Ken Pro wrote:
I have trouble seeing kanji as beautiful. To me they are communication, and not understanding what is being communicated is frustrating. Something tells me it's why the Japanese want to retain it, to preserve a uniqueness about them that is inaccessible to foreigners.
I suspect the Japanese want to retain for the same reasons spelling reform
has never gone over well in the States, and is giving Germany fits right now. People prefer to write the way they are used to.
For me, the basic kanji forms can be beautiful or ugly. I really like 電, with it's heavy top and flowing bottom. By the same token, I don't care much for 飛 or 非. Visually they are unappealing. Perhaps that's why I have trouble writing them nicely. Some words, like 恋, 愛, 美, or 清 I feel very positive about just by connotation. There aren't many bad words using those kanji.
In my mind, when I see kanji, I hear the Japanese words in my head. And those words are visualized in romaji, because I learned phonetics in English. So I may never appreciate the "beauty" of kanji, seeing them as just signifiers of meaning that I must decipher with my English-trained brain.
Being able to read a Japanese sentence that includes kanji is a proud moment, though. Like having a secret decoder ring in one's head.
I take it you are a relative beginner? My brain, too, was trained in English, and what's more, my initial training in Japanese was in romaji. But when I look at kanji, and hear in my head whatever word it represents, I don't visualize it as English. If anything beyond the word itself, I visualize the kana. The more you read in Japanese, the more the brain becomes used to simply operating in Japanese.
I remember one day after I had returned from Japan, I was walking in my local supermarket. Unbeknownst to me, the supermarket had put in a small international foods section. As I walked by, I saw a package that said メ[スやきそば. I read it without breaking stride and continued walking. After a few steps, I stopped and thought, "That was Japanese!" (Then I bought some yakisoba and enjoyed it for dinner that night.)
See enough kanji and kana, and you start being able to passively read it, bypassing the English centers of your brain entirely. The same goes for speaking. What I have found quite interesting since I've started learning German is that when I attempt to speak in German, I have to concentrate in order to not speak Japanese. There are now two language centers that feed information directly to my comprehension part of my brain - the native English one, and the somewhat smaller Japanese one. When I shift out of English (in order to speak German), I naturally shift into Japanese mode.