Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101.com

View topic - Joyou kanji = fluency?

Joyou kanji = fluency?

Japanese, general discussion on the language

Re: Joyou kanji = fluency?

Postby NileCat » Wed 11.09.2011 11:18 am

Jimbreen-san, before I’m ready to jump in a controversy which might make sense only in a political sence, I have a question for you.

jimbgreen wrote:This is an article of faith, as there has been no systematic investigation of literacy levels since the late 1940s.

jimbreen wrote:It seems there was another study in the mid-1950s, but the results weren't much different.

Could you please give me some reasonable explanation why you do not consider these recent nation-wide surveys as "systematic investigation"?

http://www.mext.go.jp/a_menu/shotou/gak ... 020513.htm
They are results of the academic ability tests of school children conducted by MEXT.

And this is the rate of school enrollment,.
http://www.stat.go.jp/data/chouki/zuhyou/25-12.xls
(Microsoft Excel file)
User avatar
NileCat
 
Posts: 1168
Joined: Sat 08.01.2009 2:11 pm
Location: Tokyo
Native language: Japanese

Re: Joyou kanji = fluency?

Postby jimbreen » Wed 11.09.2011 7:39 pm

NileCat wrote:Jimbreen-san, before I’m ready to jump in a controversy which might make sense only in a political sence, I have a question for you.
(...)
Could you please give me some reasonable explanation why you do not consider these recent nation-wide surveys as "systematic investigation"?

http://www.mext.go.jp/a_menu/shotou/gak ... 020513.htm
They are results of the academic ability tests of school children conducted by MEXT.


As you say, they are the results of "academic ability tests of school children"; they are not measures of literacy in the community as a whole.

Most education systems have these sorts of internal tests. Some are good and objective; others are largely cooked up for propaganda and political purposes. They are very prone to the sorts of problems that bedevil widescale testing, e.g. coaching, teachers "teaching to the tests", etc. I am certainly in no position to pass judgement on MEXT's internal testing.
User avatar
jimbreen
 
Posts: 165
Joined: Tue 06.27.2006 2:09 am
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Joyou kanji = fluency?

Postby NileCat » Thu 11.10.2011 6:36 am

I’m not going to discuss about anyone’s political bias here. I’m just interested in the average reading/writing ability of the average adults in today’s Japan. And I’m afraid your assumption seems to be extremely underrepresented.

Firstly, the rate of enrollment in compulsory schooling is very high in Japan. It is a widely-known fact even if you don’t trust the officially announced figure at all. Pupils are required to learn 1006 kanji in the first 6 years, and 939 in another 3 years.

Secondly, our society does not assume a person who didn’t go to high school an ‘average person’ although people realize there are a lot of able people who don’t finish high school. It is education-conscious society for good or ill. On the “official data”, the rate of advancement to high schools is approximately 96%.

Thirdly, reading/writing ability is considered to be essential in our society. In fact, many employment-offers require handwrote resume, even for some minor part-time jobs such as dish washing. It might be the case in any country, however, our common sense does not accept people who can’t even read the shop’s manual.

And lastly, in terms of the “common sense”, there exists a rough guide which evaluates people’s ability by the amount of kanji they know. Here is a criterion for the Japanese Kanji Aptitude Test. http://www.kanken.or.jp/teido/

Level 10: Tests 80 kanji (1st grade of elementary school)
Level 9: Tests 240 kanji (2nd grade of elementary school)
Level 8: Tests 440 kanji (3rd grade of elementary school)
Level 7: Tests 640 kanji (4th grade of elementary school)
Level 6: Tests 825 kanji (5th grade of elementary school)
Level 5: Tests 1006 kanji (6th grade of elementary school)
Level 4: Tests 1322 kanji (junior high school level)
Level 3: Tests 1608 kanji (junior high school graduate)
Level 2: Tests 1945 kanji (high school graduate)
Level pre-1: Tests 3000
Level 1: Tests 6000

This list seems to be fairly representing the common perspective in Japanese society although it doesn’t prove anything about the actual ability of the people. However, it would be one of the evidences of the fact that an adult who knows only 800 kanji will be held in contempt in our society.

Note that I’m not talking about political issues such as necessity of educational reform. I don’t have any objection against the opinion that a deterioration of academic ability is recognizable today. But, as I said before, claiming “average adults know only 800 kanji” is nothing but a dismal warning if I refrain from using the word propaganda. It works only in the political context.
User avatar
NileCat
 
Posts: 1168
Joined: Sat 08.01.2009 2:11 pm
Location: Tokyo
Native language: Japanese

Re: Joyou kanji = fluency?

Postby micahcowan » Thu 11.10.2011 8:56 pm

I'm loath to enter a conversation of this sort, but I feel compelled to make some points.

NileCat wrote:Firstly, the rate of enrollment in compulsory schooling is very high in Japan. It is a widely-known fact even if you don’t trust the officially announced figure at all. Pupils are required to learn 1006 kanji in the first 6 years, and 939 in another 3 years.


"Required to" isn't the same as "do". But assuming you're right (which I'm perfectly willing to accept), it completely ignores Jim's actual argument, which is that everyone in Japan does learn them, but a significant proportion of the populace loses them again over time after the studying is done, and as they fail to be continually exposed to all of them.

Secondly, our society does not assume a person who didn’t go to high school an ‘average person’ although people realize there are a lot of able people who don’t finish high school. It is education-conscious society for good or ill. On the “official data”, the rate of advancement to high schools is approximately 96%.


(This appears in the same vein, to ignore Jim's actual claim. As does your discussion of kanten.)

Thirdly, reading/writing ability is considered to be essential in our society. In fact, many employment-offers require handwrote resume, even for some minor part-time jobs such as dish washing. It might be the case in any country, however, our common sense does not accept people who can’t even read the shop’s manual.


I agree this is very likely to be true in urban areas. I am highly skeptical that this is true in Japan's many more remote/rural areas. And the fact that there have been zero studies done about this (as has been pointed out, all existing studies focus on people either in school, or fresh out of it - and many of them use laughably low standards for what makes "literacy") makes the claim highly suspect. As does the sheer likelihood, on a moment's consideration, of a 100% figure actually being true.

Heck, almost 22% of Japan's current population are age 65 and older. Am I really to believe that virtually all of these are still at the same literacy level they were at age 20?

Even if we limit the population under examination to those 40 and under, I have a hard time believing that everyone outside of "mainstream" lifestyles - people who live their lives far away from urban lifestyles, and working jobs that may not be "typical" for Japanese, reading virtually no newspapers or books on a regular basis, and not being exposed to much need for literacy in their daily lives over a period of many years, could all actually meet a reasonable level of literacy. Even if we assume everyone in metropolitan areas does, which is really quite enough of a stretch without this.

(Note, I have no comment to make about the specific/rough figure of 800 as a ballpark for kanji; I'm certainly not equipped to evaluate it, even based on personal experience - nor do I have any direct exposure to anything related to Japanese literacy; I'm just pointing out what I perceive to be less-than-effective arguments, and of course the utter incredibility of a 100% figure.)
User avatar
micahcowan
 
Posts: 249
Joined: Fri 08.13.2010 2:08 pm
Location: California, USA
Native language: US English/米語

Re: Joyou kanji = fluency?

Postby NileCat » Fri 11.11.2011 11:07 am

micahcowan wrote:"Required to" isn't the same as "do". But assuming you're right (which I'm perfectly willing to accept), it completely ignores Jim's actual argument, which is that everyone in Japan does learn them, but a significant proportion of the populace loses them again over time after the studying is done, and as they fail to be continually exposed to all of them.

Fair enough.
I totally agree with that people forget.
But there seems a big difference in perception between you and me.
Let me ask you a question: Do you think you will forget the basic words such as “east” or “west” some day in your future? (meaning/pronunciation/spelling) How about the word “sick” or “novel”? How about “sex”?

東, 西(east, west) --- in the 80 kani
病気(sick) ---in the 240 kani
小説(novel) ---in the 440 kanji
性(sex), 非常口(emergency exit), 政治(politics) ---in the 825 kanji

The word “to want”(欲しい)or “young”(若い)are to be taught in the next level. Which means, although I realize it sounds like a big amount to many of you, those elementary kanji are not “needless knowledge” which you are forced to memorize at school such as names of the capitals or the former presidents. They are necessary and useful for the native people. Therefore children are required to learn them, and they do. And after finishing school, they don’t have to read newspapers or novels to maintain the memory because of the same reason you don’t forget those “daily” words in your mother tongue.

micahcowan wrote:I agree this is very likely to be true in urban areas. I am highly skeptical that this is true in Japan's many more remote/rural areas. And the fact that there have been zero studies done about this (as has been pointed out, all existing studies focus on people either in school, or fresh out of it - and many of them use laughably low standards for what makes "literacy") makes the claim highly suspect. As does the sheer likelihood, on a moment's consideration, of a 100% figure actually being true.

I agree that things are very different between in urban areas and in rural areas. The academic level would be much lower in many areas. Nevertheless, as I said, I’m not talking about mathematical factorization or such. At least for people who went to elementary school (see the enrollment rate), their lifestyle would not affect that much on their very basic kanji vocabulary.
And I’m afraid I’m not sure if someone quoted any reliable source which made you laugh.

micahcowan wrote:Heck, almost 22% of Japan's current population are age 65 and older. Am I really to believe that virtually all of these are still at the same literacy level they were at age 20?

No. You’re right. The level goes down. A man who knew 3000 kanji at the age of 20 one day realizes he can remember only 1500 is highly likely.
User avatar
NileCat
 
Posts: 1168
Joined: Sat 08.01.2009 2:11 pm
Location: Tokyo
Native language: Japanese

Re: Joyou kanji = fluency?

Postby Pianogirl123 » Sat 11.12.2011 2:38 am

Your arguments seem similar to the way literacy develops in any lifestyle. I think both you guys have valid points. Probably people forget some words and Kanji, but also learn others as they go through college and then enter the workplace. Don't forget that a classroom education in any language, even your own native tongue, is only a general set. Kind of like how you spend most of high school studying things you'll never use.

If one were to quantify language knowledge, most people probably only know about 1% of their entire language. Scholars who devote their life to it, maybe 5%. Think of not only all the modern dialects in use both native and adapted, but all the historical literature that can still be considered understandable by modern speakers, dating back hundreds of years. Some of these contain expressions using only words we use today, but whose meaning and significance in the context of the period in which it was written is either incredibly obscure, or only guessable. Here's a quote from oxforddictionaries.com -- "It's also difficult to decide what counts as 'English'. What about medical and scientific terms? Latin words used in law, French words used in cooking, German words used in academic writing, Japanese words used in martial arts? Do you count Scots dialect? Teenage slang? Abbreviations?" -- Even if you look on a micro scale, people invent new expressions and jokes amongst their circles of friends on a daily basis.
User avatar
Pianogirl123
 
Posts: 80
Joined: Fri 05.13.2005 11:57 pm

Previous

Return to Japanese General Discussion

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests