Is it normal to look at Kanji and read its english meaning then remembering the reading?

This is coming from a level one here so very early stages I dont wont to get into ‘bad’ habits if this is one
ありがとう! This is my first post so sorry if this in the wrong place.

My guess would be that it’s pretty normal at first. To be fair, the fastest way to read in Japanese is to not vocalize, or sub-vocalize (imagine the sounds in your head), the readings. Of course, you won’t be working on that until you are quite advanced, so when you’re just wading into the world of kanji it’s normal to absorb things slowly, and if that’s the order that comes naturally don’t sweat it.


Cool man thanks for your reply :slight_smile:

This is really interesting and I had never thought about it – whenever I’m reading, if I don’t sub-vocalize the readings in my mind I always feel like I’m cheating and force myself to do it. Especially with numbers and dates.

Names are a whole other thing too since in Japanese you can sometimes be facing a text with names you don’t know how to read (or where furigana was given to you at first that you now forget).

Do you think that native Japanese speakers read without sub-vocalizing? I’m not even sure if I do this in English.

I’ve been wondering about something related to this as well…

The English meaning is what comes most naturally to my mind (for obvious reasons), but I find that when I encounter kanji from WK in the wild, I have a really difficult time pairing a reading to the meaning. I can grasp the meaning easily, but actually figuring out what the Japanese word is and connecting that word directly to the meaning…not so much. Kanji almost makes it too easy to understand words without directly “reading” them: if I saw the same word in hiragana, I probably wouldn’t understand it or recognize it a good portion of the time (especially verbs, for some reason). I think this is detrimental to my overall knowledge of the language, but I’m not totally sure how to fix it…

…Maybe trying to become a vocalizer/sub-vocalizer would actually be beneficial for now? I am definitely not a sub-vocalizer when reading English, and I’m used to reading quite fast. Maybe I just need to make myself slow down. :laughing:

Anyone have any tips/thoughts or experienced something similar?


For vocab, I don’t usually subvocalize, but I do subvocalize every Kanji, and it comes faster than the Kanji meaning.

I do subvocalize Japanese reading when I see English words, though. And I can subvocalize English when I hear Japanese words. (I don’t even subvoc my native language…) But for reading, I can, but don’t always subvocalize, and subvoc speed isn’t very fast.

But… I don’t really sub visualize Kanji… So, my writing still sucks. Maybe I should try Skritter, or perhaps a Kanji workbook.

This may be the effect of deck ordering when drill (Anki) and in review (re-order script). Always Reading before Meaning.

  • Kanji: always do Kanji->kana before Kanji->meaning
  • Vocab
  • On Anki: always do meaning->kana before Jukugo->meaning; ignore Jukugo->kana
  • On WaniKani: always do Jukugo->kana before Jukugo->meaning
  • I focus more on Anki than on WaniKani, though.
  • I don’t do 1x1, though. So, when Kanji->meaning, I do subvocalize for the second time.

Sometimes you remember the meaning without the reading; sometimes you remember the reading without the meaning. Sometimes you remember either the on’yomi or kun’yomi instead of the one you need. It’s all normal, and it’s all character(s)-specific.

1 Like

That’s because you probably are cheating when it comes to numbers and dates - those two things are notoriously hard and people will almost always default to their native language on those regardless of what their target language is.


Yeah it takes so much discipline to actually read the numbers and not just be like “I know what that means.”

Hey welcome back to the forums btw


I still have problem reading Year, btw. Although I have no problem with ここのつ. Maybe it is frequency in listening thingies.

That becomes clear when reading Japanese Graded Readers.

I have a family member who hasn’t operated in his native tongue in over 40 years - and he says he still counts in Serbian when he’s counting to himself.

Thanks for the welcome! I’ve had a rough year so I decided to reset and start from scratch, hopefully this time with less burnout lol.


I find the idea of not sub-vocalizing to be interesting. I sub-vocalize every single thing I read, including in English, my native language. I understand that speed readers probably don’t do that, and this is probably one of the reasons I’m such a slow reader. But I feel like if I don’t sub-vocalize I’m not getting all the information out of what I’m reading.


Especially in Japanese where there is so much inherent meaning in the characters themselves. It’s an interesting prospect, the idea of reading without sub-vocalizing. Especially in the context of JLPT or other test-taking, where extracting the meaning as quickly as possible from texts is key.

Not sure how non-native English speakers read books, but I read a lot of English books without subvocalizing too. They are more interesting things in English than in my native language after all.

And I employ speed reading technique often (the gaze thingy).

I try to read sentences to the end without thinking about the meaning, just the reading, then start breaking down the meaning from there. I mean, speech doesn’t have kanji, so I should prepare to face similar-sounding words.
When I do go over the kanji, I usually vocalize them in English and not in my native language Hebrew. However - numbers I do read out in Hebrew, seeing as it’s about the hardest thing to shake off, especially with larger numbers. I am guilty of doing the same when reading out English excerpts.

Instead of focusing on what to read when you do read, I suggest to just regularly consume content in Japanese. Especially anything that involves listening, considering that doesn’t have kanji and then you have to recall the meanings by yourself. It speeds up remembering vocab meanings and skips breaking a word down to the kanji components.

1 Like

I’ve always been that way. There were so many times when I ran out of time on the language portion of timed tests (in my native English), and scored lower as a result. But, in junior high school, we were given a state-wide reading comprehension test with no time limit, and I scored off the top of the chart for my grade level. They said I was at a college junior’s reading comprehension level.

I don’t know if there’s any general correlation between subvocalization and comprehension, but there definitely is a correlation for me between taking my time and comprehension.


So I guess it’s kinda normal that when reading, I can focus on the Japanese pronunciation or the meaning, but not both at the same time?

I’d guess it’s common. Initially, the two were distinct for me, and recall of each was independent. But after switching to the method of always recalling reading-then-meaning together, no matter what the WK review was asking for (and also being a subvocalizing reader, so thus doing the same while reading), the two became one for me.

That … sounds wrong, but I can’t put my finger on why. Do you get enough practice reading Japanese at your level (or slightly above)? Reading aloud and then trying to puzzle things out might help.

I might have exaggerated a bit. When I focus on pronunciation, i do understand the meanings of the words. But when I get to the end of the sentence, I have to look back on it to make sense of it as a whole.