What Is The Best Way To Learn To Read Japanese?

By OptiLingo

Japanese is one of the fastest growing languages for non-native speakers to learn; however many people still ask what is the best way to learn to read Japanese. This is especially true for anyone who hasn’t learned any kind of Asian language before, such as Chinese, etc. This is because there’s a massive difference between how these languages are written compared to the majority of other languages. Having said that, though, there are a few different ways you can go about learning how to read Japanese. These should be extremely helpful for beginners who are wondering what is the best way to learn to read Japanese.


Reading Romaji

Reading Romaji is probably the easiest way to learn to read Japanese as it’s a version of the language that uses the Roman alphabet. Because of that, it’s a lot easier to understand, and you’ll also be able to write Romaji on an English keyboard. Alongside the advantages of reading Romaji, it can have some significant drawbacks. Chief among these is the fact that it isn’t too useful when it comes to pronouncing Japanese. Going this route can also hamper your Japanese language learning slightly over the short-term.

However reading Romaji can be used as somewhat of a crutch on your way to learning Japanese, although it may not be the most effective way to learning how to speak it. If you’re purely learning how to read Japanese, though, then it can be the easiest and fastest way to do so. On top of that, it can be the first stepping stone to becoming proficient in the entire language as long as it’s coupled with a few more advanced steps.

It should also be noted, however, that you shouldn’t stick with this for too long. For the first month it can be extremely useful when you’re learning the likes of Hiragana and Katakana; in total, learning the both of these should take about a month depending on how much time you have to dedicate to studying Japanese.


Reading Hiragana and Katakana

Learning Hiragana and Katakana is the next logical step when you’re already learning Romaji. This is because both of them are written phonetically. Because of that, while they may not be spelled exactly the way more traditional Japanese is you’ll still be able to sound out the words when you’re learning them. Having said that, there are a few drawbacks to learning Hiragana and Katakana.

The first of these is that neither of them uses the Roman alphabet, making it quite difficult to actually understand. After a while, however, this shouldn’t be much of an issue once you’ve been learning it for a while. The other significant drawback is that, like traditional Japanese, neither of them uses spaces. This can make it extremely difficult to figure out when a word starts of ends. This will also make looking up words in the dictionary particularly difficult in the early stages.

There’s also the fact that when written in Hiragana, many Japanese words are spelled the exact same way. For example, the words ‘met’ and ‘had’ are both exactly the same in Hiragana; this can make learning to read Japanese somewhat confusing in the initial stages. With all of that in mind, however, learning both Hiragana and Katakana is essential to learning Japanese. Couple these with Romaji and you’ll be able to learn Japanese faster and more effectively that you would have otherwise.

It should also only take about a month to become proficient in both; as we mentioned already, though, this can depend on how much time you can dedicate to learning the language. Because of that, it’s relatively common for people to learn them either faster or slower than that. Similar to Romaji, though, both of these should only be seen as a stepping stone toward learning more traditional Japanese. However, when it comes to reading and speaking Japanese to a relatively small degree then they can be very beneficial.


Reading Kanji

This is probably the most advanced way to learn how to read Japanese as it’s the main way that Japanese people read and write. Because of that, it comes with a number of different benefits when you’re studying. Chief among these is the disambiguation between words; this means that even if two words are pronounced the same, they can be spelled differently. That can be a significant benefit when it comes to speaking Japanese as there are fewer pronunciations to remember.

Being as advanced as it is, however, there are some problems when it comes to reading Kanji. The most obvious among these is that there’s no easy way to learn how to read Kanji. With the right amount of effort and practice though it should start becoming easier and easier as time goes on. If you’ve already learned Romaji, Hiragana and Katakana then you’ll have somewhat of a head start when it comes to Kanji. This is due to how tough Kanji is to learn; having some kind of foundation in the language prior to learning how to read Kanji will make the entire process a whole lot easier.

Even though you’ll have to spend a significant amount of time learning the three more basic versions, you’ll save yourself even more time and effort when it comes to Kanji. After all, when many people think of how difficult it is to learn Japanese, it’s Kanji that they’re thinking about. It’s recommended that you learn each of the letters and words in context, however. This is due to the fact that some of these words and characters can mean different things depending on their context. Not only would learning them in context be a lot easier, but it’s a lot more efficient, so you’ll be able to learn how to read Japanese a whole lot faster.

Learning to read Japanese can be tough and requires a lot of repetition and time in order to do so. One of the best ways to do so is by trying to read content that you actually like; this should help to keep you focused on reading Japanese and can be a significant benefit to you when you’re learning. If you can’t find any content that you want to read, you can always try using an official translation of a book that you enjoyed before, which can be extremely beneficial.

When it comes to asking what is the best way to learn to read Japanese, going through a step by step approach similar to what we’ve outlined above will provide the perfect solution. So, what’s stopping you from learning how to speak and read Japanese?