Kanji studies

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Monbusho, the Japan's Ministry of Education, maintains a list of kanji that must be learned in each grade from 1st through 12th. By the time you graduate from high school, you have over 1800 under your belt.

Kanji are tricky. Some like tree or dog mean something when standing alone on a page. Others have no strong meaning--they must be combined with other kanji to form words. Even those which stand on their own take on new shades of meaning in combination with others.

Kanji usually have multiple "readings" or ways to pronounce them, so the kanji that stands for 'left' can be pronounced |hidari| or |sa| and combined with other kanji to form words like hidarigawa (left side) or sasetsu (left turn).

Which recently lead to Tod & I heatedly discussing whether the Monbusho's kanji lists are spelling or vocabulary. I argued for vocabulary since kanji carries meaning even when it's not in combination. Tod stood for the other side--saying that the lists are only for learning how to read and write the kanji, not for their meaning.

Of course we realise that the proper answer is "These are neither spelling nor vocabulary" because Japanese doesn't work the same way as English.

But two different sources have confirmed that Tod is more correct with his defense of spelling. Children are not drilled in the meaning of the kanji they are learning--they are expected to be able to write them. Meaning comes later on, especially with the more complicated kanji learned in the upper grades.

Which might explain why I'm having such a tough time memorizing kanji.

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