More people checking kanji on cellphones
Dictionaries are giving way to cellphones when it comes to checking kanji, according to a survey by the Agency for Cultural Affairs.
The survey found nearly 80 percent of people in their 20s turn to cellphones more frequently than to print, electronic or online dictionaries when they do not know how to write Chinese characters.
More people are using their cellphones' kanji-conversion function for e-mail messages to find the correct way to write difficult characters.
The survey, based on interviews held in February and March with 1,943 people 16 or older, focused on the use of kanji.
One question asked respondents to choose the means they use when they are not sure how to write kanji. Multiple choices were allowed.
The print dictionary topped the list, cited by 60.6 percent of the respondents. But the cellphone, with 35.3 percent, came in at second place.
Meanwhile, 21.3 percent picked the personal computer or word processor, with its similar conversion function, 19.4 percent said they preferred the electronic dictionary, while 10.1 percent chose the Internet dictionary.
"We did not expect that the cellphone would rank above the electronic dictionary," said an official at the agency's Japanese Language Division.
"The finding symbolizes a modern society where the cellphone is used as a versatile tool in everyday life. This will affect government policies on kanji."
Some 40.8 percent of women selected the cellphone while 28.9 percent of the men said it was their choice.
For respondents in their teens to 30s, the cellphone was the most popular choice.
The survey also found that the kanji conversion functions of cellphones and other devices have made it easier for people to use complicated kanji.
The survey found that 78.9 percent of the respondents use hiragana for the word "utsu"鬱 (depression) when they write it.
But 71.5 percent said they use the 29-stroke kanji character, arguably one of the hardest to write from memory, when they type the word on cellphones or other devices.
"For young people, kanji is something they type (from the cellphone pad or the personal computer keyboard) rather than write with their hands," said author Tatsuro Dekune. "The ability to write correct kanji may be considered inconsequential someday."(IHT/Asahi: September 17,2007)