How many kanji are there, and how many should I learn?

One of the great challenges when learning the Japanese language is kanji (Chinese ideograms), about this subject there are 2 doubts that many people ask: How many kanji are there? And how many kanji should I learn in Japanese? In this article, we will talk about these 2 subjects.

How many kanji are there?

It is impossible to know the exact number of existing kanji. In China thousands of kanji have been created in different regions throughout history, Japan has also created its own ideograms. And throughout Japan's history some kanji are no longer used, or are rarely seen. For these reasons it is impossible to determine an exact number of kanji in the Japanese language.

If you are going to count all the kanji used in Japanese history, before the existence of hiragana the numbers could exceed 40,000. The Japanese Ministry of Education has established a list called Jouyou kanji (常用漢字), with a total of 2,136 kanji. This list was created to catalog the most used kanji in the Japanese language, in newspapers, TV, books, etc.

1006 kanji taught during primary education and 939 kanji taught during secondary education. The numbers are not accurate, because over the years several kanji have stopped being used and some have been added.

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How many kanji should I learn?

You should learn as much as possible without worrying about quantities. More than 2,000 ideograms are used in the Japanese language, however you will not need all of them to achieve fluency. Learning the 1006 kanji taught in primary education is more than enough for you to understand 80% of the language.

If you want to learn kanji, we recommend not focusing on quantity, try to learn the ideograms the way Japanese students learn in schools. That is, if you want to learn how to write and read each kanji, try to learn between 100 to 200 ideograms per year.

To improve your learning, we recommend studying words and sentences instead of isolated ideograms. Try to learn the Japanese language and not just kanji. Avoid trying to memorize ideograms and don't waste time counting the number of kanji you've learned.

I personally think it is completely wrong to count the amount of kanji we have learned, and I think many people also agree. Luiz Rafael made a video talking about exactly this subject and you can watch it below:

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Suki Desu has been working with Luiz Rafael to provide you with a better education. If you still don't know Luiz Rafael's work and his closed course, we recommend that you register on our website, and follow our social networks for more information. You can also read this article talking about the Japanese Online Program.