Can you distinguish complex kanji in a text?

So far I know only simple kanji, but it already starts to get harder to distinguish parts of them (like snow, or electricity). And while my eye vision isn’t perfect anymore and I’ve got a tiny astigmatism defect recently, it is still pretty good (0.8/0.9 of 1.0, not sure if there is an international scale for this).

Anyway. I wonder, how many reasonably young people can read really complex Han characters as they appear in the plain text of a standard font, of, like, 12-14px, without magnifying or using glasses?

When you become used to the kanji you stop needing to be able to discern the individual parts in a kanji and instead read it as a whole. Just like you can read words without reading every letter.


They do kinda get to the point where you can recognize them at a glance. Even if you can’t, the context usually gives away what it is, particularly if it’s part of a compound word.

The tricky part is being able to draw them from memory, although breaking them up into their radical constituents makes it a lot easier. Looking at kanji in terms of the radicals is also really useful when it comes to distinguishing between multiple very similar kanji, for example:

鯖「さば」- Mackerel
鮭「しゃけ」- Salmon
鮪「まぐろ」 - Tuna

You can tell mackerel apart since it contains the kanji for blue, 青「あお」, quite literally being 魚青, fish blue (mackerel are typically blue).

1 Like

I was more thinking about kanji like these:

Some of them look pretty blurry, it is more recognising them by shape than by radicals at this point.

1 Like

Indeed. Recognising by shape is optimal. I honestly have no problem recognising the ones in that list which I have learned.

1 Like

Just at a glance, i quickly recognised 影 (15 strokes) from the shape alone. I didn’t need to carefully look at all the strokes. However, the next character to the right could be either 微 or 徴. I can’t quite tell without context.

I recognise many of the kanji in the picture you provided. But I know I’m subject to the fallacy of looking for my lost keys under the lamp posts (I can’t look for my keys any other place because it’s dark there). I’m pretty sure of the kanji I recognise but I wouldn’t wager my pinky on any of them. I think the way to master how to read is two fold. First, learn all the kanji. Second, learn how to distinguish which smudge corresponds to which kanji. I fear I will never master the second part, but I guess time will tell. My point is, I don’t think the eye sight is the problem and I’m not sure magnification would help much. The problem is the resolution of the kanji on the screen. The kanji I can read, I can do so because of prior knowledge of what it’s supposed to look like.

1 Like

Like someone mentioned above - think about how you read English. Generally when reading kanji I’m comfortable with and know, I don’t even have to really look at. I just breeze right by it. This also happens because your brain is becoming familiar with patterns in the language and, based on context, you’re kind of predicting what’s going to come next. That’s my reading experience, anyway.

For reference, I’m 20 and don’t have perfect vision (near-sighted). I just find that exposure within text helps me the most because I become used to recognizing kanji quickly, not just staring at it to find each and every stroke.

Written kanji is extremely difficult, though. I have a difficult time recognizing my friend’s handwriting unless I already know what word she’s writing.

Well handwriting is often special.

In some languages even natives sometimes have a hard time recognising each other’s handwriting.

Speaking of personal experience with Russian and the college years of not being able to understand what the hell is written in your friend’s lecture notes :smiley:

I was wondering about this as well. I often increase the font size on some webpages to read it more clearly when I’m tired, and that is for English. I find it interesting that people can still recognize the “smudges” of kanji even they are much more complex than the letters of the Latin alphabet. I wonder what I’ll be like once I know more complex kanji.

re: handwriting, I can’t understand a lot of what my husband writes by hand in English (my native language), so I think all bets are off on handwriting :slight_smile:

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 365 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.