Do Japanese People ‘decode’ Kanji Like We Do With Words?

The one I have so much trouble with is something like Verbてもらって because I so often parse it as ても until I realize that らって is nonsense and backtrack to see it’s てもらって as one unit. It’s especially bad when it’s split across multiple lines, which is a common occurrence when reading novels. Kind of to your point, I’m automatically guessing ahead because ても is commonly attached to verbs, but then in this case I’m wrong. I do kind of wonder if natives ever have issues with this one, maybe if they’re reading quickly or something like that.

And here’s another one: 目の当たり is read まのあたり, even though you’re likely to guess めのあたり if you don’t know the phrase. Yes, you look at whole words and even phrases rather than individual characters when you know the language, but this one contains a particle in it, so I wonder if that impacts how people see it.

There’s also the occasional word that can be read more than one way depending on the context, and sometimes the context comes several words later. (I can’t think of an example right now.) It’s not that common, but I wonder if natives would look ahead far enough to use the right reading, or if more often they just don’t bother with the reading because they still comprehend the meaning intuitively.


For most people here using WaniKani, especially those who’ve started hitting Level 30 and above, I guarantee that most people have better Kanji knowledge than overall vocabulary knowledge. For the Japanese people who were already exposed to tons of vocabulary before they even touch the Kanji associated with the aforementioned vocabulary, it’s no problem to them, but learning the onyomi readings from kanji in isolation is important for me, personally speaking

There are many times where I can’t recall a noun from WaniKani, but managed to recall a kanji and its onyomi reading associated with that word- which consequently allowed me to remember the other Kanji and its onyomi. For those lacking in vocabulary, I think it is quite important.

Additionally, when spotting new words on NHK News, online articles etc where furigana isn’t available, knowledge of the individual kanji and onyomi readings comes in pretty useful as well. One is able to more or less get the gist of what the word means and how its read.

Again, for the Japanese people most of them will almost never encounter such a problem because their vocabulary database is so much higher than 99.9% of us. I can’t speak if learning onyomi and kanji in isolation is important for others, but I think it’s important for me as a stepping stone to build solid vocab.


Accordion to the latest research, you can replace random words in a sentence with musical instruments, and noone will notice.


I honestly feel like those kinds of issues start to go away or become much less common as reading and understanding facility improves. For me, listening practice actually improves my reading since I exercise my predictive facilities quite a bit with listening.

That sounds like an issue that typesetting should fix but the Japanese custom seems to be to just run the text all the way to the bottom regardless of where to appropriately split the kana.


The mmee in yuor prticue is showmeat mesilindag. As wdros bomcee lgeonr and mroe amugiobus, the rinaedg of stcnneees aslo bcmeeos mroe dluciffit.


“misleading”? :joy:
It’s a meme on the internet, not a scientific paper.


Yes, that’s the point I’m making.

Not everyone is aware that it’s a meme, though.

Edit: By misleading, I mean that the meme doesn’t really demonstrate what it claims to demonstrate. It is written in such a way that it contains a fair amount of short function words that don’t change at all or change very little, making the sentences easier to parse. Moreover, the changes it does make don’t impact the readability as much as they could.

This is not quite how we read words. Otherwise we would have a hard time disambiguating between words that have the same letters, but mean different things when jumbled around, like “silt” and “slit”. Furthermore, the research done on jumbling letters around always shows there’s a cost to understanding and reading speed. Here’s an article that goes a bit into it:

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I think vocab is one part of it, but it’s also the fact that their pattern exposure is exponentially larger as well. Think of how many different types of sentences you’re exposed to over 20 or 30 years of English. Even relatively rare kinds will show up thousands of times.


Right, in Japanese you don’t shift words to the next line or add hyphens as you do in English. So it’s a very real problem for me.

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This is how they learn to write at school as well. As far as I can tell, the only rules are “no starting a new line with punctuation, or small つ”


Wow, all very interesting responses!

I knew I didn’t word it quite right, but thankfully most of you seemed to understand what I was trying to say ha :sweat_smile:

I just feel that you get a lot more information from a lot smaller unit in Japanese than in english. Some English words are long - I mean just in this comment there’s “interesting”, “responses”, “information”, “understand”, “thankfully” - whereas in Japanese it’s all like right there in one wee box. It just seems like should a Japanese person and an English reader read the same info in their respective languages, that a Japanese person would typically get the information quicker.

But I do get that actually, when reading English, there’s more to it than the individual letters; it’s more about the word ‘shape’, context and expectations etc.

Again, I was just curious all of your replies have been great!

~ Elle :heart:

That actually grinds my gears when I read as well. Whenever I take notes, I either leave the particle hanging at the end of a line and start a new line, or try to break the text down into sentences or clauses. But sometimes written Japanese is so awkwardly broken across lines… ^^"

Even better, because thanks to kanji one can easily distinguish between “important” and “important” and the overall “glancability” seems to be better - you can just skim the text by looking at characters.

I don’t think it’s one of the main reasons for learning Japanese specifically for me, but it’s definitely a plus :smiley: .

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