I have a problem when it comes to reading

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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Microscope isn’t longer than that…? If you want to think of one thing that means “microscopic” all in total, it’s a phrase made up of several words, not just one. More like “Can’t be seen except with a microscope”.

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That exact thing happened in my class this week. I was quite pleased with all my progress in kanji and vocab, then we had to read from an elementary school book (basically all hiragana) with poems and words related to autumn. Needless to say it was a disaster!

It’s crazy how I’ve gone from relying on hiragana for reading to being more comfortable with kanji, often guessing the meaning and sounds of even those I don’t know. I can only credit WK with that (and maybe The Kanji Code). Now a passage of hiragana fills me with dread.

A weakness is always an opportunity for growth though. I realised that I know a fair bit of more “adult” and abstract vocab - related to work, university, social issues, etc. - but I still have huge gaps in more tangible, basic words, onomatopoiea, and colloquial pronunciation. So I’m going to focus more on that for a while. Always worth using a range of different materials and coming at the problem from different angles!

(First post BTW - started WK in April and I’ve been lurking more and more in the forums!)

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It depends on the usage. Usually in everyday life manga, or school centric, some vocabularies with ‘complicated’ kanji stroke are written in kana. Sometimes it’s used for pun/word plays. The solution is…experience and context for me. Like it has been mentioned, it helps to recognize the particles then dissect the words in between. Otherwise, I’m following this thread for other answers.

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ohhh, i see, makes much more sense now :smile:

Yeah, the translation problem its something I’ve encountered in the past few days since i have started to try to translate some very simple sentences, and google translate was making no sense at all hahahaha

Any resources i can use to know if the sentences i make in japanese are right and make sense?

Nothing I know of. There are some online word-for-word translators that help break down sentences the way I did. I think Yomi-chan and Rikai-kun are the two main ones. Also, if you want to get fairly rich Japanese-English definitions right on the page when you’re reading text, I think you should try looking at Japanese.io (they have a Google Chrome extension) and ManabiReader (I don’t know if this is available on Android). However, I don’t know of anything like a Japanese spell-check or grammar assistant. Such software should exist since it exists for many other languages, but I have no idea what it might look like in Japanese.


thank you so much my man! this will definitely come in handy, thak you for taking the time to help me out here :smile:

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but that doesn’t mean you can pronounce the japanese words they’re symbolizing, right? are you saying you sometimes “read” japanese texts in chinese?

pretty much this. if you read enough (like actually read the words, rather than just look at the kanji to know what the meaning of the word might be and move on) you’ll know what the words are when you see them in hiragana too.

i think your post subtly speaks to the danger of over-emphasizing kanji - as in focusing on them as much as, or even more than actual words. the words exist with or without the kanji (you could almost say their kana or spoken form is their “pure form”). the kanji are essentially just ways of symbolizing the words. if you focus so much on individual kanji that you’re not processing words primarily as units of meaning in their own right, you’re going to have trouble.

Not quite. I use my kanji knowledge to deduce what the kanji compounds in a Japanese text mean if necessary. Also, Japanese shares many kanji compounds with Chinese, so I could “read” those in Chinese if I wanted. Finally, the way Japanese combines words and ideas is quite similar to what Chinese does (e.g. when two verbs come together and form a compound verb), so figuring the underlying logic out isn’t that hard if I know the kanji involved.

I made this point because it seemed the OP was discussing ‘understanding’, so I figured I would just mention the fact that I understand what it’s like to have a tendency to use kanji to deduce what’s going on both since they help divide the sentence into words and remove the need to guess which word with a particular reading is being used based on context. Quite naturally, I don’t know the reading of every single kanji I come across, even if I know it in Chinese, but it’s the same even for Japanese learners: not everyone knows all the readings for particular kanji and when to use them e.g. 雑 is usually ざつ, but in 雑巾, it’s ぞう. I’m sorry if I’m coming off as overly defensive, but I feel as though you take issue with the fact that I dare to use my Chinese knowledge to help me with Japanese, or that you feel a need to make me concede that kanji knowledge is insufficient, whereas I made no such claim and was just trying to show the OP that I feel I understand his/her situation. I was also just pointing out why I might have been comfortable using a textbook that contained lots of kanji from the get-go. If you were just asking what it’s like out of curiosity, then I’m sorry for misinterpreting what you said.

I see in your next post that you feel it’s dangerous to ‘over-emphasise’ kanji. Fair enough: there’s no point learning kanji in isolation, and it’s silly to learn, say, 3 readings per kanji and to then roll dice to guess how they combine in compounds. The compounds themselves are words in their own right, and they need to be learnt as blocks for the sake of communication and in order to know the right readings. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to break them down into individual kanji in order to figure out what’s being referred to, even if in Japanese, it’s often the word that came first, with the kanji being attached to it just because it’s contextually appropriate. Also, again, I tend to find that Japanese words combine very similarly to Chinese words, so it’s often true that the word containing the kanji (e.g. a verb stem) will combine with other Japanese words the same way the kanji itself might in Chinese.

By the way, please don’t assume that being a Chinese speaker and stating that I know most of the kanji I see means I’m promoting learning kanji in isolation since Chinese is the language for which kanji were made and that there’s usually a one-to-one correspondence between ‘words’ (units of meaning) and kanji in Chinese. (That last statement isn’t clearly true because there are lots of homophones with similar meanings in Chinese too, even if most things defined by a set of sounds and a particular meaning can only be written one way.) In Chinese, kanji readings change based on meaning and context, and it’s not impossible to know a word or phrase without knowing how to write it: the experiences of speakers of Chinese dialects prove it since they’re fluent without necessarily knowing how to write what they’re saying since Mandarin is the standard dialect used mostly frequently in education now. I dare say a Chinese speaker’s approach is very appropriate for tackling kanji in Japanese: kanji should be learnt because they provide meaning or refer clearly to a particular word, but the learner should also be aware that readings and meaning can change based on context, and knowing words is often more helpful than individual kanji. (I don’t know if you’ve seen this before, but any pair of Chinese speakers discussing which kanji is being used among a set of homophones will almost definitely reach for the most common compounds containing the kanji concerned. Modern Mandarin relies on two-kanji compounds (each of which you might quite rightly call a ‘word’) a lot, and it’s not uncommon to explain the meaning of individual kanji using the words that contain them. Chinese speakers don’t learn kanji in isolation either.)

Finally, to answer your question directly: I can’t pronounce all of the Japanese words represented by the kanji I know. Definitely not. I wouldn’t dare to claim otherwise because I don’t know all the combinations possible in Japanese. 投与, for instance, is a combination that exists in Japanese but not in Chinese, even though it’s made of relatively simple kanji that I know and frequently use in Chinese. I’m sure there are other such compounds. However, provided I know the kanji involved, I can guess most of the readings for compounds correctly because they’re often on’yomi. Also, knowing how readings in Mandarin translate to readings in Japanese means I can identify words I hear and link them to the kanji being used based on context. I don’t need to see the kanji, though I’ll check the dictionary afterwards to be sure I was right. Such intuition isn’t limited to on’yomi either: kun’yomi linked to a particular kanji are often similar across words, like how 上 is うえ in isolation but becomes うわ in words like 上回る. You know the two are related based not only on meaning, but also based on the fact that most of the old W row in Japanese dropped the W sound at some point e.g. ゑ → え, and that the H row has undergone a lot of pronunciation changes (because the sounds above used to be written as うへ and うは, but the logic behind the sound changes is probably what led to dropping the W sounds). Similar patterns can be found in pairs like 終わる and 終える, meaning that we can get an inkling of the correct readings for words linked by the same kanji (e.g. by anticipating a vowel change), even if knowing the kanji is not necessary for acquiring this knowledge and simply acts as a means of mental organisation.

Ultimately, my point is that kanji-specific knowledge can be useful, including knowing readings of individual kanji, even if kanji shouldn’t be studied in isolation and it’s much more fun to learn words and phrases in context while adding the nuances they express to one’s knowledge of the kanji they contain. That’s how Chinese speakers learn kanji in Chinese too, excluding kanji that are so obscure the dictionary is the only way out.

Yeah, I have this problem, lol. What I do is to put [ ] brackets around different bits of the sentence, I usually physically draw them on something, or just type if it’s online, this kind of gives my brain a ‘mental’ marker of where things end and begin. At first I had to look words up but after a while… err, at least a year of doing this, I’ve got to the stage where it’s not too bad now.

It’s also a problem when it comes to picking the answer for something out of 4 words all written in hiragana and you’re just staring at them like ‘what?’ lol even though you know the answer… it’s just that your brain draws a blank without the kanji. I’m currently saying these out loud and it seems to be slowly working and getting them into my head. Same thing for converting hiragana to kanji in tests, you have to read the sentence to work it out.