Saturday, 10 March 2012

Why I Love Kanji (Sorta)



Correct me if I'm wrong, but is learning kanji considered to be one of the most difficult parts of learning Japanese? I mean, hiragana and katakana are ok, since they're set characters, but kanji looks complicated and then there are so many ways of pronouncing it and....

But during these past few week, I've been having lessons with Aki-Sensei (intensive teaching to try and make sure I don't crash and burn when I get to Japan), and I realised, that I like kanji. I may even love learning it.

One thing I realised about reading hiragana all the time is that I get very confused over which syllables are particles and which are part of a word. Especially if (ha/wa) is used. In each lesson, there are multiple times when I pronounce it wrongly. Plus, whenever this happens, it interrupts the flow of the sentence; try saying each word in English in syllables. It'll sound weird, and it's like that in Japanese, you need to speak words, not just read syllables.

And this may be my Chinese background speaking (I've never been so grateful that Chinese is compulsory), but a lot of the time, as soon as Aki-Sensei writes the kanji, I'll understand what the word means. Examples include 資料;しりょう (shiryou) - information, 連絡;れんらく (renraku) - contact, 安心;あんしん (anshin) - no worries! and these are just what comes to mind (now that I think about it, things like bicycle, telephone are the same too).

Of course, this isn't a good system. For one thing, my Chinese is terrible, so this applies only to the easier words. And of course, I learn simplified Chinese, while kanji uses the traditional form. The only reason why I know how to read some of it was from watching Hong Kong dramas with traditional Chinese subtitles. And of course, there are the kanji that doesn't exist in Chinese. But for the basic level that I'm now on, knowing Chinese is a great help to knowing kanji.

And even if I didn't know how to read some. I think kanji is interesting. Think of one of the first few words that you probably learnt - baka (馬鹿). I wonder why the word is made of the two words that mean "horse"(馬) and "deer"(鹿)?

Besides all that, there's also the 'safety' of kanji. Just taking the two syllables the of the word above, each syllable can mean a lot of different words (I chose the top few that appeared when I typed it in):

ば:馬、場、葉
か:課、科、化、火

Knowing the kanji means that you know what it means. And while you can probably guess it from the context if only hiragana was used, I like to be more certain; which is why I love kanji.