How to Read Japanese


Learning how to read Japanese is by far the most frustrating aspect of studying the Japanese language. It can take years and years of study to get a level where you can read basic Japanese newspaper articles. The problem as to why it is so difficult is greatly misunderstood. Most students believe it is because of kanji and grammar. People who know very little about Japanese think it to be the “three Japanese alphabets”. These are not the reasons. It is not because of Kanji or grammar. It has to do with learning methods and a lack of cultural understanding.

The main problem with studying written Japanese is current learning techniques and teaching methods. Teachers and text books go about teaching Japanese by promoting ineffective and time wasting methods. They break up Japanese into parts with no focus on actually reading Japanese.  You cannot expect to read Japanese if you go about learning to read Japanese in parts. If you have been or are learning Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji in parts and in no context at all you will never reach a proficient level

Written Japanese is more complex and confusing than spoken Japanese. As a result teachers and authors break the language up to make it easier to explain and teach. The intention is also to help make reading Japanese easier to process. Unfortunately, the opposite results. The learning process becomes extremely slow and time consuming. Students become frustrated with the lack of progress and eventually give up even before attempting to read a page of writing. Those who persist struggle for months and months spending hours and hours memorizing Kanji and grammar rules. No reading of real Japanese is being done.

The best way to approach is to try to tie in all the elements of the language as early as possible. You need to try to learn Hiragana, Katakana, Kanji  and grammar and together.  If you do this you will actually start reading earlier. As a result you will be able to practice and start reading real Japanese.

The best learning resource to help you with learning how to read Japanese is a human being: someone who can read Japanese. You need someone to read to you and guide you through your reading. Either a native speaker or someone who understands Japanese at a academic and cultural level. There is one aspect of Japanese that is almost completely overlooked by teachers, author and students. It is culture. The culture of Japan had a huge influence on the way Japanese communicate in both written and spoken Japanese. You need someone to coach and guide you through not only the fundamentals of reading, but also the cultural elements.