Watashi Kanji: Learning Japanese One Character at a Time

watashi kanjiWatashi kanji in Japanese literally means the gender neutral ‘I or me’ in the kanji character, written as: 私. Kanji is the adopted Chinese logographic characters used in the modern writing system of Japan along with katakana and hiragana.

The ‘kanji’ Japanese terms literally means ‘Han characters’ and is written in the same Chinese characters as the word ‘hanzi.’ You can learn so much more about watashi kanji by checking out this course which is a step-by-step method of showing you how to read kanji.

Pronouns in Japan

In the Japanese language, pronouns are words used for referring or addressing to things or people. Linguists sometimes suggest that the language of Japan does not have pronouns and unlike other languages that do have them, these words are morphologically and syntactically identical to nouns.

However, as other point out, these words function as reflexives, demonstratives and personal references, just the way pronouns work in other languages. For a more in-depth explanation, you might want to read this article, especially if you are serious about knowing all you can about kanji.

Compared to many other languages, pronouns are less frequently used in the language of Japan. This is mainly because there is no requirement of grammar to include a sentence subject. Thus, you will seldom translate pronouns on a one-to-one basis from English to Japanese. There are no other meanings for English personal pronouns such as ‘you,’ ‘I’ and ‘they’ but many personal pronouns in kanji do.

Consider 2 words that correspond to the pronoun ‘I’ in English, which is watashi kanji: 私. This word has other meanings including ‘manservant, personal or private.’ For more Japanese words and characters, here is a course you might want to check out entitled Learn 80 JLPT N5 Kanji and 530 Japanese Compounds.

Honorific Speech

Words in Japanese referring to other persons encompass the system of honorific speech and within that context, should be understood. Choice of pronouns depends on the social status of the speaker as compared to the one listening. It also depends on the sentence’s objects and subjects.

In formal contexts, first person pronouns like watashi and 2nd person pronouns like anata are used within context. In Japanese, a lot of I and you words are omitted since everyone understands who the speaker is referring to.

Referring to Yourself

The first person pronoun watashi in kanji is only used usually when the speaker wants to especially stress the fact that the referral is towards himself, or if there is a need to make this clear. At times, it is thought to be uncouth to refer to listeners using pronouns. When this is the case, the surname of the listener is suffixed with a title such as boss, teacher, or customer or the suffix –san.

The Particle Wa (は)

The particle wa is used when it is require to state the sentence topic for clarity. It is not, however, required when you can infer the topic from context. The sentence subject can sometimes be indicated by frequently used verbs. For example ageru means give in the sense of “someone giving to someone else other than me” while kureru means give in the sense that “someone gives something to me.” Do you see how there is no need for pronouns such as watashi, as the verbs themselves already indicate to whom something is being given?

Gender Differences

In spoken Japanese, another challenge is gender difference. Women and men refer to themselves using different pronouns. The way people refer to themselves is also determined by social standing as well as how other people are referenced. Take note however that watshi kanji is gender neutral.

Writing Watashi in Kanji

It will benefit you to learn the correct order of stroked for Japanese words and letters. Write words in Japanese beginning with left to right horizontal lines and then vertical top to bottom lines. Writing the letters in the wrong order will make them look a bit off. Whenever you can, draw kanji words. One general rule for writing kanji is to begin from left to write, top to bottom.

If you see more than one character, divide this into two and begin drawing the left before the right side. Before vertical strokes, horizontal strokes come first. Vertical strokes can precede many intersecting strokes that are horizontal if the vertical ones do not pass through the horizontal stroke which is the lowest.

Aside from watashi, there are about two to three thousand commonly used Japanese characters and a few thousand more are used occasionally. In various kanji for Japanese Industrial Standards, there are about thirteen thousand encoded characters. However, just as there is no definitive count of Chinese character, the same can be said for kanji.

There are fifty thousand comprehensive characters in the Kai Kan-Wa Jiten, but the 1994-published Zhonghua Zihai contains about eighty-five thousand characters. In any country, none of these are used commonly and many are archaic forms or obscure variants.

When Do You Use Kanji?

In modern day Japan, kanji is used for writing parts of language such as verb stems, adjective stems and nouns. For writing adjective endings and inflected verbs, hiragana is used to disambiguate readings, miscellaneous words and particles which have no kanji or when the kanji is considered too hard to remember or read.

For when you represent non-Japanese loanwords called onomatopoeia, Katakana is used, such as for the names of animals and plants. Here is an elementary Japanese Course entitled Japanese in Context which might just be the course you have been looking for.

When Did All This Start?

At the time when Chinese characters were introduced, the language of Japan had no written form and texts were read and written only in Chinese. In the Heian period, a kanbun system emerged which involved using diacritical marks with Chinese text to let speakers from Japan restructure and read sentences that were Chinese. This was done by adding verb endings particles or changing the word order, according to Japanese grammar rules.

Hope this helps! Here is a course entitled Speak Japanese Fluently- Master Conversational Japanese which helps you go beyond the basics and confidently hold a conversation.