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When studying is it better to focus on Kanji form of words?


Jul 30, 2015
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I'm still relatively new to learning Japanese. I know hiragana and katakana, while trying to learn words in just those I often come across words that have kanji forms when I look them up. Are kanji forms of words more commonly used? Does it matter greatly which form of a word I use?

This may be a dumb question but I'm going to ask anyway. Is there a list anywhere or a book that lays out the form of words that are most prominently used in Japan?


May 15, 2015
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Words are commonly written in kanji. However, there are words which are more commonly written in hiragana - this is indicated by a message like "usually written using kana alone" or something along those lines in certain (digital) dictionaries (but I'm actually seeing this in dictionary apps rather than browser dictionaries). Still, that does not necessarily mean that you'll never encounter that specific word in its kanji form.

You will get the hang of this eventually. If you are not sure which way is better to write a certain word, you can just look it up to see which form is the more common one.
If you use regular vocab lists (from books etc.) instead of dictionaries (which tend to display a more kanji-rich version of the word than necessary) for vocab learning, then most likely the most natural way to write each word will be displayed. If there are no kanji listed for a word, then maybe that means you should not worry about what its kanji form might look like.

While of course most nouns, verbs, adjectives have a certain kanji associated with them, there are other types of words, partly of rather grammatical nature, which don't require kanji so much, like adverbs, interjections or in some other way particularly "unique" words. But that's just a very general generalization, in the end you will have to figure it out for each individual word. You can observe what type of word that word is so you get a feeling for the tendency though.

The vocab lists in Minna no Nihongo, for example, provide the kanji form next to the reading in kana, but some words don't have one. I guess it mostly makes sense where they removed the kanji version (if there is one) to avoid confusion for learners.

It does however make sense to take a look at the kanji form whenever it is conveniently provided on the same page as the hiragana form, as this will make you learn passively what some of the words look like if written in kanji, and it will help you recognise those words in normal text even if you don't know the meaning, reading or kakijun of the individual kanji.


Jan 14, 2009
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You should always know the kana form anyway, as you should know how to read the words. Just because there's a kanji form doesn't mean it's commonly used or correct for the context you're writing in, so be careful.

There are also plenty of cases where it's simply up to the choice of the person writing.