Japanese Kanji

How many of them are there? This may be your first question when you are ready to study Japanese. The most comprehensive Japanese dictionary of Japanese kanji (“Dai Kanwa Jiten”) contains over 50,000 entries. But, it is safe to assume that no one would possibly know everything in the dictionary.

In a more practical sense, statistics says that about 2,600 Kanji will cover 99% of the Kanji that are seen in a newspaper. But the number will get even lower when it comes to talk about what is taught at school.

In the Japanese educational system, Kanji is taught at the elementary to junior high school levels. The actual breakdown of Kanji at elementary school is as follows:

1st Grade: 80 kanji
2nd Grade: 160 kanji
3rd Grade: 200 kanji
4th Grade: 200 kanji
5th Grade: 185 kanji
6th Grade: 181 kanji

An additional 1,130 kanji is taught at Junior High School, which will add up to 2,136 kanji all together taught at school. This selection of 2,136 is called “Jyo-Yoh Kanji” (the Standardized Selection of Japanese Kanji).

The great thing about Kanji is that if you know the shape, you know the meaning attached to it. So without having to know or read the sentence itself, you can get the meaning of it oftentimes.

When learning a language, unfortunately you can’t get away with not learning its vocabulary. For language learning, 2,000 words is not too prohibitively astronomical. When you hit the 1,000 mark plateau, you will realize that you can read or get the meaning of most paragraphs surprisingly well. So hopefully you will get there eventually by taking 1 Kanji at a time or a few.

Your comments and questions are always welcome.
– C2Gi Immersion Center

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