Romaji - The bane of japanese?

Even though I’m not that far into japanese I’ve noticed that reading japanese and comprehending japanese is far easier using kana and kanji than even trying to decipher japanese using romaji. Which I find quite interesting since I’m far more used to romaji than kana and kanji. I learned my first kana just 9 months ago and know about 800 kanji thus far, but when I read japanese in romaji my comprehension goes down a ton.

What made me realize this is when I listened to a japanese intro to an anime that was using romaji lyrics and it looked like total gibberish. But when I saw that same intro with kana and kanji I could understand like 80% of it. It was like night and day.

Japanese just doesn’t work very well using romaji. Quite the opposite, it adds another unnecessary confusing layer onto it.

I honestly feel annoyed when romaji is used because it makes the reading far harder to read, which sounds somewhat counterintuitive since I was born using romaji.

/rant over

Anything romaji related is welcome.



Very good rant though! I just imagined what this would be like, and even at my low level I can see where this would be confusing for sure! :laughing: Thanks for your rant!

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The only useful place I could see it is on signs so that I can know the readings of place names, since they’re so famous that people are expected to know them from kanji alone.

also karaoke but I just need to improve my reading speed


You know what’s even worse than romaji? Mixed romaji:

I really love Japanese from Zero but only the online version (where you can display everything in Kanji from the beginning) and George’s (author) video series on Youtube. This “progressive” style of teaching kana while tackling grammar i find just horribly distracting. The way it’s done is by introducing a new batch of kana each chapter, which from then on partly replace romaji in example sentences. A lot of people apparently like it though.


I don’t often find myself accidentally running into romaji where I would prefer something else. If someone wants romaji, then I’m fine with it being available to them.

I have no idea what George was thinking to be honest. I really like the guy and japanese from zero but he really dropped the ball on this one. That is just so hard to read.

It is easier to read for absolute beginners though so I get why he did it, but he’s doing them a huge disservice by using romaji, which makes them dependant on them and will take them ages to get out of that habit.

It’s annoying because it’s far more tedious to read for no reason at all. If you’re somewhat serious about learning japanese, learn the kana.

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Isn’t the whole point that they can learn other stuff while they learn the kana? They don’t mix them forever.

Will do.

If they can’t be bothered learning kana which takes two days tops when really trying, they probably will.


I just think it provides no actual benefit and unnecessarily complicates reading but the books move slow (so you can do them fast) and by the end of the first one everything is already at least in hiragana (not yet katakana), so i don’t imagine people will rely on romaji all that much after that. He does progressively ween students off using them.

Myself i will never know how good/bad it would’ve been since i found JfZ only after knowing all the kana. Looking at it after the fact it’s not appealing in the least even if i try to look at it from a teaching perspective :sweat_smile:

They are though… it would just all be romaji with no kana if they weren’t learning the kana… I guess you mean you think they should not do anything before they learn all the kana… which… okay, but it’s just one resource and no one’s forcing you to use it.

If romaji didn’t exist, I think there would be fewer people starting to learn Japanese, not more.


I honestly just find it weird to learn a language when you can’t even comprehend the basic letters.

Romaji should be used in order to learn kana.

I could be wrong, but I’ve read too many fail stories regarding japanese where they started getting dependant on romaji and had to backtrack their progress and use kana for no good reason at all other than delusion. I could be wrong and probably am.

I had no problem using George’s JFZ books when I first started. Personally I quite liked it, especially coming to it from a someone with literally zero understanding of Japanese prior so it worked well for me.

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Different people have different goals. Some people want to focus on speaking and listening, and romaji is something that lets them still be able to interact with the language at the level they want to. If they later decide they have different goals, I don’t think they (or others) should necessarily characterize that as a failure.

If people have goals that include reading and writing from the start, it’s possible they just aren’t aware of enough available resources, and sure, that means they’ll have gone slower than they could have, but most people have to trip and fall their way through some bad resources (for them) no matter what. Not everything works for everyone.


Everyone moves at a different pace but will ultimately end up in the same place. How quickly you learn hiragana or katakana will probably add up to something like 0.1% of your whole Japanese learning experience at the end of the day too.

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I think romaji gets a little more hate than it deserves just because of the learning trap. I was watching a lot of game streams where the applications didn’t support kana/kanji well in their chat applications and a lot of conversations or jokes used it.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out why TKB was ちくび and a lot of the streamers all had their own style of IME romaji that made for slight differences in how they would write messages.

A weird and kinda niche issue, but I don’t hate romaji nearly as much as I did before thanks to that. (The mixed romaji kana example looks like cancer though).


Ngl, but Japanese names in romaji are certainly easier to parse. :sweat_smile: Not the least, since they get used in international contexts so a romaji version is necessary for international audiences, and it’s not strange to be more familiar with the romaji version of a name at first. Japanese isn’t alone in needing this intermediary to allow people to read Japanese words without learning the signs or language (not everyone is on a language journey after all, but we still need to be able to communicate in writing).

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We have to understand that for any language, the spoken language comes first in that it is the one that people learn first and also traditionally the one they use the most and that evolves the most.

In that sense, both Romaji and Kana are just phonetic transliterations of the spoken language and there’s no fundamental difference between them (one of them is based on single phonemes, the other on syllables; and Romaji is not really standardised; but these are accidental, and not fundamental issues).

I find it weird to claim that a transliteration of the spoken language “obfuscates” the language. It’s true that with Kanji you can guess the meaning of unknown words or disambiguate homonyms, but you can’t do that in spoken language anyway. Being able to understand the language from its phonetic form is a necessary skill.

Moreover, if you try to study Japanese phonetics or morphology, Romaji is even at an advantage, because Kanji (and even Kana to some extent) can obscure some of it.

This discussion (whether Japanese would “work” with Romaji) is, of course, a discussion completely separate from the one whether one should learn using Romaji. I also wouldn’t necessarily recommend this, but it could be a good compromise for someone who wants to prioritise the spoken language first.


I feel the more you know the easier it gets, based on experience and context.

Depends on the romaji system used. The one preferred by the government isn’t a true translation I’d argue since it ignores long vowels. I much prefer the nihonshiki since it keeps these, but others don’t like it because し is si and つ is tu.

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