Does reading without kanji help with listening practice?

(Just a heads up, I am NOT suggesting reading exclusively in hiragana/katakana. Learning to read kanji is additionally an important skillset to learn!)

Back when I started reading Genki I, I noticed that the start is initially in hiragana only. At first, this felt like a pain, because I knew all of the kanji phrases that were being used, but I had a hard time understanding what I was reading because the kanji weren’t there to clarify. After a little while, I realized a connection between reading hiragana only and listening, as listening also lacks the clarity that kanji provide.

Do you guys think that if I tried to read some material without kanji that it would help me with listening comprehension? I think I’m at a stage that I have a hard time recalling words without seeing their kanji (I’m starting to work on that with torii, but it’s a slow process), so I’ve had a lot of instances where I hear a word that sounds familiar and can’t think of it. I can’t help but think maybe reading hiragana/katakana only would help me with that sort of thinking. If reading kanji-less is the way to go, do any of you have suggestions for sites that may provide such an option?

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“Reading” meaning… reading aloud? Or following along while someone else reads it aloud?

Because I’m not completely sure that either of those would help with listening.

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I’m not necessarily at the level to be saying this, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

I would say that reading without kanji is not a good idea at all. What ends up happening is you learn a word and it’s reading, which is good and all, until you realize that in the real world, this word will never be written in hiragana, but in kanji instead.

In the end, what you will be doing is that you will basically be learning the same word twice and “re-wiring” your brain to think of how this word is written in kanji, instead of hiragana. Which is, effectively, the way you should be thinking of most words in Japanese in the first place.

In terms of reading comprehension, I think it could help. But again, I don’t think that reading without kanji is necessarily the reason for improving that skill. Reading with kanji will do exactly the same, while also helping your reading skills much more than reading without kanji.

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I don’t have enough experience in that (yet). But i am interested.

It would maybe have an effect. But what would work better, is just to get a lot of listening practice. Here is a link to the listening companion to Minna no Nihongo first beginner book (free, but script available for a small fee):


I more mean that I would read a sentence in hiragana, and see if I understand the sentence and it’s context without having the kanji backing.

My general thinking I that when I hear someone say “その靴が好きです” I’m really hearing “そのくつがすきです”. Of course understanding the kanji sentence is crucial, but if I strip it down to the simplest form of only hiragana I need to understand what くつ and すき mean if somebody had spoken that sentence to me.

Sorry if that doesn’t make much sense, I’m struggling to explain my thinking

I don’t think it’ll be more effective than just listening. The rhythm, feel and vocabulary in speaking and reading is so different. I think you’ll probably engage a whole different part of brain in listening.


I’m wondering if you’re not quite making the connection here between words and sounds inside your brain, because when I read your first sentence, I automatically heard it in my head as そのくつがすきです.

To make an analogy with English, if I said, for example, “apple”, you’re not picturing it as a word that’s spelt A-P-P-L-E, but rather a sound of “ah-pl”. Or probably you’re even picturing the fruit itself.


Interesting, I think I was missing that connection. I have a feeling part of me has been subconsciously doing that, but I’ve probably been trying to undo that process to visualize speaking into the same realm as reading. They really are different learning areas, so I suppose I should try to not connect them too closely.

Yeah that makes a lot of sense. That further backs up why I shouldn’t try to make listening practice the same as reading practice.

General verdict: I pretty much just need to do more listening practice to get better at listening (crazy idea, isn’t it? :sweat_smile:)


Hi there! That’s a really interesting question. I’ve definitely felt that disconnect, where I don’t understand something someone says, and then realize that if I had read that same sentence I would have understood it. So frustrating!

I feel like there’s always an extent to which reading is easier than speaking and understanding. Likely because it’s so much easier to practice reading (via textbooks and WaniKani, etc.) than it is to have someone to practice speaking with.

However, while there’s always the fact that I can read at a much higher level than I can comprehend through listening, incorporating kanji into my listening practice (for example using Language Reactor - Chrome Web Store) eventually allowed me to start taking educated guesses at words I don’t know in everyday conversation. For example, if I hear a word, and from the context can guess one or both of the kanji - I just understood what the person was saying and learned a new word that is easier to remember, since my brain automatically associated meaning with the word I heard.

One other exercise that I did find very interesting, at school we would do ‘dictation.’ And that is listening to something and then writing it out in hiragana. That was so so helpful because it makes your ear start to hear Japanese phonemes, like the difference between long vowels and small tsu’s. Eventually dictation changed from writing just in hiragana to actually writing it out using kanji as well, but of course, hearing the word accurately has to come before you can recognize the meaning.

Sorry, that’s just a quick blip of my experience. Hope it helps!


I think it can be something that depends on practice, repetition, and command of the language.

I’ll say that when I read Japanese I might come across some new vocabulary that I haven’t seen before, but I know the individual kanji, and it’s like I skim over the sentence and get the gist of the meaning but I don’t “hear” the reading.

I can usually go back and guess the reading of a word or confirm what exactly it is, and the more times I see it I internally hear the reading as I’m going. But until I’ve got a word down it’s almost pictograph recognition.

In any event getting back to OP’s question, I think listening practice is best to improve listening :wink:


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