How do you improve at identifying handwritten text, particularly kanji?

I’m aware of stuff like Google Translate which allows you to write kanji and it finds it for you, but I’m more talking about doing it myself to streamline the process. Actually practicing writing looks like my best bet but that will take quite a while. Not necessarily looking for an easy way out (there probably is none) but rather just some tips and tricks that will get me results fast. Because I’m godawful at trying to interpret handwritten text in manga and such.

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You could try installing the Font Randomizer script for WK, then install some fonts that resemble handwritten text to give you some practice interpreting writing that isn’t neat and perfect. Maybe you’ll have better luck getting the script to actually work than I have.

Other than that, I’m not sure what else to suggest.

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It’s not the most satisfying answer in the world, but the only way to really get better at reading handwritten text is to… read handwritten text. Font randomizers and such can help, but ultimately, you just gotta seek out handwritten texts and do your best to read them. And unfortunately, since everybody’s handwriting is a bit different, you’ll run into different quirks when you see different authors’ handwriting.

I can promise it gets better, and you’ll start to struggle less with it, but it honestly just takes practice. Finding handwritten webcomics and the like is probably the easiest way to expose yourself to a lot of handwriting in a short period of time.

Edit: Fwiw, if you want to see a lot of different font styles back to back while reading, I recommend picking up 五等分の花嫁. It was an entertaining series, but also had a number of handwritten parts, and just varying printed texts in general, so it was a good way to practice identifying kanji and kana that differed from standard fonts.

Some samples of different fonts/handwriting from the series

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That’s super neat, thanks for the tip. Just downloaded it.

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Yeah I’m gonna have to do a lot of reading. Where do you find webcomics? I assume Twitter has a load of them.

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I second reading manga to get practice reading handwritten text. There’s really no shortcut here. You just have to read more to get better at it. I would add that 4-koma manga tend to have a lot of it relatively speaking since handwritten side comments often appear around a joke, so I’d recommend trying some of those. If your WaniKani level accurately reflects your kanji knowledge it might be a bit hard for me to make recommendations though, since all the 4-koma manga I read have little to no furigana. (Normally I’d recommend ご注文はうさぎですか, but that would probably be too hard.) The easiest 4-koma manga I’ve read is ひとりぼっちの〇〇生活, so maybe try that. I just skimmed a few chapters and did see at least a few times where there was handwritten kanji. Of course, you have to read a variety of manga by different mangaka to really get accustomed to different handwriting styles.

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Twitter and Instagram would be where I tend to come across most webcomics, personally. I can’t speak for seeking them out specifically really because the algorithm has kinda done the work for me in that regard (Twitter, I use exclusively for JP stuff, especially). One account that I can read most things on Instagram is @usgmen_e. They are all very simple, quick jokes, and while there is, of course, no furigana, it’s pretty simple for the most part to make out. As a bonus, a lot of times, the caption actually has the kanji written out as well, so if you can’t make out the handwriting for one reason or another, you’ll have a way to check.

The handwriting is very legible, though, so it’s a good way to ease into it.

Comic Example


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I actually might recommend this, myself.

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Practicing handwriting at individual Kanji (and Kana) level, with correct stroke orders and directions, helps. Otherwise, well, seeing some. Some strokes can be connected, although I don’t quite understand the logic myself.

Indeed, each radical has its own logic, so you don’t have to handwrite that many Kanji.

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Thanks for the recommendations, I’ll find some 4komas to add. It was in english but I just finished reading ひとりぼっちの〇〇生活 the other day so maybe reading it in JP will be easier.

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I have two suggestions myself for what to practice reading:

  1. Afterwords by mangakas, which are often handwritten. The text shouldn’t be too long, and you might have some idea about the contents to help guide you with their specific writing style.

  2. More practical, is to look at Japanese restaurant menus. Look up street food videos, “youtuber goes and eat at restaurant”, and similar videos from Japan, and pause the vid and try to read the menu items of the restaurant. Very useful as a skill, and a bit tricky at times. :slight_smile:

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