How many of you are studying kanji? 100%. While you are all at different levels of your kanji studying, everyone has and will spend an enormous amount of time and energy to master the Japanese writing system that dominates the country. So hearing the news that all that studying will have to be redone for the sake of progress leaves you in quite a puzzling situation as to what to do.
I never thought I’d see the day, but after continuing discussions for years (decades?), Japan decided to follow the trend that China set many years ago. Simplify the kanji.
For those of you unfamiliar with how Mainland Chinese works, in the middle of the 20th century, in an effort to increase literacy, China officially created a simplified version of hanzi (which we know in Japanese as kanji). While it didn’t affect every character, it changes a majority of them. It reduces stroke order, and makes complex kanji less complex.
While changing an entire written language takes time, Japan has had China to look at for example, and has had time to figure out what it wanted to do with its own kanji. Apparently now it is finally the time to take action. With the increasing aging population, and the decreasing youth population, this seemed like the perfect timing, especially with the Tokyo Olympics right around the corner in 2020.
Over the next few years, the current kanji in everything will start being replaced with their new government-created simplified version. This will affect everything from signs to books to menus to TV.
So what does this mean to the Japanese learner?
You have a new set of Japanese characters you are going to have to learn.
Luckily it’s not that incredibly different. It’s meant to make things easier, it doesn’t influence every character (especially the already simple ones), and you start to notice patterns. If it’s any consolation, Japanese people have to relearn them as well. If anything, as a Japanese learner who has only put a limited time into studying kanji, you are actually better off than a native Japanese person who has spent their whole life with them. That’s quite a nice advantage to have.
To get you started, I wanted to introduce a few simplified characters, to show you the way it works, and to calm any fears that you may have.
Japanese > Simplified Japanese
- 東 > 东
- 語 > 语
- 電 > 电
- 飛 > 飞
- 後 > 后
- 開 > 开
- 夢 > 梦
- 僕 > 仆
- 認 > 认
- 習 > 习
Not so bad right? Time to adjust. I’m already starting to create a new Anki deck to reflect these changes. We’re in this together. Just think of this as new world, with all new enemies opened up for players to enter.
What’s your game plan?
How will you handle the new changes to Simplified Japanese? What’s your plan of attack?
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.