Do the bnairs of fenult Jpnaasee skeepars raed sentences lkie Egnslih skeepars?

“Do the brains of fluent Japanese readers read sentences like English speakers?”

Do native Japanese people eventually “read” their langauge in the same way we do with English where they kinda scan the word as a whole and with key information like what the first and last letters are and what’s left over guess based on context and commonality what the word is? Or is Japanese as a language fundamentally different that this isn’t really possible?


It’s funny because your title is a lot harder to read than the entire red-circled paragraph, for some reason. Is it the same for others, or is that just me ?


Even in English it’s not just first and last, but the shape with ascenders and decenders in the right places. That’s why “Accdrnig” was much easier to scan than “skeepars”.

You do tend to see what you expect to see in context in any language. I bet you couldn’t really mix up the kanji at will, but I bet you could easily substitute 待 for 持 and things like that.


I felt that the sentence wasn’t quite as obvious to read as I thought it should be so I asked some friends and they agreed. They word they were tripped up on was “Fluent” probably because it’s not a frequent word for them to use. But they were still able to understand what the sentence was trying to say overall which was a cool proof of concept.

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Huh interesting. I thought maybe it was because I included words that were not common in every day language and not so much the “height” of letter placement. That’s actually really fascinating and makes total sense once you pointed it out. Cool!

Yeah the ‘Cambridge’ block is not a complete mess but some strategically switched letters. The heading of this thread 4 words i couldn’t read.


It’s also not from Cambridge, if you are interested in the origin of the joke/meme


Sure always happy to know more. Just know it as the Cambridge study


Anyway, discussions about self-made jumbled sentences aside, @nospimi99, I really don’t see the same trick working in Japanese. わたし, for example, is a very different word from, say, たわし. People may be able to decipher a jumbled sentence from context, but I wouldn’t anticipate it, and it definitely couldn’t be read as smoothly as the “cambridge study” passage.


Same as a few people meantioned. Some words there I couldnt read till I took time and drew out meaning from context. Its more with shapes and making sure the rough outline is the same.

Still 8m not sure it applies to japanese or maybe it does… curious what others say.

Not 100% sure about ‘fluent’ Japanese readers, but native Japanese speakers? Probably, yeah.

Not sure if the reason is actually that we read things in chunks, but we definitely can recognise things in chunks with enough context (because we have an idea of what needs to come next).

Amusingly enough, there was an article about this very thing recently. A Japanese friend sent it to me, and given that she was expecting I would be able to read it, she must have been able to do so too:
Notice one thing though: they added spaces to the text with jumbled kana. I don’t think it would work without spaces (i.e. like in regular Japanese text).

EDIT: OK, the Japanese article I linked it actually from 2009! It’s ancient! Oops! :sweat_smile: (But it seems my friend only saw it recently though. Interesting…)


Because he messed up. No one is gonna decipher at first glance that fenult is fluent.



Wow, I could read more of that jumbled section than I thought. To note, I only recognized words that are either very common (so I’ve seen them a lot) or they are very distinctive (and therefore memorable and easy to pick out). But I could read basically the whole thing with a few missed words. ^^

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This does exist in Japanese! A wee while back I showed a Japanese friend the English version and they said they’d seen it before but in Japanese! Here is a post sourced from ‘freely jp’


「こんちには みさなん おんげき ですか?
わしたは げんき です。 この ぶんょしう は いりぎす の ケブンッリジ だがいく の けゅきんう の けっか にんんげ は もじ を にしんき する とき その さしいょ と さいご の もさじえ あいてっれば じばんゅん は めくちちゃゃ でも ちんゃと よめる という けゅきんう に もづいとて わざと もじの じんばゅん を いかれえて あまりす。
どでうす? ちんゃと よゃちめう でしょ?
ちんゃと よためら はのんう よしろく」




That’s awesome! I’m gonna screenshot this and hope I remember to look at it in a year or two to compare. Thank you!

Ever played a low-bit Japanese video game? Sure they do!

I think most adults are very skilled at questimating both the visual writing AND the meaning of words/sentences. It all comes with experience really. Young folk, not so much. They’re still in training. :joy:


Yeah, I had to click through to see what was going on, and I’m a native English skeapar. :joy:


Strngly ngh, t trns t, n nglsh t lst, ntv spkrs r lkly bl t rd txt, vn f ll th vwls r rmvd. Thgh, t cn b mch mr dffclt.

Strangely enough, it turns out, in English at least, native speakers are likely able to read text, even if all the vowels are removed. Though, it can be much more difficult.

I imagine Japanese has a greater amount of semantic content, though, that would make removing things somewhat difficult. But, as I haven’t started reading, I don’t mind be utterly corrected on that assumption.

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Before reading the replies in the thread, my answer to the question is: Almost certainly yes.

And the reason is simply because the primary ‘letterbox’ which is the core component of ‘reading in the brain’ is ‘focused’ into a relatively small little patch of the visual cortex of the human brain, about the size of a postage stamp. And it’s the same little postage stamp in all humans, in all cultures that have reading (which these days is nearly all of them). Indeed, prior to the invention of written language, this little region is/was adjacent to the regions in the brain that are used to identify faces and objects. When we learn to read, we basically ‘hijack’ a little portion of this region and ‘squeeze in’ some space (about the size of a postage stamp) next to (or perhaps in-between) these more-fundamental regions which are shared with other apes and mammals. Our brains are just a little bit more flexible and adaptable, allowing us to “Learn this one bizarre trick to develop a cultural civilization and take over the entire planet and beyond!”

I learned this super-fascinating information from a mind-exploding book called Reading in the Brain by Stanislas Dehaene. I would highly recommend it to just about anybody. Despite being well-grounded in scientific research, it is also incredibly well-written for a general audience and easy to read.
[Well, after checking some reviews, it appears there’s a definite split: those who found it well-written and easy to read, like me; and those who found the science-y stuff too heavy and thus it became boring or hard to read. Ah well. I stand by my assessment of the quality of the writing, but perhaps it has a narrower audience than I imagined. Maybe more for folks already interested in the brain, neuroscience, or science in general.]

Anyway, since fluent Japanese people are also humans, it’s almost certain that they use the same ‘letterbox’ to turn visual patterns into recognizable ‘letters’/characters/idiograms/whatever and so get the same kinds of features (being able to read things with the order partially scrambled) as fluent English people can. I suspect this particular ‘trick’ would work best with kana, less so with kanji. But there may be some way in which ‘mixed up’ kanji could also be understood by a fluent reader. Maybe with radicals shifted around, while keeping ‘primary’ radicals in the same place? Something analogous, I’m sure.


More context makes the decoding / error-correcting easier to do. Short sentences/titles with little to no context are going to be harder. E.g. the ‘bnairs’ and ‘fenult’ don’t have much context, so you actually have to work out that it’s ‘brains’ and ‘fluent’. But in a longer paragraph, the surrounding context would ‘prime’ you to see them with greater success/ease.