Can the Japanese read all Kanji?

Embassy of Japan in Germany
在 ド イ ツ 日本国 大使館




Feature - Do you know Kanji? - to the Japanese script


Kanji 1,500 years ago are meaningful characters taken from Chinese with the two Japanese syllable alphabets hiragana (ひ ら が な) and katakana (カ タ カ ナ) together, form the complex Japanese writing system.

Usually two come together kanji (漢字) to a word:
kan (Chinese) + ji (characters) = Chinese characters
ni (sun) + hon (origin) = 日本 = land of the rising sun (Japan)

Hiragana-Syllables are used e.g. in verbs for the grammatical ending that is necessary, but also for prepositions or conjunctions such as "at", "from", or "but", "and" etc.

Katakana is used today, for example, to reproduce non-Japanese proper names and other foreign words according to their pronunciation:
or: Oliver Kahn: オ リ バ ー ・ カ ー ン (Oribaa Kaan)
Soccer: サ ッ カ ー (sakkaa) after the English "soccer"

There are a total of 40-50,000 characters, an educated Japanese can use about 4000-5000, Japanese students and anyone who wants to read a Japanese newspaper needs almost 2000 different ones kanji learn to write.

Unlike in Chinese, they have kanji but also several pronunciation options in the Japanese language. So you can use the above characters for both Japan nihon also nippon (see our feature on the country name). This also makes reading Japanese proper names very difficult, and you can sometimes see Japanese people talking to one another with your finger kanji paint in the air or in the palm of your hand ...

The Japanese and Chinese languages ​​are not at all related, and over the centuries and following separate reforms in their respective countries, the spelling, meaning and use of the kanji- Characters developed quite a bit apart. On the other hand, there is a certain similarity to the Korean language.

Would you like to learn Japanese? Only the writing is really complicated ...
Inquire at an adult education center near you or contact a German-Japanese society in your area.

You can also find a new catchy one every month kanji to learn on our online magazine "News from Japan".