Reading and understanding!

Hello! This is my first post ever, I hope I won’t bother someone with it!
I started learning Japanese with one goal in mind: to be able to read NHK easy, without the help of a dictionary. So, i want to concentrate more on the reading and understanding. Not because I don’t want to talk in Japanese but because I am sure I will never get to talk with someone else in Japanese (and bc I am shy as hell). Just like in English, I want to be able to understand and maybe be able to reply in writing. I rarely get to talk in English too.
So,I know I have to learn a lot of grammar (I am almost done with Genki 1), vocab and of course, wanikani.
I am getting a bit frustrated because after almost 7 months of trying to learn on my own, I still have a loooot of problems with understanding. I feel like I did nothing until now.
Any tips? And suggestions about what I should start reading? I tried children’s stories and I felt my head spinning. I feel like the sentences in Japanese are very long and I lose myself in reading them. Until I get to the end I forget the first part of it!
Maybe I am doing something wrong in the learning process? I wish I had a teacher to teach me but in my town it’s impossible to find one.
So yeah, advices?If you please!Thanks!


This video may help you to figure out a process of how to read and parse meaning:

Genki and WK will only take you so far in reading comprehension. You really have to start doing it regularly to see progress. It is going to be pretty hard in the beginning, but it will start to get easier the more you do it.


I have the same goal as you - reading books in Japanese. I found I needed to learn more grammar. I had a bit of background from reading Textfugu, but what really helped was Duolingo and BunPro. I also used a Michael Thomas listening course, which again helped me to build up sentence structure.
Reading is still hard, but its kanji recognition slowing me down now, rather than all the other bits of the sentence

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The thing is, I can recognize the kanji. I have no problem with that. But what’s after the kanji kills me. Sometimes I know when a word end and another begins but when I see only kana I have problems understanding. Like: おきなわはとうきょうよりずっと南だから、とても暑いよ. Where the heck do I stop here, in all that kana?? This is out of context btw, from japanesetest4you, an reading exercise. I have no idea what it means.


I feel the problem you are having is specially that of parsing long lines, that is because that text is probably oriented at japanese kids, who don’t know that many kanji, BUT have a lot of vocab, so they will be able to pick up quickly familiar words within those lines, like Okinawa and Tokyo, that usually you would see with kanji (that helps parsing them in a sentence like this one). In your case most likely you have much less vocab under your belt than a japanese kid, and are better equiped with kanji, that sadly it ain’t appearing in the material you’re using.

Maybe you could give a go to graded readers for japanese learners, usually those will handle kanji with furigana, that will help you with the parsing even if you don’t know a given word. Jump into kids material when you get more vocab under your belt, so you won’t drown in that sea of kana :wink:


I think graded readers designed for adult learners of Japanese are one of the best ways to train your reading comprehension skills.
This thread is a good place to learn more about graded readers and ask questions about them:

Books written for Japanese children can be difficult material for us language learners because even a native 1st grader knows more grammar and vocabulary than a beginning learner. Plus, they might use casual or childish language that is different from what is taught in our textbooks at a beginning level.


That’s where I found learning all the grammar helped, as it makes it really easy to parse the sentence. Like you, before I started learning that, I could pick out kanji, but all the hiragana plonked around the nice kanji just really confused me. On your example sentence, just being able to pick out particles helps break the sentence up:


If you know:

おきなわ - sounds like Okinawa, and is followed by something that looks like a topic marker, so that’s the whole word

は is the topic marker

とうきょう - sounds like Tokyo, and again, followed by something that looks like a comparison word

より is probably a comparison

ずっと need to look that up to find it means something like far more, or continuously

南 - kanji! I know that’s south

だ - I know that’s an informal way of saying です, which sort of means ‘it is’

から - I know that’s ‘since’ or 'because and goes at the end of that clause

とても - I know that means very,

暑い - WaniKani vocab - hot

よ - sentence ending particle, to emphasise

Which gives you something like ‘Since (から) Okinawa, compared to Tokyo, is far more south, it’s very hot you know’


Personally I don’t think that a person at the end of Genki 1 should understand much, especially native material. Graded readers would be difficult as well.

Keep on with Genki 1 (textbook and workbook), continue with Genki 2, and then try reading native materials. Your vocabulary will have grown, you’ll have a better grasp of sentence structure, and in general your understanding will be better.

Unless there’s an objective reason to be fast (exam that determines the fate of your work/school, a move to Japan, etc), there’s nothing wrong with going with your speed. You’re doing exactly the right thing (Genki and WK), so as long as you continue, you’ll see improvement. Doing too much or rushing things can result in burnout or not internalising what you’ve been learning.


I personally could never get through Genki. I tried, but there was always so much to wade through. I switched to Tae Kim and Bunpro and started making much better progress.


Give yourself reasonable expectations. Instead of worrying about understanding whole sentences and articles, focus on recognizing individual words that you’ve studied and see to what degree you can guess the meaning of whatever article you looking at based on the words that you do know. Once you’ve looked over one, archive it. Wait a year and then come back to it and marvel about how much more if it you understand than before.


I see. This makes sense. I will try some books based on my level. I guess I won’t be able to read kids stories too soon heh. Thank you for taking your time and answer!


I tried to do this too a few times until I decided to go to Jisho and then it told me おきな means old man and わ is a particle. I was so confused, I had no idea what’s going on.
I try to use this method with every thing I read but 60% of the times I don’t get it right. I guess with more practice I will understand. Thank you for the help, I feel so lame not being able to understand とうきょう…:expressionless:

If you’re almost done with Genki 1, I think level 0 graded readers like this one would be within your reach:

The nice thing about graded readers is that they usually have kanji with furigana (unlike kids’ books that have hiragana for words normally written in kanji).


@konekush No hurry here, I just do it as a hobby and because I love learning new thing.
I hope I will not burn out bc I am not able to read things heh. Thank you for the help!

@sornvru For me, Genki is perfect. Tae Kim is a bit too much for me. I don’t have a lot of patience and I need short and meaningful explanations. The definition of the grammar rule and a lot of examples to understand. That works perfect for me. I also use Bunpro for the remembering part.

@bnheise I guess you are right. But the frustration is still there. I have been doing this for 7 months, every damn day and I can’t realize とうきょう means Tokyo…but you are right, I bet next year, this time, I will understand much more. Thank you for the help!!

@Saruko Yup, that’s perfect, I will give them a try. Thank you so much, you’re a life savior hehe.


I studied Japanese for 10 years before I ever read a book from front to back so don’t be so hard on yourself.


Yup, the sample sentences are a great way to learn the new words. I used to skip them too but now not anymore, after realizing the reading kills me.
I will give rikaikun a try, looks interesting. Thank you for your help. Every tiny bit of info is precious for me!

After Genki I, I really don’t think you have enough grammar and vocab to get through much of anything, as others have said, but something I think that could help a lot with your reading comprehension is listening comprehension. I know you said that your goal is more reading than speaking, but watching something like Terrace House, where people are just speaking naturally, will help you get the cadence of the language in your ears. Then, as your vocabulary grows, you’ll already be aurally familiar with a lot of sentence structures, and hopefully, it’ll be easier to parse the sentences that you come across. Like others have said, though, even after finishing both Genki books, it will take a long time to get to the point that you can read anything easily. I’m only level 5 here on WK because I just started in April, but I already speak Japanese and lived there for three years. My communication/speaking/vocab is far ahead of my kanji, so I’m using WK to catch up. Even after living there three years and studying and talking in Japanese all the time, I still can’t read a lot of things. It just takes time! Unfortunately, patience and starting small is key! Even if you finished WK in one year and knew all the kanji, you still might not be able to read NHK articles and know what you’re reading. Just be patient, keep going, and aim for lower level materials such as the Genki workbook until you’re ready for more! :heart:


As someone who also finished Genki 1 and is currently going through Genki 2, I’m just gonna say that it’s totally normal to feel like it’s still isn’t easy to read even the simplest stuff. Even after you understand a concept, you have to see it again and again in context to really be confortable with it. It takes a while, but it does get easier eventually.

I’ve read somewhere that the NHK news easy grammar is about at N3, so while you’ll be able to recognize a lot of stuff every once in a while they just throw a curve ball at you.

So after Genki 1 you should feel confortable with Lvl 1 Graded readers, and kind of ok with Lvl 2. 頑張って!


Oh wow, N3?Really? Oh, I see, now I understand. Well, I guess I have a lot to go huh? Thank you for telling me this, I had no idea. This puts things in another light! Easy study to you too!


I do recommend you to study basic grammar at least. Recognizing joshi (particles) makes things really easier. It’s essential if you want to understand a text or a speech. Joshi indicates the role of a word in a sentence. Note that in spoken language there is no kanji nor kana. You must recognize both words and joshi.

I strongly recommend you Tae Kim’s Guide to Japanese: About – Learn Japanese

Oborozukyo-san explained the sentence very well.

  • Okinawa, compared to Tokyo, is far more south. That’s why it’s very hot, you know.
  • Okinawa is far more south than Tokyo. That’s why it’s very hot, you know.
  • Okinawa is very hot because it’s far more south than Tokyo, you know.

And so on