What if Japan stopped using Kanji?

Culture The Japanese script - a book with seven seals? What do you need to know

What is the 桜 symbol and what does あ り が と う mean? If you have often wished you could read the Japanese script and would like to learn Japanese, you shouldn't hesitate any longer. Provided that you have good motivation and a lot of perseverance, it is not impossible to fathom the secrets of the Japanese writing and at the latest for your favorite manga or your next trip to Japan it is worth it!

In contrast to the German alphabet, the Japanese alphabet consists mainly of three different scripts: the Kanji characters from China and the two syllable alphabets Hiragana and Katakana. While numbers in Japanese are often (unfortunately not always) written in the Arabic numerals we are familiar with, the Latin alphabet - called Rōmaji - is also used in the modern Japanese language.

Three Japanese scripts you can choose between while learning Japanese? Unfortunately not, because all three are used equally alongside each other in everyday texts. However, they have specific functions. We have summarized them briefly:

Kanji - "The main script"

Since the Japanese did not have their own writing system, the Chinese Kanji characters were adopted and adapted in Japanese around 1,500 years ago. As logograms, they usually depict the root of the word and so mostly two characters are put together to form a word, e.g. 漢字 - kan (Chinese) + ji (characters) = Chinese characters. There are over 50,000 Kanji in total, but many of them are no longer used in common parlance.

It is estimated that the Japanese language uses around 6,000 Kanji. If you want to acquire a good knowledge, you should set yourself the goal of learning about 3,000 of the regularly used Kanjis. When determining the most important characters, it is possible to refer to the list of Jōyō-Kanji (Kanji of daily use) of the Japanese Ministry of Culture. For example, the 1,026 most important Kanji that Japanese learn in elementary school are also listed here.

Hiragana - "The women's script"

Kanji were not considered appropriate for women in the Heian period, so they were only allowed to use the syllabary Man’yōgana. However, the characters proved to be not particularly practical for brush use, so they were gradually simplified, resulting in the Japanese writing Hiragana. Over the years, a single character for every possible Japanese syllable prevailed, which was arranged in a systematically structured alphabet. This Japanese alphabet, the so-called Fifty Lute Chalkboard, is still used today in Japan for alphabetical order, for example in dictionaries.

Hiragana is the most widespread of the two syllable scripts in Japan today and is mostly used for grammatical forms and particles in a sentence. In the Japanese school, too, this syllabary is learned first, because that too Furigana (Japanese. 振 り 仮 名) and which are more widespread in everyday life, reading aids printed in small letters next to or over Kanji, which you will often see next to place names at train stations and which indicate the pronunciation, are mostly written in hiragana.

Katakana - The writing of the monks

The clergy found the Kanji too complicated and created the Katakana syllabary as a reading aid for complicated texts. With only 50 characters, the simplification can probably also be regarded as successful. Today, however, the script is almost only used for foreign words and foreign words for which there is no Kanji.

Rōmaji - The Western Influence

In the 16th century, Latin characters came to Japan through European missionaries.

Only a century later they almost completely disappeared from Japan for political reasons, only to reappear after the country opened up in the second half of the 19th century.

Today Rōmaji are used to translate Japanese signs so that foreign visitors can find their way around better. Schoolchildren also learn this adapted Japanese script as the last of the writing systems when they start compulsory English lessons. For all who want to learn Japanese, however, it is recommended to start without the help of Rōmaji, because 1.) the western transcription does not exactly depict Japanese words, 2.) is used very little in Japan and 3.) makes it difficult Learn the Japanese language in an advanced learning process.

But enough of the theory! Anyone who has read this far will certainly not be put off by some characters from learning the Japanese script and language. Here we go!

Small resolution of the first movement:

The Kanji character 桜 stands for sakura (Japanese cherry blossom).

あ り が と う, written from the syllable alphabet hiragana, means thank you in Japanese.