How do you know you're reading manga effectively?

Hi everyone!!

I tried reading Japanese manga back when I wasnt even doing WaniKani and then on level 18. The only difference in the experience would be recognizing the kanji but I always seemed to struggle. I would maybe guess the essence of the sentence while constantly flipping through a dictionary back and forth.

I’m not sure if this is effective as the words I find in the dictionary don’t seem to stick with me so it feels like a waste of time. And guessing what everything means makes me unsure if I was even reading it correctly. So, overall I don’t know if this is an effective way to read ;;

I’m unsure if this is normal and I just have to push through or if there’s a better way to practice reading. Thoughts?


If you want to be absolutely sure, you can write down what your translation would be, and then cross check it with the official one or a fan one, if an official isn’t a thing, though that is a bit illegal. If it’s with a book club, you can even just post it, people usually correct it, if it’s wrong.

Right now, I assume, you struggle most with the grammar part of things, so even knowing words wouldn’t help you much. This is definitely a phase you need to wade through to get to the phase, where it’s the opposite. Just read some every single day for a bit, and it will pass over time.

The only way to speed this up in my experience, is searching for a series, that has simpler grammar by default, but that then risks you getting bored, so imo, just read, it’s the only way to get better at reading.

You are definitely memorising the words, don’t worry about that, it’s just that because you’re not used to how Japanese words look and feel, it’s much slower at first.


How is your average reading speed in your native language?

in my case even in my native I have a tendency to stay like 1 to 2 min on the same page. That’s bad for me, that’s why I dont like books for immersion.

Then that’s why for japanese approach I chose anime, since with japanese subtitle I forcibly have to read at the speed that is happening on screen (increasing my reading speed) and I force myself also to keep me always trying to remember all those burned vocab for a long time. :grin:


In my opinion you know you’re reading it effectively if you are retaining what you read. New grammar? Learn it! New vocab? Flash card or Anki! But most importantly, make sure you are actually enjoying both the process and what you are reading.

I personally find if I’m interested in the story/subject of what I’m tackling, new stuff I come across sticks with me better. Case in point, I went to a school in Japan for a year and a half. The material they gave us for reading practice honestly made me give credence to simulation theory, or wonder if I was in purgatory. Then I picked up Detective Conan and I was OBSESSED. Now I know all the police lingo haha.

So just find something you really enjoy and stick with that series. But one thing I will say is make sure to diversify your reading as you will pick up different speech patterns, dialect, vocab, etc. easier this way. Right now I’m reading Blue Giant and I had no real prior exposure to Touhoku ben so I’m getting experience with a new dialect and musical vocabulary I didn’t know before.

Enjoy! :+1: :+1:


Also, new kanji. Duh! Silly me I forgot that one. But also wanted to added don’t overload yourself at first because you’ll come across A LOT of new material. That is all. Godspeed :saluting_face:

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Yeah, definitely this. Some people are happy diving in early and making guesses left and right; some people prefer to have a bit more understanding first. There’s nothing wrong with preferring a more structured learning path.

I think if you’re feeling like you’re guessing every sentence it’s worth looking at what in particular is causing issues so you can focus on that, e.g.:

  • are you short on grammar so that even when you know or look up all the words you don’t really know the sentence’s meaning? Try more textbook study, or bunpro, or whatever.
  • do you have such a small vocabulary you don’t recognise many words even in slice-of-life type manga? Maybe find an SRS you like and do some work on a starter vocab deck.
  • are all the colloquial speech contractions and omissions confusing you? Work on those specifically.
  • do you forget words you’ve seen in manga before? Get a setup that makes it easy to add those words to an SRS so you can practice them.

Also, if you’re literally flipping back and forth in a paper dictionary I highly recommend switching to electronic, lookups are a ton faster :slight_smile:


I have had similar problems trying to get started with manga - the recommendations of other posters are all good advice:

  • make sure the manga is super interesting to you! Motivation to keep reading is key. I have spent a lot of money on manga that I realized too late I wasn’t really into.

  • scale back the difficulty until you are reading something that is doable for you, in terms of grammar, vocabulary and kanji. This is why so many people recommend Yotsubato! - the language in that manga is about as basic as you can get without getting so kiddie that you can’t stay interested.

Finally, I would say that quantity sometimes outweighs quality, though you can alternate between the two - in other words, alternate between extensive reading - where you commit to not picking up a dictionary and live with being unclear on some words and grammar - and intensive reading, where you don’t go to the next page until you’ve looked up every word you don’t know.

Personally, I don’t use Anki, so I agree with the posters who have said to not worry about remembering things - let the reading itself be your SRS.


Some great advice in here, but I’ll add a few things.

  1. Read something you’re actually interested in. Yotsuba and Shirokuma’s Cafe are common recommendations, but if those aren’t your jam you won’t be excited to study them. (I took this a little TOO far and made my first full manga read Naussica… I’m quite good at war Kanji for it though…)

  2. Get something with furigana. Generally a manga with furigana is going to be targeted towards a demographic that is still learning - so simpler grammar too. This isn’t a hard rule, but it’ll help. Plus, the furigana is insanely helpful early on, and with repetition you’ll still memorize things.

  3. Stick with a series. You’ll have better gains with repetition, and the same series is obviously going to help with that.

For some really good “intro” (~N4) stuff I’d highly recommend Dragon Ball SD and Ranking of Kings. Both are fun, and super simple, with lots of early WaniKani kanji.


I started a thread yesterday on a similar topic :slight_smile: Maybe some answers there will also help you.

Personally, I feel that reading something at all is better than not reading anything. I think as long as you’re understanding the gist of what you’re reading and enjoying what you read, you’re probably on the right track. I would suggest trying to strike a balance of enjoying what you’re reading vs. getting 100% comprehension of the text.

Another thing that might help: I have a Japanese acquaintance that I talk to every so often, and she told me even she, as a native Japanese person living in Japan, still learns new kanji readings and consults a dictionary occasionally because she can’t figure out the meaning of some kanji compounds.

So if even a native Japanese person learns new kanji readings from time to time, I think us learners looking things up is still an effective way to read, as long as it doesn’t interfere with our enjoyment of the text.


Some of my experiences:
A while back I tried reading a book that was WAY to hard on my own. While I did enjoy myself, I don’t think it was very effective because it was so far beyond my level, and I wasn’t getting any feedback other than whether I thought I had made sense of what I was reading.
Then about a year ago I got a japanese tutor. I switched to an easier book (though still probably harder than I “should” be reading), and started going over a few pages with her every week. Now if there is something I don’t understand or am unsure of, I can ask her. After a year of this I definitely feel like my reading is improving greatly. The progress through wanikani helps, but I think the biggest factor is getting feedback and explanations on things that come up in the reading. You don’t necessarily need a tutor for that, there have been lots of suggestions for other approaches in this thread.


A lot of non-native English speakers I know just learned English by doing stuff they were interested in in English.

For some reason, Japanese gets put on this weird pedestal where according to the internet you MUST master all the grammar elements and vocab and kanji before god forbid you try to have fun.

Just go for it and embrace the suck.

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The internet is absolutely full of people who will tell you to ditch the Japanese textbook and just dive into the immersion. I suspect it’s a more popular online opinion than “use a textbook”, in fact.


I think immersion is important, but as a native German speaker that learned English by doing stuff he was interested in, I think the comparison is a pretty poor one :b
With English, if you translate a sentence word for word into German, you get a sentence that makes sense. With Japanese, you get a bunch of nonsense. Of course you don’t need to study grammar when the grammar is so similar that you don’t need to know it to understand a sentence.
On top of that, English and German share so many words and have even more with the same meaning that just sound/look similar. Hand in German? Hand. Warm? Warm. House? Haus.
And even then, we don’t learn purely through immersion. While English classes in school often don’t amount to much, we do learn to recognize a bunch of words over those 5+ years.
All of those help immensely with learning “just through having fun”.


I’m not a huge fan of staying in intensive mode (looking everything up as you go). I flipflop from that into passive mode and just let the things I don’t know pass over.

Before I do any immersion, I briefly glance at a vocab sheet. Not SRS. Just a quick glance at some vocabulary.

Anime is definitely great in that it forces you to keep pace with the spoken dialogue/narration, but…

Over a long period of time, I’ve come to realize that it’s actually not very efficient.

Less than 1/3 of the running time of the average anime contains dialogue. The rest is panning shots, establishing shots, action shots, reaction shots, effects shots, transition shots, and often literally just a closeup of people’s feet or the back of their heads while walking! That isn’t specific to just anime, but to television/movies in general. Anime just happens to be a bit more egregious.

I was looking through other groups I am in, and others have noticed the same. They will take an anime and dice it up to contain only dialogue.

Having just the dialogue parts more than triples your efficiency.

Anyway, just wanted to share that observation!


when you get faster at reading and want for more.

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