Studying Japanese characters often seen as the most difficult hurdle in acquiring a fluent level in the Japanese language. I myself well remember studying languages as a child and finding the experience rather dull and repetitive. However, as I grew older I came to appreciate kanji for all it beauty and complexity. Studying it can be a rewarding hobby for anyone interested in Japanese culture or keen on traveling to Japan someday. With the increasing popularity of manga and anime there is no better time to get stuck into some Japanese language education.

Here is a quick overview of how kanji is studied here in Japan and abroad.

Japanese kids are expected to study 1,006 basic kanji characters, known as the kyouiku character set, before completing the sixth grade. The order in which these characters are learned is fixed. This character list is a subset of a bigger set of 1,945 kanji characters called the jouyou kanji, characters required for the level of fluency necessary to read newspapers and literature in Japanese. This larger list of characters is to be acquired by the end of the ninth grade. Japanese school kids learn the sets by repetition and radical practice.

Students studying Japanese as a foreign language are often required by a course of study to obtain an understanding of kanji without having first learned the vocabulary associated with the characters. Study plans for these students vary from copying-based methods to mnemonic-based methods such as those used in James Heisig’s series Remembering the Kanji. Other Japanese texts use methods based on the etymology of the kanji, such as Mathias and Habein’s The Complete Guide to Everyday Kanji and Henshall’s A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters. Pictorial mnemonics, as in the text Kanji Pict-o-graphix, are also seen.

The Japanese government provides the Kanji kentei ( Nihon kanji nryoku kentei shiken; “Test of Japanese Kanji Aptitude”) which tests the ability to read and write the characters. The ultimate grade of the Kanji kentei tests around 6,000 kanji.

About the Author

Yoshi is an avid student of both English and Japanese. At his website you can read more about Japanese boy names and Japanese girl names. You can use it for study, baby naming or just for general interest.

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