Adapting To Reading Without Spaces?

Hi folks -

I’m coming along in both my kanji memorization and grammar, but I still find myself struggling with the lack of ‘spaces’ between words in Japanese, especially in larger blocks of text. I’m newish to the work still (started a few months ago) so perhaps this is just something that I’ll adjust to with time, but does anyone have advice around adapting to this?

I especially struggle with words that are part kanji, part hiragana, as it takes me a moment to recognize them as one word and not ‘a kanji’ and a separate hiragana piece and I often end up misinterpreting the sentence as a result.

Any thoughts much appreciated!


Becoming more familiar over time will definitely help. The more you see words, the more you’ll be able to recognize them.

Something I do when I read a sentence for the first time is work backwards. I try to identify the verb first, then see what sorts of things are leading up to the verb. Again, as you learn more grammar, you’ll see more patterns emerge.


I also found it odd to read without spaces but after a while, not that long, I just suddenly realized, wait, I’m actually used to this.
I don’t know when it happened, I guess it just did with practice.

Also as you level up and learn more kanji and vocab, the sentences will start looking like sentences we are used to, with separate words and all, and not just a ton of hiragana with no way to tell where the word ends.

I think as long as you read the context sentences (at least), in no time you will have gotten used to it.

Ganba :shrimp: !!


Honestly, I think it would be really helpful to join the absolute beginner book club or read short comics (like on Twitter or what you might find in a newspaper). Due to the space constraints, sentences (and sometimes words) get chopped up. However, they’re usually chunked into parts- such as words or grammatical elements. Seeing them broken up so often like that helps you gain a better feel for how to recognize them.

If you’d like a bit of a stepping stool, learning to write (kana and kanji) graded books for schoolchildren also frequently add a bit of space, usually after particles to help chunk the text into useful pieces. These can be ridiculously expensive depending on where you’re getting them shipped to. Each book (they’re around 50 pages maybe) is usually only ¥100.


How well do you know/understand particles, and auxiliary verbs and adjectives? How well do you know basic grammar? Getting these down is the first step to being able to parse a sentence at a glance without the need for spaces. (Second to that will be getting used to how kanji appears in words.)


Reading English without spaces wouldn’t slow you down very much, because when you read sentences you aren’t actually scrutinizing each letter and then compiling meaning from that. You’re seeing the shapes of the words and sometimes even predicting what will come. That just comes from a high degree of familiarity with the language.

If you know a lot of words and grammar patterns, your brain will just recognize the most logical breakdown of the sentence.


After a while you’ll be thankful for the kanji and the mixed-kanji words. Imagine everything being in hiragana without any spaces… it’d be a nightmare. The kanji help to actually break up the sentences and make them more easy to digest. You’ll start just recognizing entire words that you won’t be “reading” per se, you’ll just know them visually as entire words (much the same as you likely do in English).

Ever see that word jumble? Let me see if I can find it…

Hmm well I found a different one, so let’s try this!

“It deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.”


Some advice I haven’t seen yet, start learning more grammar. I postponed that and it took me a while before I could actually read stuff. If you know the grammar parts by heart, then it’s pretty easy to find out which parts of the sentences are nouns, verbs, い or な adjectives.


I second all the replies saying you’ll get used to reading without spaces. When I started, I didn’t think I would ever get used to it, but as you learn kanji, words, and particles better, it will become easier. Lots and lots of practice is key. Now if I see text separated by spaces it throws me for a loop because I’m so used to reading without spaces.

As an example: 火は暑いです。火は isn’t a word, so you know は has to be a particle in this context. Over time you’ll recognize patterns, like い commonly being the end of an adjective, and things like that, and it will get easier. It just takes time and practice reading.


Seconding all of the advice so far. I also wanted to mention That helped me a lot when I first started reading.


Particles are your spaces. Just separate sentences into sections whenever you run into one.


私は … 日本語の … 学生です。

Of course it gets harder when you run into sentences that use words that are written in pure hiragana, but you’ll get used to recognising both that kind of vocabulary and the flow of sentences, which will develop an instinct that is able to pick out the particles.


Ah, this is a very neat tool I was unfamiliar with! Thank you <3


I recommend reading a lot of shorter stuff first. Maybe even with the help of audio. Putting Japanese subtitles on anime I was watching was quite helpful. And also reading short graded readers and small comic strips. NHK easy news are generally great in terms of length imo.

Going into entire manga will still feel kind of harsh after practicing on these shorter stories. But, when you get used to it it’s really nice. I still rely on furigana and KanjiTomo (kanji parsing program that let’s you look up kanji on images) while reading, but distinguishing between words has become easier just with time in general.

Please pardon my silliness^^;


:thinking:I’msurereadingEnglishwithoutspacesisaskillthatcanbeacquiredbutit’lldefinitelyslowyoudowntobeginwithandIthinkEnglishwithoutspaceswillbealotmoreambiguousthanJapaneseisbecauseofthemanywaysthesamelettercombinationscanbepronounceddependingoncontextorwellthat’sabitlikekanjiisn’tit?I’mtalkingabouthow :fish: canbewrittenghotiifyouusethe‘gh’ fromenoughthe‘o’fromwomenandthe‘ti’fromnation.Alotofvideosandlecturesaboutlinguisticsalsodemonstratethatthebrainwhenrecognizingwordsnormallydependsmostonthespacesandthefirstandlastlettersofwordswhereastheinternallettersofthewordscanbejumbledandstillbereadfairlyeasilyifyougofastanddon’tthinktoomuchaboutit.


:thinking:I’m sure reading English without spaces is a skill that can be acquired, but it’ll definitely slow you down to begin with, and I think English without spaces will be a lot more ambiguous than Japanese is because of the many ways the same letter combinations can be pronounced depending on context, or, well, that’s a bit like kanji isn’t it? I’m talking about how :fish: can be written ghoti if you use the ‘gh’ from enough the ‘o’ from women and the ‘ti’ from nation. A lot of videos and lectures about linguistics also demonstrate that the brain when recognizing words normally depends most on the spaces and the first and last letters of words, whereas the internal letters of the words can be jumbled and still be read fairly easily if you go fast and don’t think too much about it.

Raenidg Egnsilh wtihuot sapecs wldoun’t solw you dwon vrey mcuh, bceasue wehn you raed setnecnes you aern’t atcalluy srcituiinzng ecah lteetr and tehn cionplmig miaenng form taht. You’re snieeg the shpeas of the wdros and smoetmeis eevn pdreiticng waht wlil cmoe. Taht jsut ceoms form a hgih dgeere of fmaiailtriy wtih the lgunagae.

If you konw a lot of wdros and grmaamr ptatners, yuor barin wlil jsut roecgznie the msot locigal brkaeodwn of the stnecene.

I gseus I shluod witre smoe wdors of my own and sarcmlbe tehm for camposoirn. The wrod cpmonliig semes hdraer to roecgznie tahn msot oehtr wdros, prbobaly bescuae the barin aslo reeils on pdericoitn wehn rselivong -nveer mnid, semonoe arelady ptosed aonhter expamle:p


I guess I should write some words of my own and scramble them for comparison. The word compiling seems harder to recognize than most other words, probably because the brain also relies on prediction when resolving -never mind, someone already posted another example:p


Now upside down


On top of this, the brain is so good at recognizing words that it just has to see the first and last letter. If those are there, the order of the letters in between is rather insignificant. It’s crazy how it works.

But yes, to answer OP: just take it slowly at first, identify the particles in the sentence, this will be tricky at first, especially if the sentence contains some kind of て-form verb, or a combination of adjectives and degree adverbs.

But you’ll get there. It becomes natural pretty fast, I promsie.



:thinking:I’ɯsnɹǝɹǝɐpᴉuƃƎuƃlᴉsɥʍᴉʇɥonʇsdɐɔǝsᴉsɐsʞᴉllʇɥɐʇɔɐuqǝɐɔbnᴉɹǝpqnʇᴉʇ’llpǝɟᴉuᴉʇǝlʎsloʍʎonpoʍuʇoqǝƃᴉuʍᴉʇɥɐupIʇɥᴉuʞƎuƃlᴉsɥʍᴉʇɥonʇsdɐɔǝsʍᴉllqǝɐloʇɯoɹǝɐɯqᴉƃnonsʇɥɐuſɐdɐuǝsǝᴉsqǝɔɐnsǝoɟʇɥǝɯɐuʎʍɐʎsʇɥǝsɐɯǝlǝʇʇǝɹɔoɯqᴉuɐʇᴉousɔɐuqǝdɹouonuɔǝppǝdǝupᴉuƃouɔouʇǝxʇoɹʍǝllʇɥɐʇ’sɐqᴉʇlᴉʞǝʞɐuɾᴉᴉsu’ʇᴉʇ¿I’ɯʇɐlʞᴉuƃɐqonʇɥoʍ:fish:ɔɐuqǝʍɹᴉʇʇǝuƃɥoʇᴉᴉɟʎonnsǝʇɥǝ‘ƃɥ’ ɟɹoɯǝuonƃɥʇɥǝ‘o’ɟɹoɯʍoɯǝuɐupʇɥǝ‘ʇᴉ’ɟɹoɯuɐʇᴉou˙∀loʇoɟʌᴉpǝosɐuplǝɔʇnɹǝsɐqonʇlᴉuƃnᴉsʇᴉɔsɐlsopǝɯousʇɹɐʇǝʇɥɐʇʇɥǝqɹɐᴉuʍɥǝuɹǝɔoƃuᴉzᴉuƃʍoɹpsuoɹɯɐllʎpǝdǝupsɯosʇouʇɥǝsdɐɔǝsɐupʇɥǝɟᴉɹsʇɐuplɐsʇlǝʇʇǝɹsoɟʍoɹpsʍɥǝɹǝɐsʇɥǝᴉuʇǝɹuɐllǝʇʇǝɹsoɟʇɥǝʍoɹpsɔɐuqǝɾnɯqlǝpɐupsʇᴉllqǝɹǝɐpɟɐᴉɹlʎǝɐsᴉlʎᴉɟʎonƃoɟɐsʇɐuppou’ʇʇɥᴉuʞʇooɯnɔɥɐqonʇᴉʇ˙

:thinking:I’ɯ snɹǝ ɹǝɐpᴉuƃ Ǝuƃlᴉsɥ ʍᴉʇɥonʇ sdɐɔǝs ᴉs ɐ sʞᴉll ʇɥɐʇ ɔɐu qǝ ɐɔbnᴉɹǝp’ qnʇ ᴉʇ’ll pǝɟᴉuᴉʇǝlʎ sloʍ ʎon poʍu ʇo qǝƃᴉu ʍᴉʇɥ’ ɐup I ʇɥᴉuʞ Ǝuƃlᴉsɥ ʍᴉʇɥonʇ sdɐɔǝs ʍᴉll qǝ ɐ loʇ ɯoɹǝ ɐɯqᴉƃnons ʇɥɐu ſɐdɐuǝsǝ ᴉs qǝɔɐnsǝ oɟ ʇɥǝ ɯɐuʎ ʍɐʎs ʇɥǝ sɐɯǝ lǝʇʇǝɹ ɔoɯqᴉuɐʇᴉous ɔɐu qǝ dɹouonuɔǝp pǝdǝupᴉuƃ ou ɔouʇǝxʇ’ oɹ’ ʍǝll’ ʇɥɐʇ’s ɐ qᴉʇ lᴉʞǝ ʞɐuɾᴉ ᴉsu’ʇ ᴉʇ¿ I’ɯ ʇɐlʞᴉuƃ ɐqonʇ ɥoʍ :fish: ɔɐu qǝ ʍɹᴉʇʇǝu ƃɥoʇᴉ ᴉɟ ʎon nsǝ ʇɥǝ ‘ƃɥ’ ɟɹoɯ ǝuonƃɥ ʇɥǝ ‘o’ ɟɹoɯ ʍoɯǝu ɐup ʇɥǝ ‘ʇᴉ’ ɟɹoɯ uɐʇᴉou˙ ∀ loʇ oɟ ʌᴉpǝos ɐup lǝɔʇnɹǝs ɐqonʇ lᴉuƃnᴉsʇᴉɔs ɐlso pǝɯousʇɹɐʇǝ ʇɥɐʇ ʇɥǝ qɹɐᴉu ʍɥǝu ɹǝɔoƃuᴉzᴉuƃ ʍoɹps uoɹɯɐllʎ pǝdǝups ɯosʇ ou ʇɥǝ sdɐɔǝs ɐup ʇɥǝ ɟᴉɹsʇ ɐup lɐsʇ lǝʇʇǝɹs oɟ ʍoɹps’ ʍɥǝɹǝɐs ʇɥǝ ᴉuʇǝɹuɐl lǝʇʇǝɹs oɟ ʇɥǝ ʍoɹps ɔɐu qǝ ɾnɯqlǝp ɐup sʇᴉll qǝ ɹǝɐp ɟɐᴉɹlʎ ǝɐsᴉlʎ ᴉɟ ʎon ƃo ɟɐsʇ ɐup pou’ʇ ʇɥᴉuʞ ʇoo ɯnɔɥ ɐqonʇ ᴉʇ˙

ɹɐǝuᴉpƃ Ǝƃusᴉlɥ ʍʇᴉɥnoʇ sɐdǝɔs ʍlponu’ʇ solʍ ʎon pʍou ʌɹǝʎ ɯɔnɥ’ qɔǝɐsnǝ ʍǝɥu ʎon ɹɐǝp sǝʇuǝɔuǝs ʎon ɐǝɹu’ʇ ɐʇɔɐllnʎ sɹɔᴉʇnᴉᴉuzuƃ ǝɔɐɥ lʇǝǝʇɹ ɐup ʇǝɥu ɔᴉoudlɯᴉƃ ɯᴉɐǝuuƃ ɟoɹɯ ʇɐɥʇ˙ ⅄on’ɹǝ suᴉǝǝƃ ʇɥǝ sɥdǝɐs oɟ ʇɥǝ ʍpɹos ɐup sɯoǝʇɯǝᴉs ǝǝʌu dpɹǝᴉʇᴉɔuƃ ʍɐɥʇ ʍlᴉl ɔɯoǝ˙ ┴ɐɥʇ ɾsnʇ ɔǝoɯs ɟoɹɯ ɐ ɥƃᴉɥ pƃǝǝɹǝ oɟ ɟɯɐᴉɐᴉlʇɹᴉʎ ʍʇᴉɥ ʇɥǝ lƃnuɐƃɐǝ˙
Iɟ ʎon ʞouʍ ɐ loʇ oɟ ʍpɹos ɐup ƃɹɯɐɐɯɹ dʇɐʇuǝɹs’ ʎnoɹ qɐɹᴉu ʍlᴉl ɾsnʇ ɹoǝɔƃzuᴉǝ ʇɥǝ ɯsoʇ loɔᴉƃɐl qɹʞɐǝopʍu oɟ ʇɥǝ sʇuǝɔǝuǝ˙

I ƃsǝns I sɥlnop ʍᴉʇɹǝ sɯoǝ ʍpoɹs oɟ ɯʎ oʍu ɐup sɐɹɔɯlqǝ ʇǝɥɯ ɟoɹ ɔɐɯdosoᴉɹu˙ ┴ɥǝ ʍɹop ɔdɯoulᴉᴉƃ sǝɯǝs ɥpɹɐǝɹ ʇo ɹoǝɔƃzuᴉǝ ʇɐɥu ɯsoʇ oǝɥʇɹ ʍpɹos’ dɹqoqɐlʎ qǝsɔnɐǝ ʇɥǝ qɐɹᴉu ɐslo ɹǝǝᴉls ou dpǝɹᴉɔoᴉʇu ʍǝɥu ɹsǝlᴉʌouƃ -uʌǝǝɹ ɯuᴉp’ sǝɯouoǝ ɐɹǝlɐpʎ dʇosǝp ɐouɥʇǝɹ ǝxdɐɯlǝ:d

I ƃnǝss I sɥonlp ʍɹᴉʇǝ soɯǝ ʍoɹps oɟ ɯʎ oʍu ɐup sɔɹɐɯqlǝ ʇɥǝɯ ɟoɹ ɔoɯdɐɹᴉsou˙ ┴ɥǝ ʍoɹp ɔoɯdᴉlᴉuƃ sǝǝɯs ɥɐɹpǝɹ ʇo ɹǝɔoƃuᴉzǝ ʇɥɐu ɯosʇ oʇɥǝɹ ʍoɹps’ dɹoqɐqlʎ qǝɔɐnsǝ ʇɥǝ qɹɐᴉu ɐlso ɹǝlᴉǝs ou dɹǝpᴉɔʇᴉou ʍɥǝu ɹǝsolʌᴉuƃ -uǝʌǝɹ ɯᴉup’ soɯǝouǝ ɐlɹǝɐpʎ dosʇǝp ɐuoʇɥǝɹ ǝxɐɯdlǝ:d


I was amazed to find that I could readwhatyouwrotewithoutspacesasfastasif there were spaces.


I’m by no means a good reader of Japanese, but I actually kind of forgot it didn’t have spaces until I saw the title of this post. Eventually you just adapt to it and it seems perfectly normal. When you read in your native language, you don’t really “see” all the ways it works in written form because you don’t need to consciously process it anymore. Something similar to that will end up happening in any language you read enough of, including Japanese.


I think you’ve got quite good advice already but two points I wanted to call out are:

  1. Read up on grammar. I went and read through all the N5/N4 grammar points on Bunpro in one sitting and it helped out a lot. I don’t remember what they all are, but I can usually identify them reading so it’s much easier to look up.

  2. Particles really help break down sentences into manageable chunks.

  3. BONUS TIP: What comes before modifies what comes after. This is a pretty good rule of thumb when breaking down sentences with lots of clauses.

Honestly, it didn’t take long for me to be able to parse out words even though I still stumble from time to time.

The hardest part was getting comfortable reading vertical text. :wink: