Long ago, people actually used pencils and paper. It is hard to believe, but in an age before computers people couldn’t simply type hiragana and tap the space bar a few times to find the right kanji; they had to remember how to write them—and—then they would actually have to write them! Horrors!
I dislike writing anything by hand anymore. Partially because my handwriting ain’t pretty and partly because the only time I hand write anything now is when paying bills by check. Neither of which is a pretty sight.
Obviously, a well-rounded education would mean it is best to learn to write kanji with the correct stroke order (you should know basic stroke order rules nonetheless) if only to impress your friends, but in today’s world knowing how to read kanji is sufficient most of the time. I bet 99% of the Japanese you need to write can be done with a computer (email, printed letters, etc). The time it takes to learn how to write 2000 kanji could be spent in more productive areas such as reading and vocabulary building. For the rare occasion you need to actually write a kanji, electronic dictionaries can be there to the rescue.
People who can read kanji but cannot write are called ワープロ馬鹿 wa-puro baka because of their reliance on the automatic kana-kanji conversion on keyboards (ワープロ is from Word Processor). For years I have been happily a charter member because of the reasons outlined in the above paragraph. But the DS ２００万人の漢検 software (review coming next post) has changed my outlook a little. I still do not write much by hand, but there are a few reasons to do so:
- Impress your friends—There is nothing like being able to write a 20 stroke character in front of your Japanese friends
- Fill out customs forms and such without using an electronic dictionary
- Start an old fashioned pen pal relationship using pen and paper
- Gain a greater appreciation for kanji
- Remember details better—important for remembering distinctions between look-alike kanji.
- A sincere dislike for the label 「ワープロ馬鹿」
I’d like to hear from others. Do you study kanji in order to write as well as read them? If so, what are your motivations for doing so?