Reading adult, native material without furigana feels like a pipe dream

Having furigana helped if you don’t know that particular word and want to look it up. It’s easier to type in the dictionary rather than have to “construct” it from radical or drawing the kanji by hand.

But I agree I too prefer not having furigana. Having furigana sometimes distracts me and often times I opt to read the furigana rather than the kanji itself even though I already know the word, which could lead to a bad habit.

I might disagree, (or might have misunderstood). I enjoy learning, but obvs some aspects are more fun than others, the desire to have learned, even though I don’t have a pressing driver, is what pushes me to do the bits that are less fun, and medium term goals are part of that!

Stick with the program. Your brain is amazing and will get you there. Think of the tools like SRS, using comprehensible input, and such as brain optimizing strategies. One day you’ll realize that you automatically comprehend what you see and that your brain has made the switch to comprehension of Japanese as Japanese. And look for the successes and milestones along the way for assurance.

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You just have to keep going on with WaniKani. Initially, it was an absolute struggle reading novels like 君の名は in my level 10s and 20s. Eventually I gave up because I took at least 10 minutes getting through a single page, annotating the meaning of at least 10 Kanji that I can’t read or comprehend.

I then stuck to reading materials with Furigana and consistently did WaniKani, until it came to a point in my Level 40s and 50s where I found that I don’t need much Furigana anymore. I can read novels from the famous author 東野圭吾 without much trouble nowadays.

Just keep persisting.


Yes, but there is a very tangible limit to possible readings, especially when it comes to on’yomi.

The way I see it:

  • if you know enough words, it will be easier for you to figure out longer compounds including those words and just in general easier to navigate through sentences.

  • to the above, that also happens for kanji in specific positions, like 用、式、的 at the end of words. Eventually your brain will start taking shortcuts for these.

Furigana might seem like a good thing at the start, but later, when you know more words and kanji, it might become redundant :slight_smile:

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Also, get comfortable with not knowing the reading to a word. There are plenty of “can Japanese people actually read kanji” videos floating around, and while that title is of course clickbaity as can be, it turns out it just happens that Japanese people won’t know the reading for a word they know.

That’s not a big deal. They know what they’re reading because they know what the words mean, who cares if they can’t pronounce it out loud. If they have to, they can describe the word by using words containing the same kanji, making an educated guess from readings they know, etc.

It’s something your head needs to wrap around, that it’s okay to know what a word means but not how to read it. It’s not something you’re used to in English, you can always more or less infer what a word’s pronunciation is to a degree that someone listening will pick up on what you mean. Japanese just works differently.


Despite being lvl 34 I stil ldont feel comfortable reading stuff like manga because even the items I have learned in WK I keep confusing the, especially the reading,

on news articles at least I have yomichan to correct myself, but in a printed manga I feel I would commit many mistakes and there was no way to correct me right away. And I could bunr the item with wrong reading in my mind. And to get rid of that would be hard :stuck_out_tongue:

So later on when I feel more comfortable I will give a chance. Even English it took me a long time to feel comfortable to read something without a translation to my native language right beside.

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If its a popular manga, there’s probably lots of translations and guides for japanese leaners.

If not, you can always ask things around the forums here, or use radical search/handwritting search on jisho for kanji


Yup, remember seeing one of those videos from Yuta. Funny enough, all of them are WaniKani words like 戦闘 and 賄賂 :joy:

I guess even non-native learners at some point reach a point when they just navigate through the context to understand the text, without bothering about single words.

Yup, once one knows 1-2 kanji from the word or at least their approximate combined meaning, it’s fortunately a lot less of a guessing game, right? :smiley:


You do it in English (or whatever other languages you may be fluent in) all the time, you’re just not aware of it.

Ever read a fantasy novel? Ever wonder how all those brand new made-up-on-the-spot words make sense to you? Exact same thing.

If I say to you “I got angry and swazoodled my keyboard right out of the window” you’ve probably got a pretty good idea of what I mean by swazoodling even though your’e probably not gonna find it in a dictionary.

You’re just hyper-aware of not knowing some words when you’re learning a language :slight_smile:


Just keeo chugging child for one day it’ll just “click” like it did for me

I know, right? So.Many.Words.

I studied Japanese for years before I started Wani Kani, and remember thinking that I was probably at an intermediate level, and being really shocked, when I started reading native material, at just how many words there are. I was probably just about at your WK level when I decided that, actually, I was definitely a “beginner,” on account of lack of vocabulary.

Wani Kani is fairly magical, though. You must have faith in the crabigator. The unforgiving nature of reviews is kinda mean, and some of the words you learn seem pointless, but you really do learn to read.

I’m not quite to level 60 yet, but I only rarely have to draw kanji or use radical lookup–WK covers the vast majority of kanji you will ever see in print, so I can usually guess the pronunciation of unfamiliar words, or “cheat” by typing in words that use the same kanji and deleting the rest.

Just do your lessons and reviews, practice reading with a dictionary beside you, and it will come. You’re in the right place.


Just stick with WaniKani and be patient. Even at level 39, there’s a lot of native material I can read with no problem, just the occasional kanji I don’t recognize which I have to look up (use Google Translate’s scan feature, it’s a godsend for kanji you don’t recognize). You’ll notice more and more of a difference the further you progress.

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Knowing Japanese, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to come across a sentence using スワズル as onomatopoeia like that. :joy:


My favorite Star Trek theme! Guilty as charged.

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I mean its not like you can just pick up context and infer things with an ability remotely close to that of a native reliably until youre a decently high level.

Not to mention, unknown words are going to be pretty close together for anyone who isnt more advanced when reading adult novels, meaning that your ability to understand the context surrounding one unknown word is diminished because theres another word (or multiple) that you dont know which make up that context.

For example swazoodled is a lot less comprehensible if we have

I got angry and swazoodled my keyboard right out of the samble.

Rather than


Makes me this of this article showing what different % based levels of comprehension would “feel” like.


Yes, you’re absolutely right on that, and that’s going to be a big part of why you’re hyper-aware of it. But that hyper-awareness sticks around for longer than it needs to, in my experience, making people uncomfortable not knowing what every word means even though they understand what a sentence means from context, because they’ve associated not knowing words with not knowing what a sentence means, and they’re used to feeling like they understand everything a sentence means.

Though I do admit that’s largely anecdotal and based on my own speculation. Still, getting comfortable not knowing everything early on helps ones experience a lot, I find, and I’ve seen others express the same sentiment.

EDIT: something else I thought of

There’s also added context. “I swazoodled my keyboard out of the samble” isn’t going to make much sense on its own, but if you’ve also seen someone swazoodle something in the trash you probably have a good idea of what swazoodle means even if you had no idea before.

If it’s then also accompanied by a visual of someone yeeting a fish out of a window, you not only have a good idea of what samble means, you also have a pretty strong clue that keyboard might not mean what you think it means.

So with that added context you’ve now understood a sentence where the only things you understood were “I”, “my”, “out of”, and “the”. It’s not always as clear-cut as the amount of words in a sentence known to you.


I don’t disagree on this point, but I don’t necessarily think its a bad thing. Realistically, if someone does feel uncomfortable not knowing a word and looks it up, they will probably have a better understanding of it than someone in the exact same situation who didn’t. Theres also the fact that it might help them recognize it in less forgiving contexts. Lots of sentences and surrounding sentences often times don’t actually give hints, like


For 鏖. Overall, I think that while natives just go through the text and pick stuff up with context, you shouldn’t use that as an indicator that you’re good to do the same until you’re at a near native level. If you’re not at that level then theres no use drawing the comparison in the first place. Besides, they get a ton of help from furigana since they know the pronunciation of a lot of words they might not be able to read, whereas you and me probably dont.

If you wanna just read extensively, then go for it. I just think every now and then the whole “well natives do this” thing gets brought up in some misleading ways.


I think we have the same idea in essence. Of course there’s never anything bad about looking something up - in the absolute worst case scenario you forget two seconds later and know no less than you did before :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

But I do feel that that urge to know what everything means only helps to a degree. It can be extremely tiring to look up everything, especially in materials without furigana (as mentioned in the title), and to be overly critical of what you think you know - is being 90% sure of what a sentence means enough? 98%? 99%? Is knowing the meaning of a sentence but not the reading enough to just keep reading on?

There’s no wrong answer to that of course, it’s as much personal preference as it is anything else, but feeling the need to always know 100% all the time can get in the way more than it helps, and it’s not a realistic expectation all the time precisely because even in languages you’re fluent in you don’t always understand 100%.

And I’m not equating that to “just keep trucking and learn from context”. Research suggests that works, but personal experience suggests it’s also infuriatingly frustrating and it feels super silly to just discount easily available resources because “that’s how natives learn too” as you say. But there’s a balance to be struck in all things. Like in the sentence you mentioned - yeah, without context clues, I’d definitely want to look up 鏖 because I have no idea what that sentence means without it (actually even with it I have no idea what that means because I have no idea what constellations have to do with mass murder but that’s another matter).

But in plenty of other context, inferring from context can work just fine, and if it comes to reading without furigana, sometimes just accepting that “I know this word but I can’t really remember how to read it - can’t be arsed, it’s good enough for now” or “I don’t know this word but I can guess what it means, I’ll see if that’s right if the rest of the story keeps making sense” can be a lot less frustrating and more motivating than constantly feeding that urge to look everything up. Not because that’s how natives learn - I’m not a native after all - but because I only have so much energy to spend on something that’s as much recreation as it is a learning exercise.