Sunday, March 20, 2011

A good example of the difficulty of reading Japanese.

All kinds of students of Japanese have faced the challenge of learning hiragana, katakana, and kanji.

Each student overcomes these challenges in their own way and at their own pace.

To the people who haven't started learning these writing systems, often the questions of "how hard is it?" and "how long does it take?" bubble to the surface of one's mind.

I would like to present the simple facts:

1. There are 46 kana that we use in both the hiragana and katakana sets. That's 92 kana total.
2. The Joyo kanji set comprises over 1900 kanji (it's like 1965 or so but I'm writing this without access to the Internet right now so I cannot look it up)

Just to start reading, Japanese learners(stupid iPhone spelling mistake now corrected) are facing a set of at least 46 characters, but to underhand modern Japanese with borrowed English words, 92 characters are required.

That's not quite four times the letters we have in English, but it's quite a bit of memorizing (trust me).

Then you encounter stuff like this. I'm glad Western stories have entered Japan, but I can only imagine the challenge it poses for Japanese children to have to flip-flop between English and Japanese.

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