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?
Try to visualize changes in Kanji, katakana and hiragana as spaces.
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!
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.
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.
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.
That has been my experience as well . 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.