I love Japan, the Japanese culture, history and language!

For the past 4 years I studied Japanese & Spanish at Birkbeck, University of London and graduated last November, something that I’m incredibly proud of. Though since my last classes in July 15 I haven’t really studied much, not uncommon amongst students and probably the result of burnout due to studying part-time and working full time for 4 years. Somehow it also coincides with the time when I started to work more with Tableau and get involved in data visualization. Possible correlation?

Lately I’ve been yearning to get back into it, practice Japanese by speaking using sites italki.com and start reading again. But I needed to get back to my dreaded nightmare

– Kanji –

For those not familiar with it, let me try and give you a quick overview of the Japanese language:

The English alphabet has 26 letters. – That’s it!

The Japanese language has 3 writing systems:

  • Hiragana – a syllabary alphabet consisting of 48 characters, used mainly for conjugation purposes as kanji often cannot convey verb conjugation
  • Katakana – also a syllabary alphabet consisting of 48 characters, used mainly to write foreign words
  • Kanji – traditional Chinese characters which have been imported by the Japanese. Note that knowing Chinese will help you learn Japanese but the Chinese Kanji has been simplified whereas the Japanese has remained unchanged which sometimes makes it harder for Chinese speakers to identify the Kanji.

There are over 50,000 Kanjis recorded, however a Japanese person will need about 2000 for compulsory education and an academic will know around 5000. Scary isn’t it?

But by now you are probably asking: “Wasn’t this a blog about Tableau and data visualisation?”

It still is, but all this preamble was needed to show you my latest err… viz:

Kanji Learner Tableau App (how’s that for a catchy title)

I had this idea of combining studying Japanese and using Tableau so I’ve created a sort of app to do this. A couple things before we look into it:

  • Thanks Robert Rouse at Interworks for your help when I got stuck with stubborn container problems.
  • Tableau is not an app builder, but if/when we get a tableau public app or the site renders well on mobile it can definitely be used as one, for simple things like this.

When using it, you can either click on a Kanji directly or narrow down your study list by grade and or number of strokes. The side panel then displays the Kanji selected followed by the Kun and On reading/meanings.

From Japanese.about.com

“On-reading (On-yomi) is the Chinese reading of a kanji character. It is based on the sound of the kanji character as pronounced by the Chinese at the time the character was introduced, and also from the area it was imported. That is why the On-reading might be quite different from Standard Mandarin today. The Kun-reading (Kun-yomi) is the native Japanese reading associated with the meaning of a kanji.”

Kanji Gif

Here’s Robert’s post on how to create the sliding panel, also download the workbook to see how everything was put together it may make more sense.

Creating a collapsing menu container in Tableau

Kanji are notoriously hard to learn I’m still struggling with them, I hope you have found it useful, if you did please share it with anyone that’s learning Japanese, it’s free and it’s one more tool available.

Thank you for reading

David