New Blog Launch

Welcome to the first post of Adelphi’s new blog We hope you’ll join us each week as we share with our readers industry news, how-tos and basically anything which sparks our interest in the world of languages. Whether you are a current client, a future client or one of our linguists, we want to connect with you and show you what makes Adelphi tick.

Chinese characters in the Japanese language

Since three of our staff speak Japanese—one as a native—I thought our first offering should take us to Japan, a nation whose language has been influenced during the last 1,200 years by its proximity to China. Japanese makes use of three different writing systems (very often in the same sentence) and one of them, called kanji, arrived in Japan from China in the closing centuries of the 1st millennium AD. Whereas in English we make use of 26 letters to form all of our words, Chinese has an individual character for basic concepts, with the more advanced ideas being compounds of two or more characters. In Japan, Chinese characters form an integral part of the script and most adult Japanese will know around 2,000 or more of them.

The other two writing systems of Japanese, called Hiragana and Katakana behave differently and were developed within Japan at different times. We will discuss these in future posts.

Kotoshi no kanji

Each year, the Japanese Kanji Proficiency Society holds a national ballot in Japan to determine the character that represents the past year. The winning entry becomes Kotoshi no Kanji (“Kanji of the Year”) and is announced on 12th December in the city of Kyoto. The choices tend to represent the national mood in Japan and highlight important events of that year. For instance in 1995—the first year to have a Kotoshi no Kanji—the character was 震 shin, meaning “quake”, chosen for the Kobe Earthquake that had happened in January of the year.

The latest Kotoshi no Kanji was announced in December last year and this time it was 税 zei, meaning “tax”, reflecting discussion in Japan about the increase in sales tax in Japan from 5% to 8%, and the planned hike in October of this year up to 10%.

It is still too early to guess what this year’s character will be, but we hope 2015 will prove to be a successful year for all of our clients and linguists.