Have computers degraded your kanji reading skill? graph of japanese opinionjapan.internet.com recently republished a report from Cross Marketing Inc on how people’s kanji ability has been affected by computers. They interviewed 300 people in the middle of June via a private internet questionnaire. Exactly half the sample was of each sex, and similarly exactly a sixth were in their teens (well, aged 18 or 19), a sixth in their twenties, and so on up to the sixties.

I’m not too surprised by the results of this survey. Informational programs on TV have occasionally mentioned how the wide availability of mobile phone email and the rich dictionaries within the handsets has encouraged people to convert more words to kanji, even those words that use characters outside the recommended set. In addition, with kanji more text can be crammed into a message than if things were spelt out fully in kana.

Q1: Since you’ve started using computers, do you feel your ability to write kanji has decreased? (Sample size=300)

Greatly feel so 29.0%
Feel so a little 41.3%
Can’t say either way 15.3%
Don’t feel so 12.7%
Writable kanji has instead increased 1.7%

Q2: Since you’ve started using computers, do you feel your ability to read kanji has decreased? (Sample size=300)

Greatly feel so 3.7%
Feel so a little 14.7%
Can’t say either way 19.7%
Don’t feel so 47.3%
Readable kanji has instead increased 14.7%

Q3: What sort of things do you do when you need to look up how to write a kanji character? (Sample size=300, multiple answer)

  Votes Percentage
Type into PC and check the conversion 158 52.7%
Look up a paper dictionary 140 46.7%
Look up an internet dictionary 113 37.8%
Type into mobile phone and check the conversion 93 31.0%
Ask someone beside me 58 19.3%
Look up dictionary software 43 14.3%
Ask someone at a Q&A site, etc 0 0.0%
Other 5 1.7%
Don’t look up kanji at all 17 5.7%

I’m surprised there wasn’t a direct question about using an electronic dictionary, but they featured in the five others above, which does seem like too low a percentage given the linked survey.


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