Kanji – Chinese Symbols That Help Establish Clarity
The Japanese language can be entirely written in Hiragana. However, that can be quite cumbersome since unlike English – Japanese does not use ‘spaces’ to break and pause between words. Typically, you just learn from experience in reading where new words start and end within the sentences. Yet experience alone won’t really help you 100% of the time because in addition, some Japanese words are spelled exactly the same in ‘hiragana’, yet they have completely different meanings.
For this reason, Kanji, or Chinese ‘symbols’ (also known as characters), were brought into the Japanese written system to help distinguish between ‘same’ but ‘different’ Japanese words. Kanji in use basically replaces a Hiragana word – so for example the word はは (haha) could mean literally ‘haha’ in English, or it could also mean ‘mother’ in Japanese. Using Kanji to replace ‘はは’ with the symbol 母 makes it clear for the reader to understand exactly which word is being used, thus reducing errors and making long Japanese sentences easier to read.
Some Examples of Kanji With Their Meanings in English
くろい – black
ねこ – cat
ふくろう – owl
わたし – I, me
おかあさん – mom
あおい – blue
やまだ – Yamada
でんしゃ – train
ほん – book
Need Further Help?
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