Kanji vs Hiragana
Difference between Kanji and Hiragana is a must know fact if you are planning on learning Japanese. Before jumping to discussing the two terms, let’s have some background information. Now, would you believe Japanese had no script for written language as late as 4th century AD, and had to import script from China through Korea to adapt and use as a their own script? With passage of time, Japanese evolved a script with place for Chinese characters, and this process led to the development of two different scripts known as Hiragana and Katakana. Modern Japanese is a mixture of both these scripts. There is another term known as Kanji that confuses many students of Japanese language. Kanji are Chinese characters that are used while writing Japanese and their number goes up to 5000 to 10000. A Japanese student is expected to learn most of these characters by the time he passes his 10th grade exam.
What is Kanji? What is Hiragana?
Kanji is actually Japanese version of the Chinese word hanzi, which literally means Han characters. It is not just Chinese characters, but also Chinese words that were borrowed heavily by Japanese while developing their script. It is not surprising then that nearly half of Japanese vocabulary is made up of Chinese words.
Thus, we come to understand that Japanese language is made up of three different alphabets called Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. One can differentiate between these alphabets by their looks and their usage. Hiragana and Katakana are collectively referred to as Kanamoji, and both contain 47 characters having distinct phonetic sound. Some of the characters look alike and even have the same sound, though have different usage, and it is only a native Japanese who can tell the difference as such similarity poses difficulty for foreign students learning Japanese.
Hiragana is used to represent native Japanese words, whereas Katakana is used for Chinese words so that, a reader instantly knows about foreign words being used. Kanji make up major alphabet in Japanese language with each word connoting a different concept or a word. Kanji characters have multiple meanings, which is what makes a foreigner learning Japanese face so much difficulty in understanding kanji.
For a native English speaker, having three different alphabets may seem ridiculous. That is because an English speaker only has to deal with 26 characters. However, this is the way writing system was developed in Japan and it still remains as it is because a language is essentially a part of culture. One should remember that though languages such as English and French enjoy uncomplicated small alphabets, there are other languages, other than Japanese, that also have more complicated alphabets. For example, the Tamil alphabet which has 247 characters, though it is not as much as Japanese characters.
What is the difference between Kanji and Hiragana?
• Kanji is also used to write Japanese names and names of places.
• Hiragana is a script that evolved from Chinese script when it was adapted in Japan for local use.
• Modern written Japanese is a mixture of Hiragana and Kanji.