Kanji is one of three systems used to write Japanese. Kanji characters were adopted from the Chinese, and can represent an entire word or unit of meaning. They can be challenging for students of Japanese, who have to memorize many hundreds. Fluent readers have usually mastered about 2,000.
Takako Aikawa, Senior Lecturer in Japanese in Global Languages at MIT, initiated a project “Kanji Learning Any time – Any place!” in November of 2020. The goal was to create a series of video lectures in Japanese, with animation, to introduce some Kanji characters for students taking the third year Japanese classes. Students would learn how to write Kanji, but also learn the components of the characters: their meanings, pronunciations, and etymologies.
Takako Aikawa explained that the videos “will explain the stories behind the characters and help students become familiar with various aspects of Japanese culture, providing a more meaningful way to learn the Kanji characters. I think this will make Kanji learning more captivating and fun.”
The videos went live on OpenCourseWare (OCW) in August 2021. OCW is a free and open publication of material from thousands of MIT courses, covering the entire MIT curriculum.
Animations were provided by Meghan Perdue, MITx Digital Learning Scientist, School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. Sharon Lin, Digital Publication Specialist for OCW, created the OCW website and coordinated the video team.