Kanji delays students’ objectives

Regarding Shinjiru Kanda’s Oct. 10 letter, “Kanji requirement for daily life“: Today kanji serves only a decorative purpose in the Japanese language and daily life. It is not essential for communication or written expression when hiragana plus some katakana can do what kanji does.

Kanji sometimes harms Japanese students. The Japanese school system is excellent in its emphasis of collectivism over individualism, but in my experience, when Japanese students come to university, they demonstrate two shortcomings:

First, about 80 percent of them cannot write a proper essay as they did not learn structure, format or the art of analysis, elaboration and expression in their grade school years.

Second, they have little knowledge and interest in world affairs.

I think these effects are due to the fact that they were forced to waste a lot of time mastering more than 2,000 Chinese pictures, which provoke rote learning as well. They did not have enough time to properly learn liberal arts or a foreign language such as English during their school days.

Whether students will be successful or not at the university level depends on their training in the school system. Abolition of kanji would give them extra time to learn the affairs of the world from liberal arts courses in school.

As a result, universities would not have to waste the first year teaching them liberal arts. That would reduce the length of the bachelor’s degree program from four to three years, saving a lot of money for struggling parents.

Alternatively students could utilize the fourth year to learn much more about their chosen subject to get, say, a “superior bachelor’s degree.” Such a system exists in Scotland and Australia.

dipak basu

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

  • zer0_0zor0

    Learning kanji is a form of study that falls within the liberal arts. The author’s lack of understanding in this regard demonstrates a degree of cultural illiteracy or simple bias.

  • zer0_0zor0

    Yes, the cultures of North East Asia are, to a significant extent, rooted in Chinese characters.

    Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism were all transmitted in Chinese. Chinese was the first writing script to which the Koreans and Japanese were exposed. The phonetic alphabets were initially developed by reducing sound components of characters, with that being brought to fruition in Japan approximately 700 years before Korea.

    I would say that the use of Chinese characters, which represent the world’s only surviving graphic (ideograph pictograph, etc.) writing system has a cognitive dimension that is significant to social psychology.

    And not only are Chinese characters connected to the liberal arts, but directly to the fine arts as well in the form of calligraphy. There is probably no other writing system in the history of mankind that has developed as rich a calligraphy tradition as those writing systems in which Chinese characters are used.

    In that sense, one could go so far as to suggest that art, per se, is built into Chinese characters.

  • Joachim

    There is much misunderstanding on the part of people who should know better about how kanji are structured and used. First of all, they are not “pictures,” and Basu-san automatically disqualifies himself from the discussion by repeating this description. The proper term is logograph…I earn not a penny from defending kanji and don’t even care to do so as a hobby, but it is irritating to see the ill-informed dredging up old and erroneous arguments, esp. when the not-so-hidden goal is just another form of haughty Japan-bashing…It’s true that Japanese students are poorly trained in composition, but anyone who has taught in America, for example, can tell all sorts of horror stories about how badly American students express themselves in their native language.