I have a problem when it comes to reading

Firtst thing first, yeah, i am just getting started in my japanese journey really, but still, i dont know if I will find a solution for this or not, so i would like to hear about your experience!

So my problem is that i dont know what is happening whenever i try to read anything that doesnt have any kanji in it, its like being blind to me. When the text has some kanji, even though i dont undestand the whole thing, i can kinda guess whats happening looking at the context AND the kanjis, but with just hiargana i just have no clue, and since all the begginers texts are mostly hiragana with very few kanji, im kinda stuck.

When its just hiragana, it seems like everything is the same and they could be talking about literally anything and i dont know what to do.

Did you have this problem? What solution did you find for it? Please let me know in the comments :slight_smile:


I think this is pretty common. Kanji act as visual clues that help you remember the words and sometimes let you guess words you don’t know. It’s different for native speakers because they are already fluent. They don’t need the kanji as visual clues because they know the words from speaking the language.

I’ve often thought of reading without kanji as basically pseudo-listening practice. So while I haven’t tested this myself, I feel like you’d get better at reading kana only sentences if you practice your listening.

My only other suggestion is to make sure you know your grammar and conjugations, and practice reading in any form. While you may still not recognize words you’d know in kanji, it at least makes it easier to break down the sentences so you know where the words are (and therefore, what to look up).


Learn words! Most beginner resources would come with a wordlist, I would imagine. Also, pay attention to the particles to get a better sense of where words start and end.


Thank you very much! I will definitely pay more and more attention to the grammar and the particles and all that, i think that will be the solution; as you said, even if i dont know the words, if i know everything else it will just be matter of time!


Thank you! I will! Any resources for reading you wanna recommend me?

Welcome to what hiragana text feels like to a Chinese speaker. (I’m one.) The solution is to… jump straight to stuff that uses tons of kanji! Just kidding. No pressure. In all honesty though, I’ve never sought out texts that are mostly hiragana – even my beginner textbook (published by a French company) jumped straight into kanji for everything. However, since I’m a Chinese speaker, my situation is different: I can understand most of the kanji I come across anyway. The one time I did try reading something that was mostly hiragana though… well, it was Kiki’s Delivery Service, and I guess that gives me an idea of how you feel.

I was about to suggest relying on particle spotting, but I see that’s already been mentioned. Other stuff… I guess you should look out for common word endings? Something that ends with an -U sound might very well be a verb in its dictionary form, and a て could very well mark a て-form, especially if it’s next to a comma. A wider vocabulary definitely helps, but grammatical knowledge is key to breaking down sentences. You probably want to learn about particles beyond the basics like が, は, を and に, and also look out for stuff like から、より、まで. I think an awareness of all that will help.

Side note: if you have an example of a mostly-hiragana sentence that’s giving you trouble, I’d be glad to give you an example of how you might want to tackle it. After I break it down, I’ll leave you to judge if what you need is more grammatical knowledge or more vocabulary (or both).


Yep, I think that is completely normal as everyone else has stated. Try to read it out loud (even if you have to sit in the closet because you feel weird doing that). The suggestions to try and spot the particles is great advice as well. You can also circle them if it’s a physical book or highlight them if it’s digital to give you visual breaks/anchors. I did that in my old textbooks and it helped me. Maybe it will help you. Good luck! Most of all, be reassured that you are not alone!

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NHK News web easy?

I never consistently read anything else that I remember. I read webpages like wikipedia sometimes… I’m reading a novel with my book club. Maybe one of other book clubs, past and present can inspire you: Master List of Book Clubs


In the beginning you just have no idea where the words start and end. Kanji tend to be at the start of the word (barring some お and ご prefixes) and help to separate the words. I remember being at a stage where I could read the first two or three words in the sentence, then got lost, not knowing if the next kana was part of the next word, part of some grammar construct or a suffix to the previous word.

Learning more words helps, learning grammar construction helps, and for the time being you can stick to digital texts in the browser, where you can use a plugin like Rikaikun to give hover information and help you along. Give it some time, you’ll see a significant improvement.

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By now several Japanese people have told me that they also find it difficult and annoying to read texts without kanji.
On top of what the others said (learn tons of words and get used to grammar), I can think of several options for reading:

If you look at books aimed at first year schoolchildren, they come with gaps between the words to help them along. But they have basically no kanji, so that might not be ideal either.
The Absolute Beginner Book Club will soon (EDIT: actually about now) start reading a book aimed at second year schoolchildren, that might be an option as well.

There are also Graded Readers, which are books geared towards foreign language learners, and they also come with gaps between the words in the lower levels. They also use simple grammar and vocab (depending on the level) so that might be your best option for this early stage.

Another option would be to jump in at the deep end and to get a book that is geared towards middle schoolers and upwards; there are editions that come with full furigana so you need not worry about the kanji you don’t know yet. But you would need a solid foundation in grammar (at least Genki I + II, more would be even better) and of course you will need to look up words galore, so it will be a very very bumpy ride. If you go to BookWalker or the like, you can always look at the first pages of a book, so you can try it out and see how far you get before investing any money.

You can also start with reading manga; they are less text-heavy but can still offer enough text to read. There are tons of suggestions in the list of book clubs, and you can look at the old threads to find answers to your questions (and even still ask new questions).

If you need more inspiration, please make sure to take a look at Resources for Starting to Read Japanese Content !


thank you so much! i will definitely have a look at the book clubs and will try to read some news or maybe some wikipedia articles as you said and see how it goes!

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Well, im glad to hear its just me who has this problem!
This would be a sentence that i wont understand unless i look it up, although do understand some parts of it, its from a kids book i got thinking it would be easy… fool me!


as i said, i understand some of it, but the last part completely baffles me, luckily the book comes with the english translation as well, although is not hard to guess based on the context.

But as you said, i will have a more closer look to all the particles, the more i know, the less there is in a text that will confuse me i guess!

Yeah, experience and vocabulary knowledge resolve this. The only time I find it still happening is in some proverbs or things with classical grammar or rare words.


@rwesterhof thank you so much! i will definitely try that plugin you are talking about and see how it goes, i guess practice makes perfection!

@NicoleIsEnough jeeeezz thank you so muchhh! you gave me a lot of info that sure i will give a more in depth tomorrow, and i agree, it seems like those books aimed for new learners will be my best option, although i will try everything, again, thank you so much!

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OK, so, I had to look up けんびきょ. It seems the formal/correct way of writing it is けんびきょう(顕微鏡), which means ‘microscope’. I’d definitely seen that word before, but I had forgotten what it meant. My friend studying in Japan has definitely mentioned it to me before because he’s a biology student. We were having a laugh about ending up as researchers so lonely that we talk to the lab equipment… Anyway, so, I guess that shows that vocabulary helps. Here’s the grammatical breakdown as a word-by-word translation:

ちっちゃい あなた が あなた は、けんびきょ で しか みえない くらい ちいさい わ!
Itty-bitty you but you [topic] microscope [means] other-than be-seen-negation extent little [feminine]!

  • ちっちゃい is a form of ちいさい. Notice the fact that it ends with い. That could indicate that it’s an い-adjective (which it is, in this case).
  • が here is something like… a preamble indicator? It basically shows that the first phrase/sentence is just a prelude to what comes next. There’s a だ that’s been left out because it’s not necessary in informal speech. It’s something like… ちっちゃいあなただが=‘as for/about/as far as itty-bitty you…’. It’s as though the first phrase is nothing but a preliminary remark.
  • くらい is something like an adverb that captures extent, and so the second half ends up as something like ‘about/roughly so small that you won’t be seen without anything other than a microscope’
  • わ isn’t universally feminine, but it often is. The other use I’ve seen for it, which is more masculine, could be replaced by something like よし (=‘well/OK then,…’) at the beginning of a sentence, and gives a somewhat assertive feel. That doesn’t seem relevant though.

I hope the grammatical breakdown helps. All the best! :slight_smile:


Do you have any resources that have a good wordlist?

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Another suggestion:
You could type in the hiragana and use an IME to get suggestions on the matching kanji.


Some of the book clubs have compiled wordlists. Also, (Back up) Floflo.moe - A WK-friendly website for reading has wordlists for many books.

Other than that, I don’t really know, because I never really used beginner resources. To be honest, when I posted at first I thought you were talking about beginner textbooks, not elementary Japanese kids’ books.

Thank you so mucn! it definitely makes more sense now, because when i first read it, i saw that super long word and it made no sense to me how that whole thing meant microscopic when all the words i know are no longer than 6-7 characters hahahahaha

You’re welcome!

Hm… maybe another thing to note is that (if my memory serves) onomatopoeia aside, native Japanese words don’t contain the ‘small kana’ you find in しょ, ちゃ or きゅ. Small kana were created to transcribe Chinese. Thus, if you see those characters in a word, you may want to assume it’s Sino-Japanese and try breaking it down into 1-2 full-sized kana units (because most words of Chinese origin have at most two kana per kanji).

EDIT: Another thing: don’t rely too much on translations. Because of the differences in structure between English and Japanese, you’ll often find that translations aren’t literal, and more importantly, that they sometimes can’t be literal without sounding extremely unnatural. What you see in English might not match exactly what was said in Japanese.

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