When did reading become natural?

At what level of study (years, level in a textbook, WaniKani level etc) did the switch to reading in Japanese become easy for you?

It bothers me that my first impression of my Japanese notes is like staring at old code I wrote LOL. My first instinct is what is this before I make the language shift and I start parsing out words and sentences. My eyes are always drawn to the English explanations first. I can read very, very quickly so in a split second I can read a sentence in English. I want to get faster at Japanese.

My question is when did that work to switch go away for you? Does it ever come naturally? I would love stories of your experiences. I feel like my kids who are learning to read.

Thank you! ~


Dunno if I’m quite there, though I am getting there. Certainly having more kanji and vocab under your belt helps - you need to get to the point where the connection between the scribbles on the page and the meaning is automatic.

Though, I sometimes read a paragraph, then realise that I just sounded out the words in my head without actually understanding anything of what I’d read…


I was thinking about that today, actually.

I haven’t been giving it enough time and effort lately, but I’ve been playing through a Japanese visual novel game. It’s one that I’ve played before in English, so I can understand the general gist of the situation while I focus on reading.

Just a few weeks and levels ago, it all felt extremely slow and cumbersome. Even the stuff that I knew took me a moment to dredge up from memory. Today, in the hour that I spent on it, it went much more smoothly!

There are now kanji that I know the reading and meaning of without having to think about it. Some things just… “flow” when I read it, in a way that it didn’t before. Now, that doesn’t mean to say my comprehension is great! My grammar is poor, so I’m still lost a lot, but the kanji reading is seeing improvement, at least.

Around the mid 20s here on WK, I was learning words that felt kind of vague and abstract, but I’m encountering them a lot in my playthrough! It’s only now that I really feel like a larger part of reading is being unlocked. Just a handful of levels on, I look back at the vocab notes I took for the game, and a lot of those words contain kanji I recently learned. It’s very exciting, because it feels like I’ve really gotten to the more functional part of the language, if that makes sense.

TL;DR: while I wouldn’t call it natural yet, I felt a definite difference and improvement in my reading in the 20s of WK.


It’s been becoming more natural to me with a lot of input (reading practice), as opposed to just pure studying. Studying is an important step too, but at the end of the day you’re going to get better by actually putting what you’ve learned into practice. You have to stumble and feel lost, and still keep going because more and more input is what’s going to help you advance in your reading.


What is the name of the game you are playing? Is it for 3DS? I’m super interested in this. I think I would eventually really enjoy these games!

1 Like

That is wonderful advice. Thank you <3


I definitely do this too. It’s very frustrating.

1 Like

I’m playing through one of the Ace Attorney franchise side-games. ^^ :purple_heart: 逆転検事 2. I’m not sure if any of them were remade for the 3DS, but they are definitely DS games.

I understand this type of game isn’t for everyone, but my wife and I have been playing them together for years, and I enjoy them. I’d definitely say it’s something to potentially look into, since they are originally Japenese, and you get hours worth of reading from just one game.


OH OH OHHHH I LOVE THOSE GAMES! That’s immediately what I thought of when you said visual novel game. And I have all of them. I bet they’re sooo much better in Japanese! You have to have an imported system though, don’t you. Dangit!


I feel it’s very much like when I was a kid and I started reading. If I think really hard, I can remember those days… and though I don’t recall the struggle, I’m sure It’s pretty much the same as how reading japanese it has been so far.

I remember as a kids reading the labels of every product, all the advertising and billboards on the streets…
And now It’s the same :sweat_smile::sweat_smile:

Actually I’m doing much better than my first time, I feel that in a year and a half with japanese I’ve covered what itook me a couple of years as a kid in term of reading. Reading books aimed at 小学4生… it’s not super easy, but the right amount of effort and fun so far :slightly_smiling_face:

Anyway, there’s no switch of any kind. Just work constantly on reading… pretty much the same way people come back for reviews here… same for reading… a couple of pages every day… :hugs:


It’s definitely something that comes with time and experience with reading. The more you read, the more natural it will become, but it takes a long time so don’t get too frustrated with yourself. I remember the first time I tried to tackle a game in Japanese, I spent nearly 8 hours just getting through the opening story dialogue because I stopped to look up every word I didn’t know and make sure that I understood everything 100%. That’s certainly a valid way to tackle reading, but it can be really exhausting too. Now that I have a bit more experience, I’m often able to read through the “easy” sentences fairly smoothly, but I still find passages, paragraphs, or sentences that just leave me completely scratching my head, whether it’s some grammar I haven’t studied yet, a sudden switch to more formal language, or a slew of kanji I haven’t learned all in a row. I often find that I can glean the meaning by context if I’m only missing a few words, but sometimes I just skip past it and keep going so that I can enjoy the story more. I think it’s good to find a balance between looking up words and learning versus making sure you don’t get overwhelmed. You can always come back to a work later and surprise yourself with how much you’ve learned since then. :slightly_smiling_face:


I also sometimes do this reading my native language (English) and the languages that I translate for a living :sweat_smile::joy: it’s ok to lose focus, as long as you realise and gently bring yourself back to the task at hand :smiley: or if it’s become a real struggle to focus, it’s a sign (for me anyway) that it’s time for a break - I have a stretch, or make a cup of tea, etc, and then return to the text a few minutes later with fresher eyes, rather than just trying to relentlessly cram the words into my brain.


If you want a game that has Japanese option on a non Japanese 3ds then you can check out Bravely Second or Bravely Default, I remember changing to Japanese when I played it. Can’t remember if it was just the narration or the text as well… I need to find the card I’ll check it out for ya.

I’ve been learning Kanji for about 13 months now and one of my go to sources for Japanese text only are songs lyrics. It really helps with speeding up my reading, since the pace of singing is faster than speaking.

I don’t know whether it’s your first time learning a second language or a different character writing system language, but as someone who is bilingual and had to learn 4 different writing systems and 6 languages, I can assure you that the more you engage with a language in a practical way, the sooner it becomes more natural to you.

I did it with my second language through programming, music, art history, web design… so if you have a hobby that you can shift to Japanese, give it a shot.

I have similar gripes with learning materials - all the English around it… and the fact that it is usually not that relatable.
It’s much easier to remember and recognize terms you’re already passionate about.

Anyway, I hope you find it encouraging :slight_smile:


Found it. This one is Bravely Default and you can toggle between English and Japanese whenever you like.

1 Like

It depends on the source material.
Reading manga became natural around N3, which was about 4 years in for me.
I alternated, over the years, between times of mostly studying and mostly consuming content (manga and video games in my case). Upon completing the N3 level course I was part of at the time, there was a sudden shift from “it still takes some concious effort to read” to “I don’t even realize what language I’m reading anymore”. That lead to a massive year-long binge of manga :stuck_out_tongue:

I also read my first Japanese book at the time (獣の奏者), but that felt crazy painful at the time. I didn’t pick up a novel again until much later, around the time I was about to attempt the N1. The shift had already mostly happened at the time.


I couldn’t imagine that being the first novel I read. It would have made my head :exploding_head:

@ReJi00 I’m definitely not at the point yet where it feels easy, but I’ll give you my view anyway. The most important thing to remember is that everything about learning Japanese is a spectrum. Sometimes I have to read a sentence over and over again just to grasp what it means (and sometimes I still can’t after all that). Other times, I can read a couple paragraphs with barely taking a break to think and I understand everything that I read. And often I will encounter those two situations in short succession.

In some ways you’re worse off than your kids. At least your kids have been fully immersed in your native language for years.


The source material is pretty huge, as nath said.

There are plenty of VNs that I can read, but its by no means natural, and some that I can read and are natural. Other peoples’ experiences may differ, but ime how natural something is at this point in my studies basically depends on how much of the vocabulary I know. Some things fit in smoothly with the vocab I know, some things don’t. This is why I am so fond of floflo which basically makes sure that vocab isn’t an issue in whatever you’re reading. Ive gotten a lot faster too, but the speeding up definitely takes time. Just think of how long it took you to read english when you were little and get to your current speed.

As for the actual time portion, which I forgot to answer, it was a while after I got level 60 and I would say I had been studying for 1.75 years or so. But the 1.75 years doesnt even get into how much time I spend per day, which is definitely a lot by many peoples’ standards.


Well, it did, which is also why I gave up on books for a while.
That being said, I was reading the “kid” edition (forgot the name, the blue one, 青い鳥 something?) so it had illustrations and furigana at least.


I’m totally gonna read the real version soon. (Soon in the scope of learning languages, so maybe in 2020.)


Answer: you’re asking the wrong question. Don’t think of it in terms of reading in Japanese becoming easy. Think of it in terms of your native language. Are there certain things that would be difficult to understand when you read them? Think about high level math or science books, or dense philosophy, or even a blog about an obscure video game that you’ve never played before. Even as a native, these topics might be hard for you to understand. Japanese is the same way, you’re just more aware of how little you understand. Rather than worrying about reading Japanese being easy (because it will never always be easy, just like your native language), instead, focus on certain topics of interest. Read those topics a lot and eventually you’ll learn all the keywords. Then, reading on those topics will become easy. Then move on to the next topic. Generally, I recommend getting a hold of some books written for Japanese pre-K children. They’ll have very simple vocabulary and grammar. Read as many as you can until that becomes easy. After that, start reading books intended for elementary age children (if you can get them ranked by grade, all the better). Again, once it starts to become easy, level up again. Keep it up and eventually you’ll be reading at a high school level, then a college level, and so on.


Sweet! Thank you!

1 Like