Trying to Read Above Your Level? Need Advice

ダンガンロンパ0。I’ve read an English translation awhile ago but not sure how accurate it was. And the books are so pretty! They have a few illustrations.


How do you look up grammar specifically? I tried putting 絶望してわた into and it said the last bit of it was a cotton plant. I need a dictionary of Japanese grammer.

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Is it this?

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Yes! It’s two volumes. I don’t know how to get japanese kindle books tho…

Personally for kanji I just got used to searching by radical, or guesses at the reading. Not fun at first but eventually it’s not too bad as you get used to it so imo the practice pays off.

If an android phone, I personally think the app “Takoboto” has a more forgiving search system than Jisho’s when it comes to chunks where you aren’t sure where words begin and end. It’ll often be able to give likely word boundaries where Jisho tends to give up if you aren’t just right.

These ones are great, but honestly for looking stuff up during reading regular dictionaries are often going to be more helpful, as they’ll have grammar-related phrases in them too that can get the job done for you in a pinch.


You can look up a guide, but I would highly recommend doing that. Then use the ttu reader to yomichan everything.

Especially as an absolute beginner to reading books, I think the cost of getting the ebook is far worth it when you consider the time you save on lookups and whatnot. Yomichan will even help you with grammar.


Even if the translation was so-so, having read it before in English gives you a super power.

You might not see it right away, because you have so much waiting to be learned. But once you’re able to start to sort of get the gist of what you’re reading, having read it in English helps you fill in the context that might otherwise be too difficult to discern from reading in Japanese alone.

It depends in part what you’re looking for, but often putting in a part of a sentence followed by the word “grammar” into a search engine will help. Not always, but you’ll get used to what works and what does not work over time.

For 「絶望してわた」, I’d need more content, such as the whole sentence that it’s in, and maybe the sentences before and after it.

If you can afford it, A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar is really good to have around. But you can also get a lot of the information online (in various articles) once you get used to how to search for grammar. (Basically, the same as what @rodan wrote!)

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I sort of forced myself with much frustration to read a book above my level.

I did not even know was talking at times to be honest. But the next book became a muchhhhh easier experience.

I belive I could even reaf that book now. I don’t mileage may vary?

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I use the dictionary app yomiwa (iphone/ipad, I don’t know if there is an android version). You can draw kanji and kana with your finger or apple pen. It’s pretty good at recognizing even sloppy writing/drawing. You can search by radicals, too, if you prefer.


When I tried reading print materials without furigana, my strategy was to digitally transcribe the text in a google doc so that I could use Yomichan and other resources to decipher the text. I was able to easily type 99% of all the unknown kanji (with one exception, which turned out to be an abbreviated version of another kanji :sweat_smile:) simply by using the IME pad that the Japanese keyboard comes with. I just quickly drew the kanji I didn’t know, and then I could click on the one I needed, and it would insert it into the document.

However, according to some of my friends who are much more proficient readers than I am, knowing kanji stroke order really helps with this, and none of them know how to write kanji, so they often have to look up kanji by radical instead because they can’t get the IME pad to recognize their drawings. It made me really glad that I spent time learning how to write kanji so that I could actually utilize that tool.


When I want to look up a kanji that I don’t know, I use my phone. My phone’s keyboard has the option of inputting by drawing. So I can open up my dictionary app (I use Takoboto and Kanji Tree), and draw the kanji in the search. Easier if you have a stylus, but I imagine you can get by without one.


for me above my level is frustrating

I remember ten years ago I really wanted to read the manga blade of the immortal, and there was no translation to english that time for the latest volumes, so I tried to read them, and most of the time I was only checking dictionary all the time trying to make sense of things. Back then I barely knew 100 kanji,

very frustrating

I hope later levels on wk I can read some basic stuff.

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I’ve done something similar with a seinen manga, when I had around N5 knowledge. I’d say it not efficient if what you are looking for is improving your Japanese if the book is far above your level. In contrast, if the material is only 1-2 level above, it’s ok.

However, the most important thing is motivation. So if that LN is something you really passionate about. There is nothing wrong to read it. You would learn a lot from it.

This is what I’m doing, I use the material as a milestone and motivation to study Japanese. I will check them like once a month if I’m ready to read them or not. I’ve done this with “Shin Mazinger Zero”. I don’t understand any of it last year and now I just finish reading it and move on to the sequel.

My next mile stone for me is to be able to play Disgaea5 in Japanese and understand Midnight Dinner without any subtitle.


Here’s a pre-made vocabulary list for that book! Danganronpa Zero – Prebuilt decks – jpdb

I believe you can choose to have the vocabulary shown to you either chronologically (in the order they appear in the book) or by frequency within the book. If you go chronologically, you might be able to get started reading surprisingly quickly. I’m really looking forward to using some of these pre-made decks to improve my reading experience for more challenging books in the future.

PS I’ve enjoyed jumping in above my level with European languages a lot. I wanted to do the same with Japanese, but with Japanese “above my level” was so much lower of a level than with German (for example). Japanese is just so much more different from my native language. So if you can’t manage the light novel, don’t get to frustrated, just try something a little easier. (Furigana is definitely a gamechanger.)

(This is all assuming you don’t already know an Asian language. If you do, then maybe it won’t be as difficult for you.)


If you’ve played the danganronpa games, those are what i’m using for practice right now - however it’s painful to look up kanji from them since you can’t just copy and paste it. I started at lvl 5 and spent like 2 hours to get to the point where I could save but now I am going at a decent pace, and am being held back more by non-intuitive jukugo than lack of kanji knowledge. Also the class trials are more fun in Japanese especially the stupid pop bubbles to spell words mini game where it asks if you know how to spell “knife” in the english localization… It’s fun trying to figure out what word it wants and finding the often rotated hiragana to spell it.
Spoilers for Super Danganronpa 2:In chapter 1 instead of having to painstakingly spell out “under the floor” letter by letter, you get the much simpler ゆかした(床下)which wasn’t a word I knew before and I felt like a supergenius and blessed Wanikani when i figured it out during the mini game itself


This is also a super nice forum and many of its loveliest denizens have already replied in this thread. You’re a polite friendly beginner with an interesting goal and problem, far more novel than many other threads with people asking for help when they’re overwhelmed by reviews or other common issues (not criticising these people either, they need help too).

If you give it an honest try and there’s a few grammar or vocab points you can’t puzzle out with some googling and effort, post them here and people will fall over themselves to help you understand and give you pointers. That’s the advantage of a supportive community. And then once you do understand, you can pay it forward to other beginners in turn. Good luck, keen to hear how you get on with it!


Have you looked to joining in with reading a manga with the Absolute Beginner Book Club?

Many people who join in find they make amazing progress in just one volume, and each volume they read gets easier overall. (Moving on to more difficult manga is a big difficulty increase, though!)

Once you’ve started reading (I’m speaking as if you haven’t), it becomes easier and easier over time to get into more difficult manga. I’m not familiar with Blade of the Immortal, but looking at a preview of the first chapter in Japanese, it does look like it’s a bit heavy in dialogue!

By around level 30 in WaniKani, reading should be a lot easier as you’ll typically know more than 80% of the overall kanji used in the material. Even if you don’t necessarily know the words they’re used in, it can be easier to infer their meanings if you already know the kanji.


Omigosh! So many helpful people in this thread. You’re all wonderful!

THANK YOU FOR THIS. I’ve never used a prebuilt deck before but that seems brilliant!

I am a die hard Danganronpa fan. Minus V3. We don’t talk about V3. But what platform are you playing on? I couldn’t find it for PC in Japanese.

Thank you! I hope to start looking at it this weekend!

Thanks to everyone who replied in this thread.
I AM SO EXCITED YOU GUYS. I know it’s going to be hard, perhaps painful (especially the grammar) but I want to try!


Other people have given a lot of really great advice here but just popping in to say that from my experience, although maybe reading something way above my level wasn’t the most efficient thing to do, it proved really useful for me in showing exactly what it was that I needed to work on and giving me the motivation to do it so I could get better at reading the thing I loved! For me, I was trying a manga with furigana so it was a bit easier (would agree with others that if you can get the ebook version that will be a BIG help starting out). I started reading when I’d covered very little grammar, and struggling though each sentence showed me that grammar was the big thing that I needed to focus on for reading to get easier. I ended up having to put the manga to the side for a few months and really focus on covering N5 and N4 grammar, but it was much easier for me to stay focused doing so because I a) had come across much of it already struggling through that first volume, and b) knew that by doing that I’d help myself be able to read more.

So yeah, I’d say even if you try it and it’s too hard right now, that’s not bad at all! It will hopefully at least let you know what you need to work on and then you can come back (probably in less time than you’d expect) and it will be more manageable :slight_smile:


Steam allows you to download it in whichever language you want, i’m on Mac so i just right click the game in my library, hit Properties, then there’s a tab called Language which lets you switch between English Japanese and Chinese - but be aware you will lose your save files switching languages.