How Many Kanji is Enough to Understand Basic, Everyday Japanese?

Kanji is undoubtedly one of the most essential writing systems of the Japanese language. Apart from kanji, hiragana and katakana are the other two writing systems of Japanese that you need to know when learning the language.

Overall, the number of kanji characters you need to understand basic, everyday Japanese depends entirely on your definition of basic, everyday use. As explained above, you will need around 300 kanji characters if you want to read signposts, road posts, food menus in restaurants, product labels in stores, as well as children’s books.

Nonetheless, basic, everyday Japanese for some people involves reading newspapers and other books that are written for adults. So, if you want to be able to read newspapers, novels for adults or high school students, you will need at least 1,200 kanji characters. Therefore, you should first define your everyday use of the Japanese language before deciding how many kanji characters you need to learn.

Generally, kanji contains symbols that can be used for representing ideas and words. In most cases, the context will determine the pronunciations and meanings of kanji characters. While kanji can be used to form a word on its own, it can also be used as a part of another Japanese word.

Having explained what kanji is, let’s shed more light on the initial question. How many kanji is enough to understand basic, everyday Japanese? This question can be quite difficult to answer because you need to explain what basic, everyday Japanese means to you. In general, it can be difficult to define what basic, everyday Japanese means. To some individuals, basic, everyday Japanese means they are able to speak and understand what another person has said. However, some people may consider the ability to read some books as basic, everyday Japanese.

You don’t need any kanji to only speak Japanese

Now, if your basic, everyday Japanese means that you only want to be able to speak Japanese, you don’t need any kanji. In this case, you will be able to communicate effectively with other Japanese speakers orally. Without understanding kanji, you can speak discuss with anyone in any setting. However, without understanding kanji, you will likely not be able to read or write Japanese. This is because you need kanji to write or read any understandable form of Japanese.

You need around 300 kanji characters to speak, write, and read simple Japanese writings

If you want to be able to read or write simple Japanese, then you need to learn the first 300 kanji characters. With these 300 characters, you will be able to read signposts, food menus, and also read simple Japanese books or writings, especially children’s books. Therefore, 300 kanji characters will be enough to help you navigate your way in Japan as you can read signs at the train station or bus parks. Notably, you will understand about 50% of all things written in Japanese.

They will be enough for understanding some subtitles and other basic textbooks. You can also go to restaurants and order from a menu without much hassle. Basically, the first 300 kanji characters will be sufficient to make life easier for you. However, you will still come across some Japanese writings that you cannot read or understand every day.

It is worthwhile to note that the first 300 kanji characters are quite easy to draw and recall. Besides, they are used for making thousands of compound words that are used in everyday Japanese writings. Resultantly, you will definitely come across these first 300 kanji characters in many everyday uses.

You may need more kanji characters

As stated earlier, there is no standard definition for basic, everyday use of the Japanese language. In Japan, most individuals like reading news online or offline. Therefore, their definition of basic, everyday use of Japanese will involve reading newspapers, rental agreements, and other common Japanese writing pieces that you can come across in your day-to-day activities.

In this situation, you will need at least 1,200 kanji characters for effective communication. With 1,200 kanji, you will be able to read newspapers and understand the majority of the things in them. Also, you will be able to read and understand most novels that are written for high school students. In fact, with 1200 words, you will likely understand more than 95% of everything that you read in Japanese. Without a doubt, this is more than enough for people that want to understand basic, everyday Japanese.

It is important to understand that the Japanese Ministry of Education has approved some particular 2,136 kanji characters for people to understand. Once you understand these characters, you are deemed to be literate in Japanese. You will understand 99% of everything you read in newspapers, the majority of adult books, signposts, road posts, restaurants, and lots more.

Start learning somewhere

Whether you are planning to learn 300 or 1200 kanji characters for basic, everyday Japanese, you should note that you just have to start somewhere. Don’t let the number of kanji characters you want to learn to stop you from starting the learning process. Just start from somewhere and move up from there.

Of course, you will make different mistakes but this shouldn’t stop you from doing the needful. Continue learning your kanji characters by having a concrete plan for your learning process.

Irrespective of the kanji characters that you want to learn, you need to have a plan concerning it. For instance, if you want to learn only 300 characters, you can create a plan to learn as much as 10 kanji characters every week.

  • Be consistent

Whatever amount of kanji characters you are learning, you must be consistent with your study. Don’t start learning and then stop after a short while as this will not help you. So, you must make sure that you are consistent until you have reached the level that you want. Strive from time to time until you achieve the number of kanji characters you want.

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Krisada Hemsoe

I'm Krisada, the creator of JLPT TUTOR. I created this site to share the path of my Japanese learning That I achieved my JLPT N1. You may struggle with Kanji , Grammar , Listening, reading and fail again and again. I know how you feel when you see "Not Pass" I want to share what I learnt in this past through this website. Hope you enjoy

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