Japanese language students must learn 196 additional Kanji to consider themselves literate. These additional characters will be added to the already daunting 1945 characters that are part of the “Joyo Kanji” list, which brings the total count to 2136. Joyo kanji are the basic, fundamental characters of the language…the minimal set that an adult or post high school person should know.
I remember my college days learning Japanese. I thought I was pretty good to have learned the Joyo kanji in my 4 year career. At this point 4 years would barely be enough for me to choke down the additional requirements.
I think the motivation for adding the characters is interesting. As you might imagine, it is much easier to recognize a written kanji than it is to write it oneself. In this digital age, we have lots of help writing kanji. Input methods make it…dare I say…almost easy to write kanji. And since we read so much more than we typically write, and since input methods simplify text entry, we don’t really have to worry about recalling every stroke of any kanji. The software handles this for us nicely. So, not particularly concerned that students be able to accurately write the new characters, Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs has added these characters with the primary hope that students should at least read and recognize them.
You can learn a bit more about the Joyo Kanji: