I would say start reading when you have sufficient grammar knowledge (maybe around N4), not kanji. No matter how much kanji you know, if you have never touched grammar before you will have a hard time understanding even the simplest sentence. Obviously kanji knowledge will help because you don’t need to open a dictionary very often.
Graded readers didn’t require high kanji knowledge so you could start with those, or Crystal Hunters manga (manga created for Japanese learners). Both come with furigana so you could look up words easily.
I disagree with this personally. It only took me 4 days to learn almost all hiragana and katakana. It seems rather silly to put off it off. While learning your native language in school you would never learn grammar before learning the alphabet, you know? If learning kana was some kind of huge obstacle I would agree with your point of view more. I suppose it doesn’t matter as long as it’s working for the person learning though.
Very true. It’s because we learn how to speak first. You could do that with japanese too but I think it’s very hard if you don’t live there. That’s why at least in terms of reading I think it’s good to start with the alphabet for those of us who can’t/don’t immerse to that level.
I mean, part of learning the kana is learning what the possible sounds in Japanese are and how to correctly (well, to some degree) say them. Romaji is not specific enough to necessarily get you even correctly understanding what any of those sounds are meant to be. You could go learn those sounds as its own exercise, before the kana… but why? I learned hiragana on day 1 and katakana on day 2. I see the idea you’re going for of having a base of words to map the kana to, but the opposite is fine too – when you start learning words, it helps to reinforce the kana and proper pronunciation you put in a few days work for. Either way this should be a relatively small period so it’s not a big deal I suppose, but doing it this way, you are always interacting with Japanese how it’s actually written which certainly has its own advantages.
I’d agree with that and what was said earlier in this thread. Go as fast as you’d like for the first 10-20 levels or so, and then slow down and start getting some grammar and maybe listening comprehension and stuff into your routine.
Edit: I misread your question. I’m not sure about when to start reading. As soon as possible, as soon as you feel comfortable with it. If you read super beginner level stuff but feel like you have to lookup kanji TOO much, then you could postpone it. It’s really up to you.
But you wont be reading nearly as as fast in kana compared to romaji. I’m not sure if I would postpone learning kana too much, but I can see the point @xplo is trying to make.
Even Dogen mentioned in some video starting with romaji only and looking back that it worked for him. You’ll be able to consume content much faster if you start with romaji and do kana on the side, slowly transitioning.
That said, I also saw romaji as the devil and ditched it immediately when I started, but I’m starting to think it’s not as bad people make it out to be. I feel like sometimes theres some group pressure to really hate on romaji.
But learning kana doesn’t stop you from using romaji if you want, it’s not like if you learn one you forget the other.
Besides, it’s not like reading kana is that much slower once you get used to it. Sure, at first it’ll be slower, but that’s going to happen no matter how much time you take to learn it. It’s not really saving time as much as its postponing when you’re going to face a small obstacle and what’s the thing that’s on the other side (learning it early means it can be beginner textbook examples, learning it late meas it could be a manga or something a bit more advanced.)
I feel like were arguing about different things, since your answer doesn’t really make sense to me. When you have limited time, frontloading your studying with kana and then only using romaji seems a bit counterproductive. I thought you were advocating learning kana and ditching romaji. You won’t be very proficient with kana in just two hours.
I don’t really agree. You’re probably never going to read strings of kana as fast as your native script. Of course that’s a bit of an artificial comparison, as there’s always going to be kanji in the mix.
I also think it’s a good idea to start by learning the kana. At least for me personally, one of the most important things that did for me was planting the idea that I can learn Japanese! into my head. It’s really, really encouraging to go from Japanese looking like incomprehensible symbols to then being able to read parts of sentences, even if only occasional katakana words and scattered bits of hiragana.
One of my friends just started learning the language, and I’m currently watching her go through the same stage that I went through, where she’s really excited to be able to read anything at all, especially things like sound effects in manga that are often not translated. That sort of giddy delight you get at being able to understand something that you couldn’t before is one of the things that really keeps you going, especially through the long, slow beginner phase.
I think it’s possible to learn the language by starting with romaji, but if you start with the kana, it gives you a lot of bravery to keep going because you can immediately start to apply your newfound knowledge to Japanese media that you love. In a similar sense, WaniKani did the same thing for me again by making kanji no longer an insurmountable obstacle. Learning the kana, and then starting to learn kanji, gave me the confidence I needed to start learning grammar because it made learning the language suddenly feel feasible and possible when before it seemed too intimidatingly different.
If someone is just going to speak some Japanese, what good will being able to read「トイレはどこですか？」do. Saying it so that one can understand it is going to be 100x easier than reading it for anyone who doesn’t know any Japanese. There are lots of people who speak good Japanese but cannot read it like at all since it’s just an entirely different thing. If they don’t need to read it, obviously that won’t be useful to them.
Apart from that, like every single website giving past the most extremely basic material is going to prompt kana responses or information in kana, often without romaji either. I started with kana before learning a lick of Japanese because of this exact reason. If I recall, Tofugu’s kana guide even gives you some words and stuff so your kana don’t feel useless. Lots of kana trainer things do that. Obviously some of these words tend to be in kanji in reality but they’re still using the new kana for the KORAY WA PEN DAYSOO sentence. The power I felt when I learned I could replace “pen” with “ringo” or “banana” was immense!
Kanji on the other hand is anything but straight forward except for the most basic of words so the learner knows what those strange characters are for. Sentences without kanji are also hard to read, but kana are required to get to kanji.
This. It was such a nice feeling. The third eye opening feeling “oh my god I comprehended something, even though it’s just a little, it’s readable!” The way I learned was I just would brute force it for an hour or more every day with kana prompt+response, and writing it. I don’t recommend this unless you actually enjoyed it like I did but I certainly learned to read it pretty fast
Hidden downside of having learned things: If you neglect WK for 5 years like me (and then reset), you’ll recognize that you have learned the kanji but you won’t remember exactly how to spell it or what it means. Or you will be punished by the Crabigator by typing in “mullet” at every radical prompt of “cliff”