The Density of Kanji

Japanese writing, called Kanji, is beautiful. It's a "logographic writing system1". A fancy way of saying the written symbols primarily represent words (or parts of words) instead of sounds. That approach allows it to be much denser than English. Something I realized after picking up a Japanese Twitter follower.

Take this Tweet2 for example:


It's 131 characters long. Nine shy of the Twitter's limit. After running it through Google translation engine it becomes:

Recently, scientists found that the human ideal height is 168 cm, the upper and lower range of variation can be between 167-170 cm. Research indicates that tall people the blood circulation route is longer, it is also heavier burden on the heart, and therefore might affect life expectancy. Shorty body surface area is relatively small, less daily energy consumption, a corresponding reduction in the required nutrients, strong physical endurance.

That's 447 characters. More than 3x the length. I doubt the most efficient human translator/editor could get the same information across in English while staying under Twitter's 140 character limit.

It blew my mind a little to figure this out.



  1. Here's the Wikipedia section on logographic writing systems I used when writing this post.

  2. And here's the original Tweet that got me thinking about all this.