How do I become faster at reading Japanese?

Over the last 3 years I’ve spent over a thousand hours reading Japanese, but I feel like I’ve made no improvement at all. I have N1, I can understand anything, but I still read stuff in English more than twice as fast (and it’s not even my Native language or usedin my country at all).


Over the last three years, how many hours have you spent reading English? That includes all hours spent on English forums such as this one, using programs or websites with menus in English, social media in English, etc.


Feels like less than with Japanese. My phone has been in Japanese all this time. I’m reading news on it in Japanese. People at work weird out at seeing that. But I did play half my videogames in English. Lately I do all of those in it. Takes less time and I don’t have much of that with work.


Hmmm, not sure then! Those are the things I was going to suggest. I definitely understand wanting to use your free-time in the most fun way. What do you feel is your weak-point? Which part of the Japanese text is slowing you down, you think? You’re already level 60, so you know a LOT of kanji, but could kanji-recognition be slowing you down? Japanese grammar? Are you spending a lot of time trying to translate the Japanese into English or your native language while reading?


It just takes my eyes more time to SEE each character overall I’d say. I read English a sentence at a time if it’s short enough, but with Japanese I go a word at a time. I’m just skimming through rows of letters left to right slower like that.


If you can understand anything already it must be just the matter of practice. I am not an expert here but I am always astonished when I hear how many book editors can pick up a book and finish it in a few hours. Imagine their reading speed. It’s way higher than an average reader.

But that’s a necessary skill for their job. I am sure you can train yourself. I know that some key things are to eliminate backtracking and reduce the number of eye fixations. Most likely this also requires a very deep understanding of the language. Basically you have to not only be able to understand what something means but also be able to get the meaning at a glance.

I’d recommend you search for speed reading tips on Japanese language resources as the tips might be different for different languages.


Paul Nation, one of the researchers preaching about the extensive reading method for learning new languages talks about two elements very well studied for acquiring a language effectively: reading comprehensible texts extensively and speed reading courses.

You can look into some 速読 methods over Amazon. I have that in my to do list too.
Went with this one, but I haven’t picked up in a while.

Some very practical exercises are in the book for reading all class of texts where usually speed is paramount (guides, leaflets, posters, schedules, etc) for extracting content at a glance.


This is the same question I’ve been thinking about recently. I’ll be keeping an eye on this thread!

Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll make note of it. isn’t shipping here and it’s kinda expensive though. Books that don’t publish in my country are always expensive.

There’s Kindle store too :wink:
I can see many titles available in that format too.

Edit: @Qwertion
By the way if you’re not available to buy e-books from Amazon Japan, chances are your account there has a credit card with a billing address other than a Japanese one. You can just change the billing address to any valid Japanese address and you should be fine. :wink:
I don’t remember if a VPN was actually needed for the first purchase (in case you get an error), but for sure it ain’t needed after the first time. There is free trial on many VPNs and cheap ones going for 2 buck a month. That could do the trick if is just for that too.

Same. No service in the region.

This will be an interesting topic to come back to as we see more responses.

I know that I’m currently pretty slow at reading, even at the level where I do understand everything. Part of that is the recognition speed for each word. In English, it takes me less than a quarter second to recognize the vast majority of words, but Japanese takes at least a full second. Combine that with the ‘jumbled’ order not being the same as my normal thought process, and it takes significantly longer to read.

I have seen/heard where people who have become fluent at multiple languages say they have to, at some point, start thinking in that language 100% when using it. If you are still ‘translating’ it mentally, then that takes more time. I wonder if there are any solid studies on that process…


I don’t translate it mentally, at least consciously, no. Ideographic languages contain more data in a single simbol I think. And that might not sit too well with my brain, having taken to it at a late age perhaps.
It’s easy to listen to (when there’s no original terms or super-specialized words anyway), but reading takes a mental toll I’d say.

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It may just be a matter of exposure. You’ve spent 1000 hours reading Japanese, but how many times have you encountered a particular kanji? Then compare that with the number of times you’ve seen any single English letter. I hope there is a better answer than ‘practice more’ haha.


Do you practice reading out loud? This is me just speculating wildly, but maybe if you read out loud as if you’re reading to someone else, you’ll become less likely to pause on words that tickle your brain. Maybe try reading a whole page out loud, without pause, then try to think if your comprehension was good enough, or if you’d rather have paused on certain passages to suss out a meaning or grammar structure. Maybe it would even help to record yourself and try to listen back to at what points you paused or stumbled, then maybe you can find a pattern in where you get slowed down.


I guess you see English letters more often as a fact, cause Japanese has more characters and that makes the amount of times you see each single one of those way less. But somehow I don’t think Japanese ever have any problems because of that.

Yeah, I read out loud sometimes. I like how words sound. Don’t feel like that helped me much yet.

As kids we have to do a lot of reading out loud when we start to learn to read our native language, so maybe there is something to it if you do it a lot.

So I don’t know how helpful you might find this, but I find that using novel methods outside of just brute forcing reading comprehension to really help. Here are a couple of things that I do:

  1. Read aloud. For instance, right now I’m parallel reading a visual novel. The main character is not voiced, so whenever their lines come up, I make sure to read them aloud. If I have trouble with vocab or grammar or something, I look those items up, compare them to the English translation, internalize everything, and try slowly reading the sentence again until I’m comfortable reading it without stumbling, and move on. I find doing this is very similar to the “fake it until you make it” – initially just mimicking what they’re saying, I might only be faking it at first. But over time, especially if you’re doing works by the same person, certain constructions and turns of phrase come up again and again, and it becomes pretty cemented over time.

  2. Deep Reading Vs. Extensive Reading – I have two methods of reading at the moment: I deep read through parallel texting with visual novels (looking everything up, comparing the original text to translation, reading aloud, etc.), but I also do more “superficial” reading where I only look up stuff if I absolutely have no clue what’s going on, thereby taking less time trying to make my way through a work. It’s important that you choose something of an appropriate level for Extensive Reading, because trying to read something too high above your level will just be too frustrating and slow. So, look around, find something you can generally understand 80% of the time without having too look up too many words, and just focus on speed.

For instance, you probably wouldn’t want to read the news in this mode, or at least, I wouldn’t – it’s too high of a level for me, so I just focus on things like Pixiv comics, gag comics, 4-koma, etc. Anything that you find interesting and can generally understand without thinking too hard about each line.

  1. Lyric videos: I’ve really gotten into YouTubers/Vocaloid/UTAU stuff lately, because they will usually have the Japanese lyrics on screen or as closed captioning. You might even want to try and sing along as you’re reading. This is, of course, more of something I just do in between actual reading time, but it’s something to help keep up the variety of things.

  2. Mindset: Again, you made N1 in just three years. You’re doing awesome! All it is at this point is a matter of practice and trying to find what is comfortable for you to continue your learning. When you are studying, make easy, achievable goals for yourself when you’re doing each specific thing. Like, if you’re doing deep reading, focus on just making a certain number of pages and seeing if you can beat that number (or for me, when doing visual novels, I count the number of screens I have until, say, a dialogue tree or a specific event). Chart those things, and if you still see a plateau, that is the only time that I would start to re-evaluate where things might be going wrong. I think we often are our own worst critics, so try to focus on how you’re improving, rather than how you feel you aren’t measuring up.


Actually reached N1 way earlier than that. Most difficulty was reaching 60 here (I always done max reviews possible at any current moment), but I went for N2 after and had to skip next summer one cause it was on my granny’s birthday. But this was always the unmovable hurdle. I think I do actually stop a bit at every word as opposed to English. It’s second or less, but is there. Can’t do anything with it though. I used to read a lot of visual novels in it too. Stopped this summer after noticing how I’ve spent 4 times the time I’ve seen other people spend on a particular VN. Read my last one in English.