When you see Japanese text

Does it take you a second before your brain switches into “japanese mode” and you can read what you’re looking at? Does this go away over time? I find that I very much relate to my kiddos who are learning to read, because it takes a second for my brain to interpret what I’m looking at. Once I start, I actually read kana quite fast, but every time I look at a block of text it’s like @_@ lol.

Anybody else?


I can’t really remember, but I have the impression it goes away relatively fast (of course, depending on how often you practice reading).
Not a brain expert, but I guess the switch still has to happen, it just gets too fast to notice.


No, not really. I’ve also read quite a bit just because theres a lot of stuff out there I like. I was playing Counterstrike the day before yesterday and someone had a bind for something that translated along the lines of “I love you, lets go back to my house together”. It was obviously google translated and poorly written, but I just glanced at it during the round and got the gist of it. No “switching to japanese mode” or anything.

Its hard to describe, but eventually the words just start to look like their meaning. Like when you look at 愛, it’ll just “look like” love and “sound like” ai, similar to how you instantly understand it when in english. Its involuntary and pretty immediate, so I would say you just have yet to get that switch flipped. The more you are exposed to it, the quicker it will get.


That’s awesome! Thank you for explaining this so vividly. I look forward to being able to permanently feel that sense of ease when reading :slight_smile:


Its a pretty hard concept to describe, so I’m glad I was able to get the point across lol. No problem.

And it should happen for some words pretty quick, so you dont have to wait long. No matter what the context, soon enough you’ll be able to understand 私 and other common kanji involuntarily/instantly if you can’t already.


My eyes still involuntarily try to avoid japanese text, and at first glance it all still looks like a bunch of gibberish. I have to make a conscious effort to look at it like it’s not just some scribble and begin trying to read it.

I hate this feeling. When reading something in portuguese or english, just by moving my eyes to random spots on the text I can understand the gist of it and decide if it deserves a more focused reading. But when I see a japanese text, it’s like my eyes and the text are magnets with the same polarity, the text just pushes my eyes to other directions. And to even understand a little bit, I have to start from the beginning or else, if I try to read some random part in the middle of the text, I can’t understand a single thing…


I have no problem with a bunch of them, I just mean like… a giant wall of text is hard to sink my teeth into, if you know what I mean. I think it definitely helps when there’s more kanji though.

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For me, the reading itself isn’t so much the issue. When I see Japanese text, my automatic reaction is to think “skip” because I’m used to not being able to read it. I have to stop myself and think, “wait, try.”


This is a very powerful and accurate description that matches how I feel, especially when coming across a chunk of unfamiliar kanji. I often feel immediately overwhelmed and have to fight hard to keep trying to read Japanese text when it comes up.

Definitely! I have to do the same thing, even with just single kanji interspersed in an english response. I still have to always force myself to at least look and try my best because my brain’s first reaction to Japanese text is stuck in “we can’t read that” mode.

@Vanilla, Your post gives me so much hope! It helps that I have a strong enough understanding of a few hundred kanji that I understand what you mean by this. I hope I can stick with my studies and persevere to the point where I can get meaning at just a glance. I am really ashamed of my low Japanese reading level. T.T

I especially hope I can overcome my lingering fear of Japanese text and get rid of the same-polarity-magnet effect!


Yes, I relate to all of this!!

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You will! There’s really nothing to it but practice. If you are into mangas, those are a great way to make progress towards that, since you only get short blocks of texts at a time. There’s also a thread on this forum about reading as a group yotsuba&, which seems to be very often recommended to beginners.

One caveat I noticed though, when both Japanese and English are available, my eyes indeed drift toward the English part. It’s really annoying when driving because the English text is MUCH smaller than the Japanese text (to the point of being barely readable for me) and I have to spend an extra split second to force my brain to look at the other one. I almost reared someone on the highway because of that.


I am patiently waiting for my copy of the first Yotsuba to get here all the way from Japan so I can practice reading more Japanese that doesn’t have any english anywhere (like in my textbook, for example) because my eyes definitely do that too. It’s super annoying.


I can’t claim to be able to really be able to read japanese text myself that well yet, but when I see something even primarily in hirigana, its like my brain says “nope, you cant do that” even though usually I can actually read the material.


Yeah, luckily I have been blessed (and cursed?) with an undying love for dank 2d anime babes. Thanks to that I read plenty, but there are a lot of people who put it off way more than they should. Try your best to find something to read that you can enjoy (or at least isnt a complete chore) and you’ll naturally do it more.


Only when I seen something like ウインナーコーヒー and have to decipher what that means.


wtf is wiener coffee? o__o


Yea exactly, it’s also not Winner Coffee, so keep trying.

this is how i’d put it too. sometimes when it comes to speaking i have a bit of a lag getting words to come out how i want them to (tbh this happens in english anyway lol), but when i’m reading i find the only kind of lag is when trying to get the words ‘back into’ english. i feel like this happened a lot more after i went to japan and lived there for a bit.

i work part-time translating too so… definitely sucks when i understand what i’m looking at but can’t exactly find the best way to put it back into english!

another way i find myself explaining it when i get stuck like that is like… with your case if it’s a word or phrase i can’t put back into english i’m just there like " 愛 is 愛 is 愛!" it’s almost like i’m not bilingual and i don’t have another language to put it into. i felt this way recently with 仕草. i learned that way before wanikani and i felt like none of the words to type in really fit what 仕草 /is/, even if they are the literal meanings.


Or is it


:rofl::nauseated_face: Yiiiiiikes. Pass, lol.

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