How to take first reading steps

Hello Wani Kani humans,

I would like your advice on how to start reading.

My problem is that I just find it too intimidating to start reading texts with a lot of Kanji. Whenever I see texts without spacing I just don’t know where to start. Any idea how to overcome this or suggestions of good material to gradually start readying?

Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks a lot!

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Well, there are several resources that are intended to make reading easier

This one is in English by default, but you can set the language to Japanese.

There’s also

although, unlike the previous three, it is not free.
But it has a lot of features, including spacing that can be turned on and off.

Anyway, best of luck with your studies!

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the absolute beginner book club right here worked really well for me, if you stick with it and keep asking questions it’ll start to come together after a while.

next manga starting soon

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Try to visualize changes in Kanji, katakana and hiragana as spaces.

トラは大きいです。

トラ は 大きい です

Then break it into meaningful words. At first it is very blunt, but it is like reading when you were 4 years old.

Tiger “as for” big is.

Then, and this is the tough part, either translate into English, which you will probably do for a long while until you get used to it, or simply start to understand the patterns and understand the japanese.

I am a linguist professor at university and speak 4 languages other than learning Japanese and this is the hardest thing for students to wrap their mind around. Eventually you must try to stop translating into English and start just “understanding” the language. Your brain can’t work fast enough otherwise. It sounds tough or even impossible, but with work it will work! Your brain is amazing, just like how you can eventually read the following sentence, it will click!

!gniog peek uoy ni eveileb I

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I just read Doraemon again because my son started reading and I realized, that while it is not using many Kanjis, there are many expressions used that you don’t learn in a textbook. So either you go for adult texts, and you are struggling with Kanji, or you struggle with expressions like きみんち that no textbook teaches you. Sorry. It is always intimidating. :joy:

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Make sure you’re reading material that has furigana.

You’ve made good progress on learning kanji (being on level 17), but you need to build up recognition of vocabulary words in sentences, as well as recognizing and understanding particles and grammar.

When you first start reading, you’re not reading so much as deciphering. This continues until you learn enough grammar and vocabulary.

Take each sentence one at a time and drop them into ichi.moe to see how they break down into individual words and particles.

I also second @wanikani_94032 on joining the Absolute Beginner Book Club.

I wrote some advice a few weeks ago for first-time readers to prep for the club, and recently wrote a bit about what the reading experience will be like for first time readers.

Look up any vocabulary and grammar you don’t know for each sentence. Read up on the grammar along the way, so you can learn it better over time.

The Absolute Beginner Book Club is a way to streamline this process and help you zero in on exactly what to learn as you go.

Once you have enough experience deciphering your way through sentences, you’ll find it gets easier to recognize all the parts of a sentence (words, particles, etc) at a glance.

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Pick up material with furigana. Even if you don’t know these kanji you can continue reading.

Also consider the density of the text. You’ll want to have less dense texts so you can distinguish more easily the parts in the sentence.

If whatever material you’re interested in has a kindle/ebook version, then you can try reading the samples and gauge how difficult it is.

There are many different challenges when it comes to reading. Set the entry barrier low and just try to get in the habit something on a regular basis. It’s still not gonna be easy, but you’ll be able to see progress before long.

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pick something that you actually want to read. it is going to be a slog for a while, so at least let it have some fringe benefit.

manga might be a good start, because you have part of the story told by the drawings. on the other hand the text is all direct speech, and the grammar might be very loose.

i don’t think furigana are essential, they might almost be a hindrance to learning. when i’m reading a text with furigana and there’s kanji i don’t know i focus almost entirely on the furigana, and later find that though i’ve learned the sound of the word, i don’t recognise it in text. when reading without furigana, i actually concentrate on the kanji.

also re furigana: you’ll need to learn how to look up kanji anyway. so why not start now?

also consider the subject matter of what you want to read. casual topics about everyday stuff will be easier to read than more serious texts about more specialised topics.


despite having read quite a bit already, i also find blocks of text (e.g. wiki pages) quite intimidating. i’ve been training myself to just look at one paragraph, and see if i can understand anything. and it’s getting better. but for now, when i see a page of text, my mind still starts by just going blank for a moment.

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That has been my experience as well :smiley: . Lots of onomatopoeia in children’s books, too.

I decided to take the bottom-up approach - get used to phonetics like a toddler before delving into literature with kanji. I guess both approaches are valid.

Most importantly this, though:

Or reversely - pick up something you might enjoy, but is new to you. For instance, I had no idea who Edogawa Ranpo is before reading his childrens’ books. It was worth it, though, because I learned to really enjoy his writing style. :smiley:

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Another possibility is twitter! No furigana, but look-ups are very easy with tools like Yomichan and ichi.moe, and the character limit means you aren’t looking at huge blocks of text.

I don’t really know what types of accounts to recommend following, though, because it depends on your interests. But there are so many different communities out there for just about everything, and it’s a great way to get daily exposure to the language in bite-sized pieces.

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To be fair, I’ve been speaking English as my native tongue for almost three decades and I still find walls of English text intimidating.

In response to the OP, I’ve really enjoyed HelloTalk for early reading exposure. The whole concept of HelloTalk is pretty neat, how it pairs you with people who are fluent in your target language and are learning your fluent language. On top of reading others’ posts when I can, I like to write a couple of things in Japanese here and there as practice, and most of the time someone will correct any mistakes I make. It’s not a complete solution, but it’s a pretty cool productive time-killer.

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I’ve had good luck with books aimed at elementary/middle school students. Advanced enough to use kanji like adult texts would and have content that isn’t quite so boring, but basic enough to have fairly simple grammar, short paragraphs, and furigana for the kanji. It will still be a slog at first, but material for this age is simple enough to let you feel like you’re making real progress.

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I read first with my tutor and Japanese friends they helped me to realize what type of words to expect when reading, and when it’s ha or wa for は.

Are you willing to spend some money? The graded readers from ASK publishing are fantastic:

https://omgjapan.com/collections/japanese-graded-readers

These books will take you from a “See Jane Run” level of very, very basic reading up to a
6th or 7th grade level. The stories are interesting, the artwork is fantastic and varied, and all
of the books come with audio on CD and online.

I bought the entire set from OMG Japan - $396 plus shipping, but I am still using these books
daily a couple of years later. The best investment I ever made in learning to read in Japanese.

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I just bought the first one of these, and it is set to arrive tomorrow. I tried Satori reader but feel like I needed something more basic for now.

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Thank you so much for all the listed resources. Satori reader looks really interesting with all its functionalities. I have signed up for a month to try it out. :slight_smile:

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Thanks trunklayer.
Ferg and I read the riveting story of roku and nanas burgeoning love this morning over coffee in free books…

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Ferg speaks Japanese? I thought all dogs are Korean.

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チーズの引き出しが開いているのが聞こえたのか、それともただの夢だったのか

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