27 November, 2013

Osaka I

thank you for trying
kanji annotations
but you're not helping


Hobbes said...

While my non-existent Japanese didn't really improve after my time in Osaka, my reading comprehension of Chinese came on a long way.

Imagine the scene: you're faced with a sea of characters, some of which (kanji / Chinese) are from a language with which you have some non-zero familiarity. Slowly but surely, semantic links are made between the characters (some of which you may be able to pronounce - in Chinese, in my case) and their meaning.

Walking through a subway, for example, reinforces the Chinese for entry, exit, arrival, departure, and a few other phrases. Menus in restaurants, road signs, place names - everything in Japan is an opportunity to improve one's Chinese...

It is encouraging to see that even native Japanese have trouble with kanji / Chinese characters, to the extent that annotations often appear above the more traditional characters. I felt like I wasn't the only one unable to read all the kanji characters that I encountered - even if the annotations were entirely useless to me.

The image is from a display in the Osaka city museum, kept in the centre of its best castle, the aptly-named "Osaka Castle". I could not contain my mirth at seeing the little annotations shown.



Nick Herman said...

It's also because there's sometimes multiple phonetic-different words in the Japanese alphabets-that have been mapped to a single character, so it's telling readers which version is...which also sometimes happens in Chinese..it's just that it is not an alphabetical language, unlike Japanese, and thus, everything becomes simply context and best approximation as to a character's pronunciation based on given info, if one doesn't already know it.