The Japanese Kanji of the year and the German word of the year
Several organizations worldwide have the tradition to announce a word of the year. Methods and policies differ from country to country but in some years, you can see a general trend. In this article, we want to cover how Japan and Germany chose their words and characters and which words were chosen during the pandemic.
1. How the Words and Characters are chosen
In German, the “Wort des Jahres” (word of the year) is announced by the Association for the German Language every year. The word is chosen by the association based on public discussion and topics that were important in that year. In the beginning, the “Wort des Jahres” used to be the word for the whole German-speaking region, but later Austria, Swiss, and Lichtenstein started choosing their own words. In Japan, The Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation announces a Kanji (Chinese character) of the year. Unlike in Germany the Kanji of the year is decided based on a public vote that everyone can participate in online or via postcard. The Kanji is published every year in December at the Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto.
2. 2020 was the Pandemic Year
If you look at the words for 2020 you can see a general tendency for pandemic-related words. In Germany, the word of the year 2020 was “Corona Pandemie” (corona pandemic). In Japan the Kanji chosen for 2020 was 密 (Mitsu). In Japan, the term “3-Mitsu” became popular during the pandemic. It refers to crowded places, close-contact settings, confined and enclosed spaces. The Japanese terms for these three words all start with the Kanji 密. If you look at other countries you can also find pandemic-related words, e.g., the word of the year chosen by the American Dialect Society was “Covid” and the word of the year chosen by the Collins English Dictionary in the UK was “Lockdown”.
In Japan the Kanji of the year was 金, which means gold or money. It refers to the many gold medals that Japan achieved in the Olympic games but also to the subsides paid during the pandemic. The same Kanji had also been chosen in 2016, 2012, and 2000 also amongst other aspects in reference to Olympic Games. This Kanji is the first Kanji that has been selected more than once. It seems like the Olympic Games always leave a lasting impression on the Japanese public.
Hopefully, the words for 2022 will not be related to Covid-19 again. Do you agree with the words and Kanji that were chosen or would you have selected a different word? Which word do you think will be important this year?