Jesse's Blog 46- Kanji 2
In one of my blogs last summer, I talked about kanji. I was just starting to study kanji, and talked about how difficult it was. Today I want to talk about kanji again, but not about studying it. Today I'm going to talk about kanji in general, because I've learned that it's a really special thing.
A lot of people say "Japan should stop using kanji, and change to only kana". The first time I heard that, I was interested in the idea. Why does Japan continue to use kanji? Korea has removed most of the Chinese characters from their language, so I thought it must be possible. Then I had a question that really confused me, but recently found an answer to. Kana is based on sounds, so if you can say something, you can write it in kana. So why do people say kanji is so important for understanding?
If you listen to the radio, you can't see the kanji, but you can still understand. At first, I thought that was evidence that kanji is not actually important, and that Japanese people keep it because they like the look and the history, not because it's actually important for meaning. But that's not true. The problem was that I was comparing it to English, and this is one case where English and Japanese are very different.
In English, we only have writing for sounds. That means everything you write, you can also speak, and they are exactly the same. The best and most advanced English is usually in books like Shakespeare, but the reason is only because a writer has more time to think than a speaker. This isn't true in Japanese. Speaking and Writing are not equal in Japanese. You can understand the radio, because the speaker on the radio uses sentences that you can understand. If the speaker on the radio reads from a difficult book using advanced Japanese sentences, people listening actually won't understand, because those sentences need the kanji and all the ideas that come with the kanji, in addition to the sounds.
It took me a long time to understand that, because our language is so different. It's hard for me to imagine that there are things I could write, but not speak. As a philosopher, I'm always interested in communicating difficult ideas. I'm really interested to see if learning kanji helps me do that even more. It's a really difficult thing to study, but it's also really special.