Starting to read: Level 0

Same hat :sweat_smile: . I noticed I also started confusing certain katakana characters recently for some reason. Maybe because I’m trying to read too fast or something.

It might seem unimpressive, but you’ve already tackled 2 readers and soon enough that number will increase. And who knows, maybe when you look back and see how many things you’ve done, you’ll be impressed too :wink:

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I worry that mnemonic might cause memory interference since it uses the same two people and tsunamis in both.

For these characters I have a mnemonic based on their perceived tilt/angle.

マ is mama’s nose as lays in bed at night looking up.
ム is the moon’s nose as it looks down at the earth.

For ツ and シ i trace like this

I haven’t been able to do this as reliably for ソ and ン though, I often rely on context to discern these sadly, especially in different fonts.


The sh** with ソ and ン and the whole tracing is that it looks like it should be the other way around. The so “tick” is looking downwards so wth does the trace go from top to bottom. I think that is why I keep having problems with them.
With シ and ツ you could argue its the same but somehow since its two ticks you can trace the starting point of them to get the traceline, even though the ticks “point” in the wrong direction.
Idk, just easy to hate katakana I guess :expressionless:

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I think that tracing direction is based on the writing direction of the longer stroke, in some fonts you can see a thick starting end and a thin finishing end.

You might be able to see this more clearly from the シ ツ picture as it has numbers and arrows.

So for ソ the large stroke starts from the top right and goes to bottom left.

For ン the large stroke starts from bottom left and goes to right.

In some fonts you can see the difference in stroke direction (and angle) for the bottom curve of so and n. But in a normal font, that stroke direction isn’t obvious. (at least not to me).

If you see them side by side you might notice the different angle of the large stroke, but on their own I struggle to see this, especially over difference fonts.

For ツ and シ they feel somewhat clear to me now, but that is only because of lots and lots of struggle and Anki and reading and banging my head against them - in weird fonts they can still get me.

One thing that maybe also helps me is seeing them in immersion as they both have forms which the other doesn’t get. We get a bunch of small ッ and don’t get small シ. And we get ジ、 ショ、 シュ、and ジョン (John) and such instead.

Ooh, can I share my mnemonics?! (It’s so rare anyone would be interested, so I have to get it off my chest :joy: ).

Helpful to remember that hiragana for mu is む, which is absolutely a winking cow face saying moo. ム is just a simplified version.

マ vs ス
I was able to remember that they were either ma or su, but not which was which, so: Both are an image of the prow of a ship at sea, but in マ the sea is in the foreground, so that one is ma for mar → sea in Spanish (or marina or maritime or marmaid :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: in English). Whereas ス has the ship in the foreground, so it’s the s-sound one. Admittedly not the strongest mnemonic ever, but it does work for me.

More importantly, I have a hot tip for learning katakana. Install Katakana Madness. I LOVE this script because it lets me learn which readings are on and which are kun in a very easy intuitive way, AND since I installed it my katakana reading skills have grown by leaps and bounds. Higly recommended. :+1:


Thank you so much! I didn’t know where to start with reading practice but I followed your lead and just read that first free Tadoku “book” online. It was a ridiculous delight. That totally took the fear out of it for me and I’m inspired to keep going now.


Update: I’ve continued reading a level 0 graded reader every night, and last night I decided to scroll down the list and see how many there are left. I think I had like 25 more so I decided to step up to level 1 with Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny. I think in a way, level 1 might even be easier to read since the grammar is a little more in line with what I’m used to from my high school Japanese class.

I had a moment of triumph where I encountered an unfamiliar word, かご, and realized I could guess what it was, basket, by going off the illustrations. Slightly spoiled when I remembered that that’s literally how babies learn to read books but you know what? Take the Ws where you can get them. First prize :1st_place_medal:


Can I ask at which point in your learning phase you decided to take the step towards reading books? :slight_smile: Was it once you absolved x levels on WaniKani or was it something else that made you go, “Okay, I have enough of a foundation of kanji and vocabulary that I am ready to test my knowledge by reading Level 0 books”. And what was the thing that gave you the impression “I’m ready”? I’m asking, so I can keep it in mind for the future, whenever I can take the first step towards reading, but I think it’ll be difficult for me to assess that I’m ready to do so once I get there. Assessing oneself is probably among the hardest parts of learning something. :laughing:

Start now. Get the books, try reading them with a dictionnary. Keep studying. Repeat later and enjoy
your progress.


I don’t know. I think it’s pretty impressive. You’re reading Japanese for crying out loud!

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I learned the material from minna no nihongo 1 and tried reading dragon ball SD. That failed spectacularly. Then I learned some more and tried yotsubato. Failed again. Finally on the second try of yotsubato (and half of N4 I suppose) I somehow changed my mindset and worked through the initial hurdle and it stuck.
The hardest part was knowing where some thing ends and the next word begins. Especially after only being used to textbook speech, are the casual forms quite a challange (so many contractions to learn) .
If you know what is what it’s just a matter of looking stuff up. But getting to that point was the hard part and I would say having solid N5 and some N4 is easily enough to start tackling that challange.
The more you do it the easier it will become.


Thank you so much!

For me, I felt extremely un-ready, haha, but the absolute beginners book club here picked a manga that looked really appealing to me, called 大海原と大海原. I was, I believe, maybe 10 lessons into Minna no Nihongo (and maybe like level 15 on WK), so not even halfway to N5. I knew the basics of how Japanese sentences worked, some scattered grammar above my level, and that was basically it.

I just dived into the manga with the help of Yomichan,, and googling some grammar bits that were really confusing to me. Then after I read through the chapter, I’d read through the book club thread for it and get a lot of my questions answered. I failed spectacularly to understand a lot of sentences, haha, but I did better than I thought I would on many others. It was a fun experience, though, because I enjoyed the manga, and I just got what I could out of it and let the rest go.

Our spin-off book club is just starting to read the third volume in the series, which is much harder than the first two because it’s aimed at an older audience and has very little furigana. I’m a little bit scared of that, but also my kanji knowledge is decently solid at this point, and I have some familiarity with the vocab used in the series, so it’s less intimidating. But I’m invested enough in the story, I want to read to the end.

Currently, I’m probably at about N5 grammar (I’m almost done with book one of MNN), and I’m only just starting to feel like I have an actual foundation of grammar. Grammar is way, way more of an obstacle than kanji when it comes to reading, I think. Vocab, too, but if you know grammar, I think you can navigate around unfamiliar vocab easier than the other way around. So I don’t think WK level really correlates at all to being ready for reading.

Maybe my experience isn’t very useful to you, though, because I’m constantly diving into stuff that is way beyond my level, which not everyone finds pleasant. I’ve heard that for many people, reading didn’t really become possible until they had N4 grammar down. I think if you start reading native media earlier than that, you have to be very comfortable with having an impartial understanding.

I mostly just follow my interests, and if I really want to read something, that’s enough for me to push past the frustration of trying to read far above my level. It also helps that I’m constantly working on my grammar and vocab in addition to kanji, so reading only gets easier and easier for me, which gives me more motivation to continue studying.

With the level 0 books, though, I think you can literally start as soon as possible, if you want. It’s fine (and expected) that you won’t get everything! I’ve personally never really tried reading them because I sort of skipped past them and went straight for native media (I think for me, Minna no Nihongo fulfills the same need for easily readable Japanese with simple grammar).

From my experience there’s kind of a balance: it’s easier to motivate yourself to read 1) stuff that is easy, and 2) stuff that is interesting. If a text is easy but boring (many people think this about textbooks), it can be hard to motivate yourself to read. But if a text is interesting but painfully difficult (many people have this experience trying to read native media too early), it can also be hard to motivate yourself. I think the main trick is finding your own personal balance there. Sometimes that takes multiple attempts, or bouncing around between different types of media.

I do think, though, that you will probably never feel quite “ready”. And that’s okay! You just have to eventually find the motivation/confidence to just go for it.


So, very short rundown of my Japanese learning experience:

  1. Took a few years of high school classes
  2. Mostly fell out of practice over the next 10+ years
  3. Started WaniKani in January this year, added on Bunpro at the community’s recommendation

Only at that point did I start checking out any books. Point being:

My foundation for reading was way more than sufficient by the time I finally started. If anything it was a lack of motivation because really I should’ve been doing it in high school.

The nice thing about the grade 0 readers on Tadoku (besides being free) is that you really only need to understand the most basic grammar on the most fundamental level. Beyond that, I use a combination of, Google Translate, and the books’ pictures to figure out any word or sentence structure I’m not familiar with. If you’re having a hard time assessing yourself, I say jump right in to grade 0 and see how it goes! I think I did about a week of those before moving up to grade 1. がんばって!


Just started reading the grade 0 readers and I can understand the sentences thanks to my time with Genki and Bunpro (half of N5 grammar learnt), but ive noticed my vocab is severly lacking is it worth me creating a kitsun/Anki deck for those unknown vocab or should I look at getting the 10k decks etc?

Either one works. Do the thing you personally like most. At your current stage all the vocabulary you learn will probably be useful. The making cards yourself approach might make them stick a little bit faster and be more useful to you immediately. but the additional work might throw you off.


A good in-between choice might be getting started on the 2.3k core deck in Anki first. It’s very solid in terms of vocab covered and it will give you a base to work with. Then you can start adding vocab to either the same deck, because it has a nice format or start new themed decks or a single deck for all the extra stuff.

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Thank you, @downtimes @yamitenshi @WeebPotato @Maharetina for your encouragement. Starting on Level 0 readers is a big deal for me, but I appreciate there are other folks here to whom this is a non-event, haha! :joy:

So proud of you, @positivestress! Congrats on moving on up in the world :partying_face: How many Level 0 readers had you powered through before starting on Level 1? And how are you finding life in the big leagues?

Book 3: 寒い日はおなべ

New vocab learnt:

  • おなべ = hot pot
  • もつ = offal
  • かき = oyster
  • れいぞうこ = refrigerator
  • はくさい = napa cabbage
  • しゅんぎく = edible chrysanthemum
  • ぞうすい = rice gruel

Lots of foods today, haha! :drooling_face:

Noob question:

  • I’m reading this title as “cold day hot pot”. Is that accurate?

Kinda. The cold day is the topic. So a more roundabout way in english would be something along the lines of “As for cold days, hot pot” (remember there is no singular/plural distinction)

EDIT: The thing that yamitenshi wrote about relating the concept “cold day(s)” with “hot pot(s)” is pretty spot on for what the topic is!


Sort of. It’s a little hard to translate, but the title doesn’t actually contain a predicate (the part of a sentence that actually conveys information, basically). That means it’s implied, which is perfectly fine in Japanese, but it makes translations a little tricky. At any rate, “cold day hot pot” implies to me that “cold day” is a sort of modifier for “hot pot”, which is not the case in the Japanese title - that’d be something like 寒い日おなべ I think.

I’m not even sure what specifically I’d say is the implied predicate here, it’s more just relating the concepts of “cold days” and “hot pot”. It’s almost using 寒い日 as a sort of “time specification” for おなべ (similarly to how you could say 明日は… to say “tomorrow, …”), so if I had to translate it I’d say something like “Cold days mean hot pot” or “hot pot on a cold day” or something like that.