Hiragana/Katakana Reading

I had a question on reading hiragana. I can read all of hiragana and katakana, but I was wondering about how people go about practicing it. Currently I’m spending around 30-60 minutes a day practicing reading and recalling the characters – so my routine looks something like this:

  • I practice writing out all the hiragana and katakana characters.
  • Then I go to Hiragana Drag and Drop and I do romaji to hiragana and then romaji to katakana (I picture the kana character in my head before going and finding it on the screen).
  • After that I do realkana.com and do one round of everything and see how fast I can do it all in.
  • To finish it I then go and find a child’s book to read and read through it.

Basically I have a question for those who can read hiragana pretty well without it being super choppy and it comes out natural. Is my studying good for being able to eventually read hiragana/katakana fluently good? Or should I incorporate other methods + take more breaks between study sessions instead of doing it every day, etc.

Also another question is if this is worth the time I’m spending on it right now, I know that being able to read is super important (especially with being able to remember kanji) that is why I’m doing this all early on. But, I started to think that we are able to read a lot more fluently because we understand sentence structure and vocab, so our brain jumps to the conclusion based on the sounds it is going to be this word and the next word makes sense to be this word. Since I don’t know much about sentence structure and vocab at this point it makes reading a lot harder and I’m reading kana by kana instead of word by word. Either way I’m still trying to be able to read kana a lot faster so that when I see the kana I immediately know what it is and can start processing the next one.

Got any advice? Thanks.

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Make sure to get as much real world reading practice in as possible!

If you can reliably recall >95% of the kana, you probably don’t need to be spending time working on them individually. Giving your brain context will really help with mentally stringing them together and giving words native meaning (meaning in the Japanese, as opposed to something you have to translate to give meaning).

It’ll also maximize your practice of other aspects of Japanese too, even if it’s a struggle at first. Just remember that we all start off slow, but the more you keep at it, the faster you’ll get. Even katakana you’ll speed up with eventually!

As for how, try and find Japanese things you can incorporate into your daily routine. Get into the habit of checking out the Japanese sections on the forums, or NHK news easy, even if you can’t understand much of it at the moment. Just anything to get your brain used to the look and structure of the language.

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Yeah I’ve spent a solid amount of time recalling kana, so I can write every kana character down from memory. So you suggest I don’t need to keep doing what I’m doing since I already know it all? I figured this might be the case since I already know them, but I was curious if I should keep going at it until I’m able to look at a character and immediately (instead of thinking about it for 1-2 seconds which is what I’m doing right now and then) know the sound that way it makes learning vocab a lot easier.

An example of me reading a word I know goes like this:

Take こんにちは for example, I would read it like this:
ko… nni … chi… h-…no i mean wa -> konnichiwa

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Nope, I don’t think you need to at all. I may seem a bit tougher at first, but trust me, you’ll save a lot of time in the long run! If you’re only practicing individual recall, it’s going to be tougher seeing a word that you know and recalling it without first breaking it down.

Consider English, you don’t read it by looking at every single character. Your brain skims over it and figures out the word based on the basic shape and the context. You’ll get to that point with Japanese eventually, but you need lots of real world practice first.

This isn’t to say you’re inhibiting your learning by practicing kana individually! But in my opinion you’re ready to take the leap into full Japanese sentences

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Yeah that makes sense.

Would you suggest reading children’s books? Or just continue what I’m doing (WaniKani/KaniWani, Bunpro/Genki, and Anki for my other vocab).

I have plenty of time to study Japanese each day – I’ve set aside at least 4 hours a day to study.

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Children’s books are great for pure kana, so if you have access to them, definitely. But make sure to expose yourself to some more standard Japanese. Even if you only know a few dozen kanji so far, you can benefit a lot from carving up short sentences. I don’t know what grammar level you are, but they can help get you used to spotting grammar particles and verb conjugations too. Even if you’re not fully familiar with how to use them.

4 hours is a lot, so don’t worry too much! As long as you stay motivated, you’ll make a ton of progress! I expect a follow-up post in a few months talking about how easy reading kana has become

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Thank you! I’ll take your advice and read some children’s books every once in awhile. I’ve already noticed I’m able to recognize a few words in there too, even if it’s just 2-3 words in the whole book.

For the more standard Japanese do you know any places I can find low level sentences to practice reading?

Also, I will definitely be keeping in touch with the forums and posting follow ups for those who helped me out.

Thanks.

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I’ve found the kitsun.io katakana word deck to be fantastic katakana reading practice, while at the same time teaching a lot of the intuitive aspect of how to spell katakana words (which is a critical aspect to being able to read them quickly and understand them). If you’re the kind of person who enjoys learning with digital SRS systems (which you probably are, if you’re here at wanikani), it might be very suited to your learning style.

I’ve spent about 20-30 minutes a day and doing 10 new words per day; my reading speed has basically risen from “character by character” to “multiple kana per second, entire-word-at-a-time” over the course of 3 months. It isn’t technically the same thing as “real” reading practice, but I’ve found the speed increase to translate really well to actual Japanese text. It’s also convenient because my reading speed actually rose faster than the rate of increase in the number of reviews, so it’s taking me less time to do the practice each day even though there’s more reviews than there used to be.

tl;dr clicky button SRS system give good dopamine, brain like dopamine, brain learn

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Thank you, I’ll look into that tonight!

Japanese news headlines (NHK news), Japanese subtitles (particularly on Japanese media if you’re into anime or such), and perhaps best of all, example sentences. WaniKani’s example sentences are good, but also any reading material provided by your grammar resources are ideal. I’m not sure how genki 1 is since I only have genki 2, but it should still have a reading section of sorts for each chapter.

A good idea is to try and seek out things you’re interested in, in Japanese. That way you’ll actually want to figure out what they’re saying.

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Thank you, this has helped a lot.

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One more question I forgot to ask:

When you think of a word in Japanese do you think of that word in its kanji/hiragana form? Or does it still picture as your native language? I’m asking because I’m wondering if it’s worth trying to picture how the word looks when remembering how it is said that way I can help solidify the memory.

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I picture the word in Japanese. Unless the word is a word we have in English and it’s an English context (like “sushi”, or a place name). Don’t worry too much for now though. It’s one of those fluency things that just comes with practice. When you come across a word enough times in a Japanese context (like こんにちは), you’ll visualize it in your head as こんにちは, and not “konnichiwa”. And you’ll understand it to mean こんにちは, and not “good day” or “hello”.

You can get an idea for this already with words like はい. You may be introduced to this word as meaning “yes”, but overtime it will become very clear just how poorly it translates into any single word in English, and you’ll come to know it as simply はい.

Naturally your brain is going to try and picture the sounds of words you remember in English. That will never go away (at least it hasn’t for me after 4 years), since you’re an English speaker before a Japanese speaker, but it’ll happen less and less over time, and you’ll get into the habit of ignoring it and focussing on the Japanese over time. Especially with gaining a level of fluency with the words.

A good practice for me has always been while listening to Japanese music, trying to visualize the lyrics coming up as they’re singing them. But this is only useful if you actually listen to Japanese music

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Yeah, that makes sense. I’m super excited, this community is awesome and is motivating me even more.

I do actually listen to Japanese music now, I just got into it and I’ve been trying to focus on the lyrics and picturing them in my head! Right now I can only keep up with the last thing said since I can’t follow it too well. Additionally, I actually really enjoy some songs, and that motivates me to learn it even more because I want to be able to understand these songs.

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Thank you! I’m actually really glad you shared this with me because it has all of the Genki vocab in it and gives me an SRS system for that!