Reading japanese subtitles

How fast you guys read Japanese subtitles?(Kanji) I’m interested to know if some of you have gotten to the level where you can figure out what reading on’yomi or kum’yomi to use, I’m guessing that there’s a point where you just know the vocab by heart (I mean a point far away in the future)… Anyway, I’m curious to know if you guys who are learning can read Kanji fast enough to read Subtitles on a TV show. I’m struggling to read the kanas fast enough myself.

You don’t read kanji, you read words.

For example, if you see the word 人間 in the subtitles, it doesn’t matter for comprehension if you know exactly how it’s pronounced (にんげん) if you don’t know what it means. For this it’s not particularly relevant if the kanji in the word use the kun’yomi or on’yomi reading. What matters is knowing the word itself.

However, what I find helpful for learning (though it won’t help for watching TV without pausing) is knowing at least one reading for a kanji because that will make it much faster to look it up in a dictionary. Without that you will have to look it up by radical, by skip count, or by drawing it, all of which can be tedious.

To answer the other part of your question, I read Japanese slowly and with a lot of looking things up, and there’s no way I could watch even a simple show with subtitles and expect to understand 90% or more without pausing it to look things up.


It’s gonna take you some time, mate. You should start practicing, a lot, with static text first. To use WaniKani as a parameter, I’d say I could start reading subtitles comfortably around level 35, maybe. But of course it depends on each person! 頑張って!


Just like @ernestohegi had said, it’ll take time and practice for you to get fluent used to seeing the words come upon the screen. I’ve been watching quite on Japanese Netflix and the Japanese subtitles make it possible for me to really grasp what is happening because I’m not always able to catch what is being said in the program. When vocabulary I don’t know comes up, I usually skip past it and go back to it after I’ve watched the program. At that time, I look it up and study its meaning. It just takes time because I even misread things I have properly studied because of lack of focus. Just like any skill, the more time you invest in reading the better you’ll be at it.


Are you talking about that hot, nihongo-on-nihongo action, or English (or whatever) speech with Japanese text? If it’s Japanese speech with Japanese text, you can pause and listen for what the character actually says.

I’m like, a zillion miles away from being able to do that, though.

Yes 日本語 on 日本語 action.

Spoken Japanese like in regular TV shows goes a lot quicker and they mumble more words so it’s hard for me to tell most of the time. Thanks to Netflix I’m trying to watch shows with Japanese subtitles when I can but it depends on the program as to what language they’ll use.

Now, video game wise, I follow the text pretty closely to spoken dialogue & it’s not that big of a problem. I never understand 100% of what I’m reading of course.

You definitely develop it better the more that you do it. Start reading as soon as you can. For me, my listening comprehension is highest so I’ve been training my brain to read more by playing games. There’s also sections without voice-over so I’ve been teaching myself to just READ that way too but I’m significantly slower. For example, if I have auto scroll on, I can read the whole sentence and get the gist with audio; when they do inner monologues or stop voicing the scenes I have to turn auto off because my reading gets slower.

Keep in mind my level doesn’t reflect because I reset a bit ago. I was about mid-40s when I reset.

1 Like

I love the way Japanese shows subtitle things, with relevant typesettings and pausing for the joke. English subtitlers just like to plonk the whole line on the screen in one go, and completely give the joke away.

1 Like

I’m level 39 and as long as the characters don’t start talking super-speed, I’m usually apace with the Japanese subtitles now. It’s nice to have reading and listening skills reinforcing each other now. And even if the characters talk fast… my reading comprehension is on par with my listening comprehension, so I’m missing a little bit either way, but I pick up clues from both inputs. I get the gist of what’s happening, and I enjoy it.

I’m actually watching Re: Life starting from zero in a different world (Re: Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu) using Japanese subtitles right now. And while I don’t get the details or the nuances too well, I can follow along when I’m paying attention and get everything I 100% need to know, and quite a bit that wasn’t completely necessary, to understand the story. It’s been cool!

It’s definitely good to start with shows that are a bit simpler, though. The ones that are too technical and complicated are still too jargon-y and grammatically complex for me to enjoy right now. Which isn’t to say that all sci-fi is off-limits - that can actually be easier to understand with Japanese subs because if they throw off an on’yomi compound name, the kanji will help you break down the sound and “hear” what was said properly. I’m talking about the ones where following the story requires you to comprehend every single word—so deeply philosophical discussions and debate-heavy stuff is still hard to follow.

I think Japanese subtitles started to be a help somewhere around level 30? I remember watching Fury Road with Japane se subs and was able to grasp most of what I read at level 26 or so. Though most Fury Road dialogue was pretty simple.

This topic was automatically closed 365 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.