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Why Kanji have many pronunciations?

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When one decides to learn Japanese, Kanji can be really confusing. Not only because of the strokes. But also because Kanji has a lot of variations in its sound. Actually, not only sounds. One Kanji also has various meanings. In this article, we’ll focus on sounds.

The variations of pronunciations are rooted in history. Kanjis were gradually imported from China. As you might know, China has a great diversity of languages – even nowadays -: Mandarin, Cantonese, Goetian, Hunanese … As a matter of course, pronunciations differ from areas to areas and periods to periods. In addition to that, the original Japanese language also has its own sound. Incorporating all of the aforementioned background, it is easy to understand why modern Kanjis bear such complexity.

Do not be afraid, though. You can learn one sound by one sound. Standard Kanjis (“Joyo Kanjis”) comprise “only” 2,136 characters while standard Kanji sounds comprise 4,388. If you memorize the whole characters and sounds, you’ll be able to even enroll in a Japanese University. In comparison, in English-speaking countries, in order to enter the Universities, students must know at least 4,000 words. In other words, basic requirement for each languages are almost same.

Once you master Kanji, it will be very helpful to comprehend Japan better, and access Japanese literature and philosophies – great contributors to the World’s culture. To master Kanji is the entrance of to know Japanese culture itself. And you will find that activity really captivating.