Can Too Much Kanji Be A Bad Thing?

I think all Japanese learners develop a deep love for kanji eventually. While you may not feel that way just yet, as your Japanese grows with your kanji knowledge, so does a strong everlasting bond. But even more than this, you learn how key kanji is to unlocking the essence of the language. The more, the better.

And so comes an important question asked by Jalup reader CallMeVince regarding kanji and Anki sentences.

If a word is commonly written using only kana, but it has a kanji version, which should I use on my Anki cards?

I tend to lean towards adding the kanji even if the original sentence didn’t use it. The dictionary already provides it. Even if it is uncommon to see it in hiragana, that doesn’t mean you won’t see it. And if you never added the kanji, you may not know the word when you come across it in this form.

It’s bad to make a judgment call as to what is common and what is not unless you are a high level. Most people who say you’ll never see it and it is a waste of time to learn it just simply have not read enough Japanese.

However, you don’t always need to add the kanji if it appears in multiple cards. Having it as 有る instead of ある is enough for one or two cards. Anything more than that is unnecessary and may start to become a hassle.

Worst case scenario?

It is kanji that is so rare and almost never used anymore in the written language.

But this isn’t as big a deal as you think. Anki works well because you combine it with native material. The material you have trouble remembering in Anki is the material you don’t see elsewhere. Which means it will start to stand out in Anki as you repeatedly get it wrong. If this starts to happen, just revert the kanji in the card to the kana at a later date.

Enjoy your kanji. They won’t steer you astray.

But how about you? Do you go overboard with kanji? Or do you try to avoid any possible unnecessary kanji expansion at all costs?



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Adam

Adam

Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.

Comments

Can Too Much Kanji Be A Bad Thing? — 8 Comments

  1. Thank you for answering my question I’m attempting to start the J-J phase but when I was doing my J-E cards I would always try to put in as much kanji as possible. To me its much easier to read when compared to a long string of kana. I always taught it was best to try and include as much kanji as possible but I always had a nagging suspicion that I was doing something wrong, or just wasting my time (it was kind of a pain having to look up a bunch of words to see wether or not they had a kanji form). Anyways, thanks a lot for clearing things up.

  2. I personally have developed an insatiable Kanji lust. I want to catch them just all just like the pokemon. The beauty of the Heisig process is that eventually learning a new kanji becomes easier for you in some ways than a native. I don’t think that this because they don’t have the kanji knowledge to break up and recombine elements, its because the way they learned kanji is rote memorization and they remember all too well the painful hours of repetition all through school. As a result they are loath to learn new kanji actively. Us Heisig folks experience kanji as an imaginative process, so its much more fun to grab a new kanji. And you will get points with some people if you know how to write(by hands) things like 菠薐草、魑魅魍魎、薔薇 and 紫陽花. Plus knowing these “obscure” kanji is great just because you won’t be freaked out when you see them, where a Japanese person might just give up on it.

    When I SRS, I have found I have a tendency to fly over hiragana and katakana words, but if I put a hiragana word in kanji like 浮き浮き, or 擽ったい I focus more on what the word means rather than settling for the gist…The gist is great, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes you want to be able to remember these words better.

    • i doubt that they do not know how to break up the kanji. i say this because from learning chinese from a young age, i have been taught to break up the characters to be able to memorize them with ease.

  3. I usually leave things as I find them, precisely because I don’t feel I should be making judgment calls at my level. (Though if I see a word multiple times and it’s sometimes in kanji, I’ll pick the example that has kanji.) Then when I eventually come across that rare occasion when a rarely-used kanji is used, I’ll add that as a new card. So I end up occasionally having two cards instead of the one that I’d have if I’d used the kanji the first time I learned the word, but I doubt this adds significant mass to my deck. The one exception I make is the target word in an example sentence in the elementary school dictionary; those are clearly using kana for artificial reasons and it’s better to have the very occasional unnatural card I’ll make than to have dictionary diving never teach me post-elementary kanji.

    In general I think it doesn’t really matter which way you go: input will sort out the problem either way.

  4. I’m not so much about learning barely used words that have really obscure kanji, I still do, but what I do instead is write in the old form of characters.
    (會、發、廣、體、對、etc , etc) (会、発、広、体、対、etc , etc)

    Mostly because it looks nice and I like it, even if I look like a tool to people.
    I also have lots of interest in Cantonese too, So i know it will help with that.

  5. I must admit, since my main input is from YA-type material (light novels in particular) I often skipped over words which seemed to usually be written in kana. Generally, if I felt I grasped the meaning, they didn’t even make it to my deck.

    Then I started reading 化物語. I didn’t even know that 成程 – なるほど – could be written in kanji at all, and certainly there were no qualms about cases like 台詞 or 勿論.

    That said, I know what those words mean, and furigana is provided the first time around, so I didn’t have any trouble with the meaning; those kanji did get added to my Anki deck afterward, though.

  6. Personally, I’ll maybe put an obscure kanji in a couple of cards and then drop it for subsequent cards either because it’s a hassle to write or I’m not sure about stroke order. After that, if the word comes up again in kana, I’ll actually put the kanji in the answer next to the reading.

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