Does anyone else get the impression that the way a word is written with kanji is just a contextual specification of an otherwise identical term?
Even if it does apply to only a few words, a concrete example that comes to mind is かえる for returning, with 帰る returning home, and 返る returning in general. It works the same way with 帰す for sending someone home and 返す for simply returning something.
I wouldn’t know how to display pitch accents here, so that words like 蛙 aren’t treated similarly, but it seems like there is a certain disparity between the written and the spoken Japanese language.
Other such examples that come to mind:
上る, 登る, 昇る: (のぼる) - going up (generically, by means of climbing, in the sky)
早い, 速い: (はやい) - early/fast, specific contexts aside (for non-Japanese), essentially the same meaning
暑い, 熱い, 厚い: (あつい) - hot (people, things, concepts? (hospitable behavior, seriousness of an illness, abundance, generally translating to forms of warmth in ways less explicit than the first two writings))
会う, 合う, 遭う: (あう) - to encounter (people face to face, harmonious encounter (matching), unexpected/undesirable encounters)
There is quite an expansive number of such cases, and while not all words that share a pronunciation share a meaning, it seems like it is the case most of the time.
In this case, does it still really make sense to teach Japanese vocabulary through the writing? To me it seems like a phonetic approach to vocabulary in terms of how they relate to one another makes more sense than relying on what’s ultimately a borrowed writing system.
This by no means aims to discredit learning kanji, or challenge that kanji is helpful (it is very much so), but rather I’m questioning how vocabulary is being taught, and whether there aren’t better avenues that would teach spoken Japanese more effectively than through the means of the writing system.