Is handwriting worth learning?

Hello! I’m new here :slight_smile:

I started to study Japanese a week ago. I know that WaniKani doesn’t teach to write kanji, only to recognise them and to read them, but I want to try to enter a Japanese university in two years, so I want to somewhat master the language. However, I understand that learning to write kanji with a pen, with the correct stroke order, details, etc., is going to require very much time, probably as much as everything else.

So, the question is, do you think handwriting is worth learning nowadays, or should I concentrate on other things and just be able to type kanji?

Thank you in advance for sharing your opinions!

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Hi there,
I would say that it comes down to what your goals are concerning the language. Someone who just wants to read novels, newspaper, etc. may not need to learn handwriting. Since you want to enroll in a Japanese university, I’d say it’s fairly important that you learn how to write in the language since at the very least you will be expected to fill out applications, forms, etc. in Japanese, aside from writing you do in whatever classes you may take at uni.

Yes, learning handwriting and improving at it is time consuming. I write the kanji as I do my reviews, so I can tell you from firsthand experience that it slows things down. On the other hand, I also believe that for some people writing kanji helps cement the characters into their long-term memory.

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Personally, I don’t think it’s necessary if you don’t expect to be writing in the language regularly. However, I do think understanding basic stroke order of radicals will help you break down what looks like complicated kanji into something more easily digestible. It’s also useful if you want to read handwritten notes or handwritten-style fonts, because without understanding stroke order some kanji just end up looking like squiggles.

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There are various ways of incorporating handwriting into your studies.

Some people just find that repeating the motion of writing the kanji is something that helps them establish the memory of the kanji shape in the first place. These people don’t desire to be able to recall the kanji later, they are just using it as a way to figure out the kanji to begin with. They may find that they can write it from memory later as well, but it wasn’t the goal.

Others want to be able to write for the sake of being able to write. I think I would put myself in this category. It is a challenging thing to be able to write many kanji from memory, and I enjoy challenging myself. I have taken various levels of the Kanji Kentei, and am always striving to get better.

Still others want to write for some explicit purpose. This might be calligraphy, or for taking notes, or for taking a hand-written essay exam. The type of writing you are aiming for will determine what kind of practice you’re doing with it.

The only places where correct stroke order and details would matter at all are 1) in the Kanji Kentei just a little bit, for short sections devoted to those things and 2) calligraphy, where you’ll probably be corrected for not using proper stroke order. Everywhere else, it’s not really that important.

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For me, learning to write helps not just with remembering the meanings of the words, but with my ability to form sentences in Japanese (being able to recall the words from their meanings, not just by looking at them). I also use KaniWani for this, but find the information sticks better when I write it down.

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I say try both learning words with and without writing and see what you prefer. I started learning Japanese with writing, using Skritter, and although I did indeed learn words (N5 and N4 vocab) I found it less efficient than what I’m doing now, which is using Wanikani/Anki etc without writing by hand. I plan to learn writing by hand AFTER I become fluent, because it is important to me… just it slows things down.

Also see if the University allows stuff like test-taking with a computer or if they require you to write on paper. If they require you to write on paper then… yeah, you need to learn how to write lol.

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I’d take a look at this video:

But either way before making your decision I’d say give it a try and also inquire about the university requirements.

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Haha yeah if the University requires me to write on paper, then I’ll definitely need that :slight_smile: I was hoping to get by with a laptop though. Otherwise I will have to take notes in another language, which doesn’t seem reasonable at all.

Thank you all very much for the advice!

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Yes it is worth it. The thing with the stroke orderes arent even that hard, because you also only need to know how to write the radicals and those are often simple to write. Also when you write kanji you can generally use the rule first from top to bottom then from left to right. You can’t use this rule at all kanjis 手 is for example written from right to left and then 2 times left to right and last from top to bottom. I would still recommend also learning how to write the radicals because its often the same also in japan hand writing is still important.

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