Friday, February 19, 2016

The Frustrations of Kanji

(Watch this video with subtitles on)
In this video, he is talking about the frustrations of Kanji (Chinese characters.)
In Japanese, there are over 6,000 distinct characters that you must know to read Japanese. 
This video points out the frustrations that many foreigners come across when learning Kanji: Specifically, sometimes there are patterns, sometimes there are not.
For example, the kanji for one is  一.
The kanji for two is 二.
The kanji for three is 三.
What would you expect the kanji for four to be?
四 .
That's right...四 .

Here's another example:

大 means big. 
太 means fat. 
What do you think this means 犬?


女 means woman.
台 means platform or table.
What would you guess 女台 means?

...."To begin for the first time"
Woman + table = begin for the first time.

And what the real kick of it is if you look at the kanji for depression, there are about 30 different strokes. And there is something called a stroke order. meaning that each stroke has to be done one at a time and in a certain order.
And if the strokes are done out of order, or in the wrong direction (left or right, up or down) it is wrong.

Take a look at this one: 
This kanji has 48 distinctive strokes.
The meaning is "dragons going/ moving."
And does there need to be a symbol solely for representing the movement of dragons?

In Japanese...yes.

Let's take at a kanji that is a perfect representation of  Japan's patriarchal society:

女 means woman, right?
what do you think means?
(note: it's the symbol of woman, three times)

...It means "loud, noisy, or fierce."

ご主人 is the kanji for husband.
 Do you know what it literally translates to?


Here's another common frustration with learners of kanji:

土 means soil
士 means gentleman

Can you spot the difference?

(Note: the bottom line in "soil" is a bit longer, but the top line in "gentleman" is a bit longer")

And here's another kicker:
There are at least two different pronuncations for kanji that you must know!

Since they come from Chinese characters, there's a Chinese pronunciation (onyomi), and a Japanese pronunciation (kunyomi).

Feel like pulling out all your hair now?

In Japan, there are 3 alphabets basically. 
1. Kanji, which are the Chinese characters that I showed before. Kanji is the most common (and the most common on signs and written Japanese). 
2. Hiragana, which is like simplified Japanese, where each character represents a sound. ありがとうfor example ("arigatou"- "thank you"). Te letters are more curved .
3. And then there's Katakana, which is like hiragana, but seperate, distinct, alphabet, and usually only for foreign words. The letters are similar to Hiragana but more straight, and rigid.
レストラン, is restaurant in Katakana. 

In Japan, it's common to see signs written using all three alphabets like this: 

Now let's examine Korea and what they did:
Korea, had the same problem, where they had Kanji, and then basically their own version of Hiragana and Katakana. But then they said "screw Chinese characters" and basically only use the one alphabet there (Hangul), which is similar to Japanese Hiragana. 

That's why all signs in Korea are written like this: 
Versus the Japanese sign again:
...with three freaking alphabets on one sign!
Korea was like "why do we need to make this confusing on ourselves, let's just remember one alphabet okay?"

Just for interest, here are the differences between Japanese, Chinese, and Korean written languages:

Can you tell the difference?

Also I found this on the Internet. 
I don't know how racist this is, but apparently from talking to my Japanese friends they can distinguish Japanese, Korean, and Chinese based on looks:

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