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How do you 'read' Japanese?

alaekiefer

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Hi, I'm Kiefer, and I'm new to the community.

For the record, I can read hiragana and have a grasp of basic kanji. (I'm still working on my katakana.)

The problem is that I don't know how exactly one would 'read' Japanese. For example, in English, words are separated by spaces. But not so in Japanese; which is I'm having problems knowing when a word begins and when it ends in Japanese, and how kanji elements fit into the situation. How do you deal with this?

It's also really confusing when 'ha' is used as 'wa' (the particle).

I would also appreciate some tips as to how I can increase my reading speed? For example, I could read あまてらす (Amaterasu) in one go if it were in English, and devour the whole word as one, but I seem to jerking through entire syllables in Japanese, and I can't grasp it in whole. And, as I've said before, I'm having problem knowing when a word ends.

If anyone could guide me through this initial learning curve I'd really appreciate it :)
 

Buntaro

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Kiefer,
This is only going to come with practice, especially as you increase your vocabulary, and can recognize individual vocabulary words in a sentence. (When you recognize a word in a sentence, you can see where it ends, and whee the next word starts.)

Give us an example of a sentence you cannot separate into individual words.
 

Goldiegirl

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I noticed that reading Japanese fast even for native speakers is still slower than my reading of English. For example I can "scan" a English menu at a restaurant and tell you what is on it very quickly; when I am in Japan it was obvious to me that they had to pay more attention to the characters and that took longer. I questioned my husband and he agreed. He can read both languages, but admits that you can read English faster because you can be more lazy, you don't need to see all the detail. Not that any one language is better than another...
 

tanhql

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this goes the same for subtitles. i know both mandarin and english, but i find english subtitles so much easier to read (one glance and finished reading), whereas the chinese you have to read all the characters. that's saying something when i've been using both languages for 18 years (or at least, since i know how to speak).
 
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...I'm having problems knowing when a word begins and when it ends in Japanese
I am having this problem as well. I figure that it will just come with practice. You cannot expect to learn a whole new writing style, let alone a new language, and expect to fly through the reading. Like mentioned, you get to recognize words as you get better. For example, in my exercises おとこのこ comes up a lot, and I have learned to recognize this pattern. Not so with many other words, but it just takes practice.
 
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Thanks for the link, it helps a little bit. I just need more experience is all. Heck, I have only been learning for a 3 weeks!
 

yukio_michael

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I'll just make the simple comment here, that when you become proficient with vocabulary, hiragana, katakana, and kanji---- they work to seperate the words much more easily, and it actually becomes easier to read this natural Japanese rather than a comparable roumanji phrase....
 

pugtm

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I noticed that reading Japanese fast even for native speakers is still slower than my reading of English. For example I can "scan" a English menu at a restaurant and tell you what is on it very quickly; when I am in Japan it was obvious to me that they had to pay more attention to the characters and that took longer. I questioned my husband and he agreed. He can read both languages, but admits that you can read English faster because you can be more lazy, you don't need to see all the detail. Not that any one language is better than another...
also there was a scientific study that found that when you read english all you really are reading is the first and last letters of a word. So basically since you have spaces you skip most of it. Here's an article. and here are several more...
I am trying to find the paper itself but i have finals coming up so i got to go study.
my conclusion is though do like i do when you are using another language and develop a different mindset. I know 3 languages Hebrew Russian and English and i have three mindsets. I'm almost a completely different person when i speak any one of them. right now i am studying 2 more, Japanese i just started and also Spanish for school. despite that i already developed 2 more mindsets for those languages. try not to mix them if its at all possible.
 

alaekiefer

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Everyone, thanks for the reply!

Kiefer,
This is only going to come with practice, especially as you increase your vocabulary, and can recognize individual vocabulary words in a sentence. (When you recognize a word in a sentence, you can see where it ends, and whee the next word starts.)
Give us an example of a sentence you cannot separate into individual words.

For example, here's a sentence straight out of today's Asahi Simbun: "洗濯から乾燥まで、全自動ドラム式。場所もさほど取あ轤ク、人気上昇中".

I'm struggling with when I should stop and take the hiragana as a whole word, or the kanji and hiragana, or kanji only.

I'm struggling with when I should stop and take the hiragana as a whole word, or the kanji and hiragana, or kanji only.
 

yukio_michael

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alaekiefer;467844" said:
"洗濯から乾燥まで、全自動ド ラム式。場所もさほど取らず、人気上昇中".

Well, for the most part hiragana won't follow kanji as a part of the "word" (I don't like to use the term, word in Japanese, because I don't feel there are any...) unless it's modifying a verb... so let's break this sentence down...

洗濯 (sentaku) washing ...(corrected)

から (kara), particle meaning since...

乾燥 (kansou) dry air

まで (made) particle meaning until, or to...

全自動 (zenjidou) completely automatic

ドラム (dorumu) drum

式 (shiki) ..i'm going to take the context and say style

you get.. "From washing to drying, it's a fully automatic drum style"

See how the particles help to disitnguish between say from & to, and separate the kanji?

I parsed this sentence using the firefox plugin para-kun, a re-write of the popular rikai chan, it helped me speed up the process of looking up the kanji, as it features a full dictionary.

I hope this elucidates some...
 
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Buntaro

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~*-,._.,-*~'`^`'~*-,._.,-*~'`^`'~*-,._.,-*~'`^`'~*-,._.,-*~'`^`'~*-,._.,-*~

Kiefer,

In your sample sentence, can you see where each hiragana "word" ends? Are you having trouble with もさほど?
 

Elizabeth

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Well, for the most part hiragana won't follow kanji as a part of the "word" (I don't like to use the word, words in Japanese, because I don't feel there are any...) unless it's modifying a verb... so let's break this sentence down...
I wouldn't describe verb endings as modifying the verb exactly, but the general rule is this : Unless it is a compound verb (you'll learn those eventually 👍), 2 or more kanji combined together (2, 3 or 4) to form a word will be separate from the hiragana that follows before and after.


Even if it wasn't intentional, thanks for picking an example sentence to nicely illustrate that pattern. 😌
 

yukio_michael

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I wouldn't describe verb endings as modifying the verb exactly...
How would you describe it, in a linguistic sense?

Even if it wasn't intentional, thanks for picking an example sentence to nicely illustrate that pattern. 😌
It wasn't intentional! 😌... and I haven't gotten to compound-verbs yet, all my books are somewhere in Japan, I don't know where... Of course it takes me a little bit of time to parse just a little bit of "standard" Japanese text... but it always re-enforces what I already know. ;)
 

Elizabeth

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How would you describe it, in a linguistic sense?
It's the element of the word that is inflected to indicate mood or tense. Not that I'm a fan of pure and heavy grammatical instructions for beginners....

It wasn't intentional! 😌... and I haven't gotten to compound-verbs yet, all my books are somewhere in Japan, I don't know where... Of course it takes me a little bit of time to parse just a little bit of "standard" Japanese text... but it always re-enforces what I already know. ;)
There are obviously tons of exceptions you'll find appearing to the "two or more compound" rule. Such as : kanji nouns that are found solo, hiragana "stem" endings on some adjectives and adverbs, Chinese characters routinely written as hiragana...

Learn to recognize the sentence particles is the most effective (and fastest !) method towards figuring out how to parse words and read them in isolation. Good luck ! 😌
 

alaekiefer

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Well, for the most part hiragana won't follow kanji as a part of the "word" (I don't like to use the term, word in Japanese, because I don't feel there are any...) unless it's modifying a verb... so let's break this sentence down...
洗濯 (sentaku) washing-laundry (machine?)
から (kara), particle meaning since...
乾燥 (kansou) dry air
まで (made) particle meaning until, or to...
全自動 (zenjidou) completely automatic
ドラム (dorumu) drum
式 (shiki) ..i'm going to take the context and say style
you get.. "From washing to drying, it's a fully automatic drum style"
See how the particles help to disitnguish between say from & to, and separate the kanji?
I parsed this sentence using the firefox plugin para-kun, a re-write of the popular rikai chan, it helped me speed up the process of looking up the kanji, as it features a full dictionary.
I hope this elucidates some...
Buntaro,
For the moment I think I can see where the hiragana character ends, which is, right before the kanji, yes? But if I'm wrong, please correct me.
 

Elizabeth

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Thanks Yukio, I see what you mean! So, it's always hiragana after each kanji, right?
To rephrase that, I mean this: if there's kanji, it is a word; then, some hiragana characters MUST follow after that word, am I correct?
I also have three questions:
1) How many kanjis are there normally in between every hiragana sentence? As in, how many kanji(s) can be compounded together as one 'word'?
I don't understand what you mean by 'hiragana sentence' but the number of characters to a word ranges from 1 to 4.
2) Can two different words in kanji follow after each other without being separated by hiragana characters?
Yes, particularly for place and geographic names. But there are also numerous compounds as in "health situation," "news conference" with time/date situations "something and a half (hours, minutes)" plus kanji words like besides, outside of, starting from that are not separated by particles. In other words, a large category of exception. Something that is not the norm but by no means infrequent.
3) How do you know if a hiragana character is a part of the previous word (as in, it's attached to the previous one), or if it's part of a new word?
Do you mean if it is attached as part of the 'masu' verb ending or where hiragana words separate ? Again, look for particle endings and try to read relatively standard, formal writing that uses a natural mix of kanji and kana words.
 

yukio_michael

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Learn to recognize the sentence particles is the most effective (and fastest !) method towards figuring out how to parse words and read them in isolation. Good luck ! 😌
Yes, and I think, even though there are different uses for the same particle, it's not important as some people have asked to know a list of "every single particle", like any language there are common particles that we see all the time, e, de, ni, ga, wa, o, made, kara, etcetera... and knowing these basic ones, and having a good book (I'm a fan of A Dictionary of Japanese Particles), will elucidate the other ones.

Again, look for particle endings and try to read relatively standard, formal writing that uses a natural mix of kanji and kana words.
I think this an important point to emphasize, if you read standard formal writing, in say a newspaper, or CNN Japan, etcetera, this text will be more typical of Japanese writing and wont contain the type of style you'll find on blogs and the like, which include gyaru-moji, slang, and things that will be more confusing than the more staid (and perhaps more boring) newspaper text...
 

toritaiyo

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I noticed that reading Japanese fast even for native speakers is still slower than my reading of English. For example I can "scan" a English menu at a restaurant and tell you what is on it very quickly; when I am in Japan it was obvious to me that they had to pay more attention to the characters and that took longer. I questioned my husband and he agreed. He can read both languages, but admits that you can read English faster because you can be more lazy, you don't need to see all the detail. Not that any one language is better than another...

I thought I read somewhere that speed reading in japanese can be faster than in english because kanji are treated like pictures in the mind (so you don't read them you just recognise at a glance them like you would the picture of a cat or dog).

Has anyone else heard something like this? I think it was in an article about Japanese speed reading...
 

Tsumetai

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I thought I read somewhere that speed reading in japanese can be faster than in english because kanji are treated like pictures in the mind (so you don't read them you just recognise at a glance them like you would the picture of a cat or dog).
Has anyone else heard something like this? I think it was in an article about Japanese speed reading...

I have heard this as well. It sounds logical enough to assume this.

I know for a fact that I can not read English faster than a Japanese person can read Japanese. It is very impressive to hear a Japanese person speed read.
 
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