including politics, economics, lifestyles, culture, etc.; as seen by the average Japanese or foreigner, it is easier to learn the specialized lingo and kanji of a given field without having to go out of your way.

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