How many kanjis do the Japanese people need to know so they can read, write and speak their own language? One of the biggest concerns and “headaches” of learning Japanese are the Chinese characters that the language uses, known as kanjis.
How many kanji are there?
Japanese school children must learn 1006 basic characters, the kanji kyōiku, before finishing sixth grade. This list is a subset of a larger list, which was implemented by japan’s Ministry of Education in 1945.
This list is called jouyou kanji [常用漢字] which literally means common-use Chinese ideograms. Currently this list of required ideograms have about 2136 kanji for the fluency level of the Japanese. This larger list of characters should be dominated by the end of school. Students learn through repetition methods.
In all it is believed that there are more than 5000 Chinese ideograms in the Japanese language. Over the years these ideograms have ceased to be used and have been replaced by other words written in hiragana, with other kanji or even international words written in katakana. Knowing 2000 kanji is more than enough to have fluency in the Japanese language.
Do the Japanese know all the kanji?
It is said that the Japanese do not know all the jōyō kanji, which are the most advanced, because some of them are rarely used in everyday life and, as much as they have learned in school, the rare use of some kanji makes the Japanese forget these characters. Depending on the profession, the Japanese may or may not know all these characters.
- A factory worker, for example, will certainly not know/remember everyone.
- A biologist or doctor may know more of these kanjis.
Now, someone who works in the area of education, literature or some area of humanities will know almost all of these kanjis due to the fact that they deal with these little-used characters.
However, in texts and newspapers, the little-used characters contain the furigana to make it easier to read those who do not know them. A well-literate Japanese person can read 3000 kanjis or more. A doctorate can probably reach up to 5000, especially if related to your field of study.
More than 5000 is possible, but many kanjis would be extremely rare, which would make it even more difficult to remember them. In reality we should not worry about the amount of ideograms in the Japanese language. We shouldn’t even tell you how much we’ve learned. Focus only on learning words and deciphering an unknown kanji will become easy with the help of your radicals.
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