The English Teacher becomes a Japanese Student

In the past two years and five months, I’ve taught thousands of students. I’ve watched some of them grow and mature. Others I’ve only met a handful of times. One of reasons why I’ve enjoyed teaching so much is because it forces me to learn everyday. There’s always something to learn. Something to perfect.

And of course, the questions you get from your students. Every single day without fail, a student will ask a question that forces me to think about how to answer it in a way they can understand. Or figure out a way to get out of answering it all together.

Yo, you too young. Hmm… 

But today, after a three year hiatus, this teacher finally returned to the classroom as a student. After so many years of sitting through so many classes – it is only now that I understand how to take responsibility for my own learning. And this year I’m finally going to buckle down and focus on something I’ve wanted to do for a while. 

Pass the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). There are five levels and each level tests blah blah blah. Long story short, I’m aiming for N3. To do that, I have to study Kanji. Oh dear lord, why in the world do they have to be thousands characters. Oh and I have to remember all the different readings, too. 

El padre, el hijo, el spirito santo. 

In today’s lesson, I learnt about the four main types of Kanji categories. 

1. Shokei Moji 象形文字

These are derived from the sketches of the pictures that they represent. It’s often used to describe basic nouns. There are about *gasp* 600 of these – most of which are taught in elementary school. They aren’t particularly difficult to learn – but unfortunately they only represent a small percentage of modern characters. Boo hoo. 

2. Shiji Moji 指事文字

These describe concepts like – up and down, above and below etc. Again – a small minority of characters. 

3. Kaii Moji 会意文字

This consists of the above two or more elements. Each of which contributes to the meaning of the whole. Confusing stuff. If you don’t get it, neither do I. I’m still trying to get my head around it. 

4. Keisei Moji 形声文字

So this one is the LARGEST category – making up around 80 to 90% of the characters in the standard list. This consists of one element that roughly expresses meaning (usually called the radical), and another element that represents the pronunciation and often also the meaning. 


Concluding Remarks

A lot of people – including native speakers of Chinese and Japanese – describe learning Kanji as difficult. Of course, I agree. Having to learn thousands of characters isn’t going to a trip to Charlie’s Chocolate Factory. But then again – nothing in life truly worth having and knowing actually comes easy. And if it does, you probably can’t appreciate it anyway. 

Long story short, if I can teach thousands of students and live to tell the tale – learning Kanji is no different. All it takes is a lot of patience, hard work, consistency and coming back to it everyday till I’ve mastered it.

Wish me luck. There’s a long journey ahead. 

2 thoughts on “The English Teacher becomes a Japanese Student

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