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2012年10月 1日 (月)

国語世論調査 漢字書く力の低下が気になる

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 1, 2012)
Decline in kanji writing ability disturbing
国語世論調査 漢字書く力の低下が気になる(9月30日付・読売社説)

The findings of a recent Cultural Affairs Agency opinion survey on the Japanese language has brought to the fore that people's ability to properly write kanji is deteriorating.

The poll was conducted on people aged 16 or older across the country. They were asked about what impacts electronic means of communication such as personal computers and mobile-phone text-messaging have had on their daily lives.

Sixty-seven percent of respondents said their ability to write kanji correctly has weakened.

This figure is up as much as 25 percentage points from 10 years ago.

Undoubtedly, people write letters and other documents by hand less often than they used to. The 67 percent figure can be considered a reflection of this.

According to the survey, an increasing number of people find it cumbersome to write by hand, further proof of a growing tendency to eschew handwriting.


Handwriting essential

In the future, children who have yet to acquire sufficient Japanese language proficiency will communicate with other people more often using computers and cell phones. Under the circumstances, we cannot help but be concerned that children's ability to write kanji may erode further.

On the other hand, the number of kanji taught up until graduation from high schools has increased sharply.

Today, people can generate difficult kanji simply by pressing buttons on a keypad. In response to the changing times, the government revised the list of kanji in common use two years ago.

At that time, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry's Cultural Affairs Council, which played a leading role in updating the list, emphasized that handwriting "is indispensable for mastering kanji and formulating operational skills involving the characters." Attention should be paid anew to the importance of this point.

Repeatedly writing kanji by hand enhances the senses of sight and touch as well as motion perception, which stimulates brain functions, according to experts.

Parents and schools need to drill into children the importance of handwriting.

In addition, it is important that children have opportunities in daily life to get accustomed to kanji by reading literature and other written works. By doing so, children can acquire the skills to correctly use the Japanese language and develop a rich knowledge of expressions.


Afraid of friction?

The latest survey also showed that the number of people who thought it important to "use honorifics in accordance with the listener and context," and those who make it a rule to say "Excuse me" when getting off a train has increased remarkably.

About 80 percent of respondents said they were "careful" of their own choice of words. This tendency was particularly noticeable among young people.

Does this suggest people are increasingly concerned about their use of language because they are afraid of offending others?

The growing use of electronic media might have something to do with this.

It seems possible that the changes in how Japanese use the language offer a snapshot of Japanese society today.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 30, 2012)
(2012年9月30日01時36分  読売新聞)


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