A fine line between Kanji mastery and arrogance

Has it ever happened to you that while chatting with a Japanese, they used some words (written in kana) that you know (thanks to WK) have a Kanji for them?
And then you replied with some words using Kanji but you were not understood, simply because usually said words are written in kana?

Well, this got me thinking, what if by actually utilizing my 2100 kanji base I’m actually giving off a… “condescending” vibe?
I know that a fair amount of Kanji is obscure, so should I not use them?

And completely off topic, what do you like more when consuming Japanese content?
  • Anime
  • TV shows

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No, as long as you don’t rub it in their face that you know how to read something that they don’t, I highly doubt that they think you are being condescending. If anything, they most likely are impressed. A Japanese guy told me about the Order of Adjectives Rule in English which I’ve never heard of before (but is something that I subconsciously use) and it got me thoroughly impressed.


Are you sure they actually didn’t understand you? Maybe they we’re just taken aback? If you remember, what word did you write in kanji? (Or is this just a question and not from personal experience?)

In either case, I think it’s a good idea to learn from experience. If you started throwing around 有難う御座います to everyone you will probably get some weird looks. But in many cases you just have to learn by observing and by trying things.


I don’t think there’s anything condescending in it.

On a more serious note, I think it’s all about intention. As long as you don’t actually intend to be condescending - everything is ok.


Well it is from experience, just not sure if I was understood or not. But then again, why would you write in kana when theres Kanji?

Thats actually one of the words I have been thinking about. I never ever saw anyone use it.
I cant recall any more words unfortunately.


With an IME, you can write any kanji that you know the reading of, so writing words on the computer in kanji is less “look at what kanji I know” and more “look at my spacebar-pushing skills!”

People have been writing words by hand for a lot longer than computers have been around, so for common words, unmistakeable words, and words with complex kanji, it’s often simpler to not use the kanji, and those tendencies got fixed as the standard way to write the thing.


There are a lot of words that are traditionally written in kana even though there are technically kanji for them. I don’t think it makes you look smart to use the kanji – if anything it probably makes your Japanese seem slightly less natural.


As fa as I’m concerned, I don’t give two hoots whether a word is usually spelled using kana or not. If there’s Kanji for it, and I know about it, I’d much rather use it. It’s a personal opinion that I think Kanji just makes text neater. As an aside, I much prefer On’yomi compounds to mixtures or Kun’yomi readings.

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Well, that sounds a bit arrogant. :stuck_out_tongue: What do the Japanese people know about the Japanese language anyway?

Something like “I only uze fonetik speling in Inglish. It looks neeter. Also, wurds of Latin-origin only. No Jermanik.”

And yeah, you’ve always got a choice of what word you want to use in any given situation, but passing over a common word or spelling in favour of something else that’s more academic or literary? You’re gonna get side-eye for sure.


Any limits to that? Do you whip out those kanji for particles we were discussing in that other thread?

In any case, I’m pretty sure anyone who has ever tried to read something that is just a wall of kanji or a wall of kana knows that a middle ground generally makes for the most pleasant reading experience. I believe the common recommendation is about 30% kanji.

Of course you'll get weird looks if you let the kanji gobble up the り.


Well, of course, it’s plain snobbery. Unless I discuss with a group of linguists or historians or philologists, this form of bragging will look rather silly, even childish.


This. The way I see it, considering we are 99% of the time typing and not hand-writing, going full kanji mode won’t make one look arrogant or condescending. It will make one looks childish, lol.

But again, this is Japan, so honestly a regular Japanese is more likely to dismiss it as “oh, they are a foreigner and don’t know what words should be in Kanji or not, that’s totally understandable” and not give it much thought.

That being said, although no one writes 有難う in kanji, I’m sure almost any Japanese will be able to read it without problems. A lot more troublesome is writing level B animals in kanji such as 麒麟 or 駱駝, and particles such as 迄 or 之 (as Leebo pointed out). It actually hinders communication and may force the other person to stop to process the sentence. Definitely a no-no if you are going for actual Japanese.


Ai wud lav if everiwan wud yus fonetic spelling in inglish. That would take some getting used to but make it much easier to learn.

Although there wouldn’t be any spelling bees anymore. Are there any other languages with an alphabet where people have spelling contests?


This post makes you look stupid. I’ve seen enough of your posts to know that you are not stupid, and lord knows I’ve made some equally ridiculous comments, but I just thought you should know.

When you’re learning another people’s language, assume that they are the ultimate authority. Assuming otherwise shows more ignorance than knowledge.


This reminds my of a Cure Dolly YouTube video, titled “Why too many kanji is a mistake. Avoiding Kanji Overload” The video basically says that balance is best for ease of reading.

Also mentions that some kids in middle school use kanji for words usually written in kana. The reasons are mostly cause they want to use the specialized kanji they’re learning in school, and there’s a culture where those that do this like standing out, or feeling special.

Interesting to think about!


You know, I went back and forth on which version to use. But that’s the one my IME suggested first, so I went with it. Besides, it’s pretty common for the kana to get swallowed up by the kanji for things like this. 受付 for one example off the top of my head.


I just use the ime replacement, if the word stays in kana I do not force the kanji.


There exists spelling bees for French. No surprise, because “English is merely badly pronounced French”. (It’s a cheesy, hyperbole, linguistic joke). The pronounciations of French words are almost as arcane as in English.

Concoursd’Orthographe - French Spelling BEE Competition


That’s interesting. I only studied french for five years in school, but I always thought the spelling was much more consistent than English.

Is there a french equivalent to this wonderful poem?

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