Reading Advice for absolute beginners - Should I reach a minimum level in WK before trying to read?

Hi there,

Is it better to start reading beginners text books at the same time as studying Wanikani, or should I wait to get to a specific level so that I can have base to understand what I’m reading?

I have tried a few times in the past but due to my current level I do not understand at all. Has anyone experience anything like this and would like to share some advice? Will it be better to wait until I reach level 10 for example?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.


Im on the same boat man.

Most things you read starting out will have furigana readings besides the kanji. For this reason, you can read various materials with zero kanji knowledge.

What is most important will be grammar knowledge and after that vocabulary.

Have you started learning grammar yet, and if so, how far along are you?


I would also like some hints on reading. I have tried to do things on line and get lost.
I have a basic understanding of grammar but I want to read some real stuff not only sample sentences. Thanks

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Well, yes and no. Important here is to realise that Wanikani only covers one part of Japanese.

I think waiting until level 10 is fine. Although 6 7 or 8 is fine as well, dependent on your confidence, as well as your other background. For example, if you’ve been watching anime for 10 years and been paying attention to the language, you can start a lot earlier than someone who hasn’t consumed any content whatsoever. I mentioned anime, but it can be anything.
As others have mentioned, to start reading the kanji most of the time aren’t the problem. It mostly is familiarity with grammar. Also, at the start it may take a long time per sentence, which consumes motivation.

I would recommend getting Yotsubato!. It makes you get used to katakana/hiragana hybrid language, informal vs formal language and social settings. Being a manga, it is relatively easy to follow. Aside from that, it is super fun to read.

(also, i’m tipsy right now; tomorrow i might word this post differently)


You can try looking for Level 0 graded readers such as on tadoku or read DrDru’s Lab’s stories which start from 0 and build upon what you’ve learned as you go along, both kanji-wise and grammar-wise. Or you can find something you think seems interesting and jump in with a dictionary (which is what I did with a light novel an anime I love is adapted from before I even started WK, although I had some basic grammar and vocab knowledge going into it). Grammar is probably more important than kanji, honestly


Once you have basic grammar understanding, the next step is to start reading. Except, it’s not really reading at this point in your learning. It’s more a matter of deciphering. You’ll encounter a lot of unknown grammar and you’ll need to look it up and learn it. Most words you encounter you won’t know and you will have to look those up. It won’t feel like reading at all for a while.

Over time, the pattern recognition machine known as the brain picks up on seeing the same grammar in different scenarios, and gets better are recognizing it. It takes time, but slowly you get better at recognizing the grammar as you’re reading. You still have to look up a lot of words, but it starts to feel like you’re actually reading rather than deciphering. Just takes a lot of time and effort to reach that point.

The decipher-as-you-go method doesn’t work for everyone. It’s worth trying at least once to see whether it works for you.

For those who do decide to read Yotsuba, there’s a former reading club with a lot of discussion on it.

There’s also current and former reading clubs for absolute beginner readers.

These are great because there’s conversation between other learners asking questions and getting answers, making it easier to learn the grammar along the way. You can also ask questions in the threads, even years after the club has ended, and get still get answers.


I don’t think it’s ever too early to start reading Japanese. It’s a skill that like anything gets better with practice. This applies equally well to simply learning how to look stuff up in a dictionary and how to use an IME. Practice.

But you’ll want to keep your expectations low. You’ll have to look up a LOT at first, so it makes sense to make that as simple as possible.

I’ve less interest in manga and such than many on this site, and most of the fiction I would want to read would still be quite difficult for me.

My suggestion would be to install Yomichan and use Chrome to browse stuff online. Find a blog or whatever on a topic you like (heck, even reviews make for reasonable practice). I’ve found it incredibly gratifying to realize how much email and online stuff I can read now without resorting to a dictionary.

At first you’ll be shift-hovering a LOT, but eventually less and less.


Thank you this resonates a lot with my own way of learning. I will give it a try.

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Thank you very much. This is great advice.

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I think it’s never too early to start reading. The trick is to find things that are at your level. For me, the graded readers published by ASK publishing were the secret to getting a start with reading. These readers start at a “See Jane run” kind of level and then move on from there.

Even when you only know a few kanji, you want reading hiragana and katakana to become more and more fluid and easy, and that only comes with lots of reading. Then as you learn more kanji, you start being able to pick up speed.


Well thank very much. I now have a list to work through !!!
Will update on progress

Having great fun. Installed yomichan and anki but can not link them and neither does anything. No add-on dialogue box in anki so I can not input the link number.
Not your problem, just ventilating frustration. Sorry

Now I have 'Launch the yomichan-gtk executable after extracting the entire archive(or yomichan from the command line).
Bit more ventilation !

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Are you following a guide?

If you haven’t already, for Yomichan to do something you need to install dictionaries.

You download dictionaries from here
For example I have KANJIDIC, JMdict, Innocent Corpus, and KireiCake installed.
Once you download these you have to install them from the Yomichan extension’s settings.
Once installed by default IIRC Yomichan will activate when you are holding the shift key and hovering over a Japanese word, a little popup will appear showing dictionary entries for that word.

Here’s a quick attempt at a step-by-step instructions

  1. Download a dictionary file from here, e.g.

  2. Open the Yomichan settings page by clicking the gear icon.
    Screen Shot 2022-02-06 at 12.07.54 am

  3. Under the heading “Dictionaries” click “configure installed and enabled dictionaries”

  4. Click the “import” button, and open the dictionary files you downloaded.

  5. Now within the Yomichan popup thingo you need to make sure it is set to “ON” rather than “OFF”
    Screen Shot 2022-02-06 at 12.12.16 am

  6. Then visit and hover over a word while holding shift, hopefully something should happen.


If not for grammar, it’s more about vocabularies, rather than Kanji.

Furthermore, many manga magazines already supply Furigana for every speech bubble, anyway (and if Kanji are not in the bubble - probably no Furigana). Yeah, even Death Note.

I admit that Graded Readers are a great place to start.


You are a star. I have downloaded the dictionary and found the gear icon but it does nothing. What have I done wrong, could it be the level of security that I have on my chromebook?

I like Yomichan and think it’s better in the long run, but I think rikaikun is more beginner friendly. It just kind of works out the box, defaults to hover popup, and has default binds to switch the lookup (eg. kanji lookup vs. word parse/lookup).

Also, when I started with Yomichan someone linked this which helped me a lot since it showed dictionary config.


Are you using Anki on a Chromebook?
If so I’d suspect you’re running the Linux version of the app inside the ChromeOs container stuff, I wonder how well AnkiConnect would work in that environment (I legit. have no idea).

As for Yomichan:
If clicking that gear icon doesn’t work then that sounds like Yomichan isn’t running properly, so yeah it might be security / permissions.
Maybe check chrome://extensions settings.

I don’t have Chrome installed to give you exact instructions, but there should be another way of getting to the Yomichan preferences page from the extensions page.

Here is how I do it in Firefox:

  1. right-click the Yomichan icon and select “Manage extension”
    Screen Shot 2022-02-06 at 2.21.41 am

  2. click the 3 dot menu and select “preferences”.

  3. Which brings me to the same config screen that the gear icon would have

From Chrome you should be able to right-click and manage extensions (or something similar), or you could try typing “chrome://extensions” into your address bar and finding Yomichan from within there.

But depending on how broken it is, even this might not work. It definitely sounds like something odd is going on if that gear icon isn’t even opening up preferences =O

Thank you again for that. Going to do something else for a while and come back to it, hopefully with some fresh eyes. I will give you an update.

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