Type JournalArticle
Date 2014-07
Volume 3
Number 3
Tags Japanese, language learning, kanji
Journal International Journal of Research Studies in Language Learning
Pages 89--104

Tackling the Kanji hurdle: Investigation of Kanji learning in Non-Kanji background learners

However, the order is rarely given any consideration at all and kanji are most often introduced in the order they appear in the textbook or the order as prescribed by the Japanese Ministry of Education.

This presumes that no thought went into either of those orders--not true, of course. Furthermore, teaching kanji in the order in which they appear in the textbook is fairly necessary; if the student learns kanji after they appear in the textbook, then the textbook materials will be incomprehensible. If the student learns kanji before they appear in the textbook, this requires learning additional kanji, which may increase the work load too much.

Despite being useful in the early stages of learning, there are difficulties associated with etymology based instruction which make etymology, as a criterion for ordering kanji and as a teaching methodology, very limited. Firstly, pictographs only make up a small percentage of kanji and therefore its application is limited to a small percentage of characters. Secondly, many kanji have undergone changes over time and frequently, therefore, bear little resemblance to their original form and intended meaning.

The typology of kanji is something that is often neglected when considering which kanji to introduce to students, however, consideration to symmetry and the form of the kanji may present some advantages to students.

This kind of form-based ordering is like the SKIP codes used by Jack Halpern in the Kodansha Kanji Learner's Dictionary.


Although Kanji is widely recognized as the most difficult hurdle to overcome in learning Japanese, little research has been undertaken on the selection and order in which Kanji are taught to Japanese students from non-Kanji backgrounds. In this study, the criteria for different orders of kanji are analyzed in respect with their pedagogical merits in teaching Kanji to students of Japanese from non-Kanji backgrounds. The principal objective of this study is to redress the lack of research in this area and the lack of uniformity in Kanji education. Overall, the orders Kanji are taught seems to be mostly arbitrary and is not considered to be of any great importance in aiding students attain Kanji proficiency. This paper examines the difficulty of Kanji for non-Kanji background learners and finds that Kanji order is indeed a vital consideration in developing more efficient Kanji teaching and learning strategies for students from non-Kanji backgrounds.

Name Role
Chavalin Svetenant Author
Simon Paxton Author