Kanji ability in children and adults


What do you do when you cannot write a kanji? graph of japanese statisticsWith the ubiquity of mobile phones and computers with kanji input abilities, both the need to remember and the opportunities for writing kanji, the Japanese language’s main script, has decreased. In addition, worries about education includes whether children are really learning kanji correctly. Thus, goo Research, in conjuction with the Mainichi Shimbun, conducted a survey into kanji ability.


Between the 25th and 27th of May 2007 1,101 randomly selected internet users aged 20 or over (presumably chosen from goo Research’s monitor pool) completed this survey. More detailed demographic information is not available.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m studying for the Kanji Kentei examination in order to up my ability, particularly from the point of view of writing. Reading is relatively easy, and with a computer to aid you, electronic entry is not that bothersome at all, yet even my wife, who was always top of the class in school with kanji, occasionally forgets how to write even relatively common characters and has to resort to an electronic dictionary to crib the correct character from.

Research results

Q1: Do you feel that elementary and middle school children’s kanji ability is sufficient? (Sample size=1,101)

It’s undesirably low (to SQ1)95%
It’s not a problem (to SQ2)5%

Q1SQ1: Why do you think that? (Sample size=those answering “undesirable” in Q1)

It’s symbolic of the drop in school education levels56%
It’s symbolic of the shift away from reading literature21%
Children are not inheriting their country’s language culture12%
It’ll be embarrassing in adult life10%

Q1SQ2: Why do you think that? (Sample size=those answering “not a problem” in Q1)

They can just pick it up as they go along81%
It’s not a problem not knowing kanji19%

Q2: Do you have confidence in your own kanji ability? (Sample size=1,101)

No (to SQ)52%

Q2SQ: Why don’t you have confidence in your own kanji ability? (Sample size=those answering “no” in Q2)

Mostly use computers and mobile phones for writing73%
Can’t write sentences17%
Don’t like studying5%
Can’t read printing type5%

Q3: What do you do when you cannot produce a kanji character? (Sample size=1,101)

Type into a computer or mobile phone to see what comes out67%
Look up a dictionary29%
Write it in kana2%
Use a different expression2%
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