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I tried playing a game the other day, I was surprised to see [面倒]{めんどう}くさい in kanji, because even Jisho says it's mostly written in kana.

I also saw [貴方]{あなた} and [私]{わたし}[達]{たち}(not as rare), so it made me start wondering if I should try to learn the kanji of every word, regardless if the kana version is used more often or not? Can you guys read rare/unused kanji in books and games? Or do you listen to it voiced and then recognize it (if it is voiced)?

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  • めんどうくさい is written 47% of the time in kanji in the jpdb database. jpdb.io/…
    – Arzar
    Apr 20, 2023 at 1:12

4 Answers 4

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It depends on the word.

You seem to misunderstand the difficulty of 面倒, but it is a fairly common word (JLPT N3) and is normally written in kanji. There is no reason for anyone but a complete beginner not to learn how to write it in kanji. 面倒くさい has two possible readings, and people usually use kana when the shorter (colloquial) version is intended. But the longer version (めんどうくさい) is normally written with kanji.

貴方 is something you may not have to write yourself, but you need to know how to read. See also: Why is 私 a sixth grade kanji?

There are many words, such as 薔薇 (bara, rose) and 嚢腫 (nōshu, cyst), that may not be necessary to write, but should be readable by a respectable adult. There are also many words like 蟷螂 (kamakiri, mantis) and 鸚哥 (inko, parrot) that even adults don't need to be able to read.

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It's going to depend on what kind of fluency you're aiming for, but if your aim is to be able to read a variety of common Japanese texts (including simple novels along with video games and even street signs) then at a bare minimum you should be familiar with the kyouiku kanji, which are kanji that are taught in Japanese schools up to 6th grade. You don't necessarily need to know every possible reading and be able to instantly recognise how to process a compound word, but you should definitely know the most common readings, compounds and meanings. (So for example you should absolutely be able to read 食べる{たべる} and 食事{しょくじ}, and probably also 食う{くう}, but you can go for a while without knowing 食む{はむ}and 乞食{こじき}). Of note, both component kanji of 貴方, along with 面, are covered in kyouiku.

However, if you want to be properly fluent (which would include being able to read most contemporary novels and newspapers), then you should be looking at the jouyou kanji list, which roughly doubles the size of the kyouiku list and covers kanji that are taught up to the end of high school.

The JLPT does not currently publish a list of kanji that are covered in its levels, but based on what I've seen in a few unofficial guides by N2 you should probably know all the kyouiku kanji and by N1 you should know the full jouyou.

This would absolutely include knowing how to read many common words that are frequently written in kana, like 貴方 and 面倒, as long as the characters are in the list.

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I think I recall things like "貴方" being in the JLPT N1 test, so it does need to be learned somewhere down the line.

But realistically, the vast majority of people quit learning Japanese far before getting to a level where it is needed to read obscure kanji.

If you're a beginner, focus on the most common readings until you get a better understanding for kanji. As you become better at reading, you will naturally learn many readings if you have the vocab because many words share similar pronounciations.

For example, say you can read "見解"(けんかい)and "学年”(がくねん), then when you come across the word "見学”(けんがく), it is very easy to learn to read.

I think it's important not to jump in too deep and slowly building up your knowledge. If you plan to work in Japan and are closing in on a more advanced level, you do see words like "貴方" here and there.

It's worth noting that most hiragana words can also be written in kanji, but depending on the obscurity, almost everyone to almost no one may know them.

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Hmm, interesting question!

When you see "あなた" you know it means "you", but when you see "貴方", that "貴" actually means "high/noble" and shows a kind of respect, so kanji has the depth

擬音語 is another challenge, at least to me :-)

CAS

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  • "貴" actually means "high/noble" and shows a kind of respect -- 「貴様!」とかね
    – chocolate
    Apr 22, 2023 at 12:13

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