is Japanese read right to left


There are many aspects related to learning the Japanese language that need to be clarified. Let us explore one –is Japanese read right to left?

The reading direction of Japanese text depends on whether it is horizontal or presented in columns. In the case of horizontal text, Japanese is read from left to right, similar to English. However, when it comes to columns of vertical text, the Japanese reading order changes. While there are some older signs in Japan that display right-to-left text, most people now use the left-to-right orientation.

If you have a strong interest in learning the Japanese language, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with the correct reading direction of Japanese texts. By continuing to read, you will discover essential information regarding the appropriate methods of reading Japanese.

Is Japanese Read Right to Left: A Comprehensive Answer

The traditional reading direction in Japanese encompasses both the vertical writing style known as “tategaki” and the horizontal writing style called “yokogaki.” Tategaki refers to the practice of reading from right to left and top to bottom, while yokogaki involves writing and reading horizontally from left to right. The adoption of horizontal writing from left to right in Japanese has been influenced by various factors throughout history. 

One significant influence came from introducing Western literature and printing techniques during the Meiji period. The Western-style left-to-right writing system became popular and started to be used in some contexts. This layout simplifies the reading experience for readers accustomed to left-to-right reading, making it easier to switch between languages.

Nowadays, in Japan, most written materials, including books, magazines, newspapers, and digital media, are read from left to right. It demonstrates the effect of Western typography and printing techniques on Japanese, bringing Japanese reading in line with global standards.

In addition, when reading Japanese text, all three writing systems, such as Hiragana, Katakana, and Kani, are used simultaneously. The writings Hiragana and Katakana include the phonetic readings for Kanji characters.

History of Japanese Reading Style

The history of the Japanese reading style weaves together the development of writing systems, other civilizations’ influence, and the Japanese language’s unique characteristics, including the traditional Japanese reading style. Japanese writing dates back to the fifth century, when Chinese characters known as Kanji were introduced to the archipelago. Kanji’s introduction as a writing system helped to promote Japanese literacy and the development of a unique reading style, where the question of “Is Japanese read right to left?” comes into play. Hiragana and Katakana were produced over time by Japanese scholars and scribes who altered the Chinese symbols to fit their own language. They were added to the Chinese characters known as Kanji and permitted the transcription of regional Japanese terms.

Additionally, during the Heian period (794-1185), classical Chinese literature highly influenced the emergence of the Kanbun reading style. During this time, a dichotomy in Japanese reading habits was established, with Hiragana being preferred for more casual or expressive types of writing and Kanji being utilized in formal or literary circumstances. The desire for written works in the local tongue grew as Japan entered the Middle Ages. This led to the flourishing of vernacular literature, where Hiragana played a pivotal role.

Next, the Meiji era (1868–1912) brought Japan further substantial changes, including the adoption of Western concepts and technology. The traditional vertical writing style, which was associated with the question of ”Is Japanese read right to left?”, was replaced with horizontal writing that runs from left to right, following Western standards.

Today, reading Japanese is done using a dynamic blend of Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana. Kanji is used for nouns, verbs, and adjectives, adding depth and richness to written Japanese. Furigana, the tiny Hiragana or Katakana letters that accompany Kanji to aid in reading comprehension, are frequently used due to the continual development of the Japanese reading style.

Steps for Mastering How to Read in Japanese

Learning to read Japanese is an exciting journey that opens doors to access to Japan’s vibrant and fascinating culture. While it may seem intimidating initially, breaking down the process into manageable steps can make it both achievable and enjoyable. Here is a comprehensive step-by-step process to get you started on your quest to learn Japanese.

1. Know That There Are Three Scripts Used For Japanese

Japanese doesn’t have a single alphabet, frequently surprising students who wish to learn the language quickly. Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana are the three different scripts used in the Japanese writing system. The best way to learn to read Japanese is to become proficient in all three.

This is an odd idea for English because there is only one alphabet. However, it functions for Japanese residents. The first lesson you must acquire when learning a foreign language is to be adaptable to the culture you are studying. That said, begin by familiarizing yourself with the 46 basic hiragana characters and their sounds. Practice writing them and recognizing their shapes. Once you are comfortable with Hiragana, move on to learning the 46 Katakana characters and their sounds. Katakana is similar to Hiragana but has a different set of characters. There are various online resources, textbooks, and apps available to help you learn Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji.

2. Build Vocabulary 

A solid vocabulary base is necessary to understand Japanese literature. To get started, learn Hiragana and Katakana’s fundamental words and phrases. Start with everyday topics like salutations, families, numbers, and basic verbs. You’ll surely be one great reader once you’ve mastered the three Japanese writing scripts. If you are comfortable with each character because Japanese is written from left to right, you can just put the characters together like Latin letters. 

3. Learn Reading Comprehension

As you advance, read straightforward literature like graded readers, children’s novels, or web articles. Take note of how the Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji characters combine to communicate meaning. For the purpose of understanding Japanese text, grammar, and sentence patterns must be understood. Moreover, study basic sentence structures, verb tenses, and particle usage, such as “wa,” “ga,” “no,” and “wo.” Books, online classes, or language exchange programs can all be very helpful in helping you understand these ideas.

4. Practice Regularly

Consistency is key. Set some time each week to practice reading Japanese texts. Start with simpler materials and gradually increase the difficulty as your skills improve. You can use materials like newspapers, manga, novels, or internet articles to expose yourself to a range of subjects and writing styles. 

Additionally, regular practice of reading aloud will improve your pronunciation, fluency, and comprehension skills. Start with simple texts, such as graded readers or children’s books, that combine Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. As you develop, challenge yourself by reading more difficult books, comic books, or newspapers as well. Keep your focus on rhythm and intonation to improve your spoken Japanese.

5. Seek Language Exchange or Tutoring

Finding a teacher or participating in language exchange programs can give you excellent advice and chances to practice reading with Japanese speakers. They can assist in resolving any issues or questions you might have while reading.

Furthermore, participating in tutoring with Japanese speakers who are native speakers can give advice, respond to inquiries, and share insightful information about Japanese culture. That said, your general language knowledge will improve with consistent conversation and reading practice with a language partner.

6. Stay Consistent

Learning to read Japanese requires time, dedication, and consistent effort. Set aside regular study sessions, immerse yourself in Japanese media, and continually expose yourself to the language. Celebrate small victories along the way and maintain a positive attitude, knowing that progress will come with persistence.

Best Resources To Learn How to Read Japanese

Finding the right resources is crucial if you’re interested in Japanese literature or manga or simply want to enhance your language skills. Luckily, you wouldn’t have a hard time looking for materials that can help you because the Japanese language is a popular choice among language learners. Here are some of the best resources available to help you learn how to read Japanese and embark on your language-learning adventure.

1. Textbooks and Workbooks

Textbooks and workbooks provide a structured approach to learning Japanese reading. Popular choices include “Genki,” “Minna no Nihongo,” and “Japanese for Busy People,” all of which offer comprehensive lessons, vocabulary lists, syntactical explanations, and exercises to enhance reading ability. They are especially beneficial for those who like to learn independently and for beginners who need a structured learning environment.

2. Manga

Manga can play a significant role in your reading routine and serve as many people’s introduction to Japanese culture. Because the images provide context, manga is a great reading resource because it makes it simpler to understand what you are reading. A dictionary won’t always be necessary because you might be able to guess what a term means.

In addition, manga for beginners uses a minimum amount of slang and concentrates on the lives of children or animals. Manga at an intermediate level starts to use more complex Japanese. More complicated narratives and vocabulary seen in JLPT N1 tests can be found in advanced manga.

3. Online Platforms

Utilizing numerous internet platforms is an excellent method for learning Japanese. Japanese language learning activities are available on these online platforms, which range from studying fundamental grammar and vocabulary to reading books and watching videos. 

  • Duolingo

Duolingo provides a free, game-based platform for learning Japanese. While mostly concentrating on speaking and listening abilities, it also introduces the two fundamental Japanese writing systems, Hiragana and Katakana. 

  • Memrise

Memrise incorporates spaced repetition and mnemonic techniques to help memorize Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji characters. It offers user-created courses that cover various aspects of Japanese reading mnemonics.

4. Online Dictionaries

When learning how to read Japanese, having access to reliable online dictionaries can greatly support your language journey. Jisho and Weblio are two of the best online dictionaries specifically designed to assist you in learning how to read in Japanese. These tools make it easier for students to learn Japanese by improving their reading ability, expanding their vocabulary, and helping them understand the language better.

  • Jisho

Jisho is a comprehensive online Japanese-English dictionary. It provides detailed character breakdowns, example sentences, and stroke order animations for Kanji. 

  • Weblio

Weblio is a popular Japanese dictionary that offers extensive word definitions, example sentences, and audio pronunciations. It is useful for understanding the meaning and context of Japanese text. 

5. Reading Apps and Websites

Making use of reading websites and apps can be extremely helpful while learning to read in Japanese. They offer a selection of reading materials, vocabulary assistance, and interactive elements to improve your reading abilities. These websites and applications for reading include a wide selection of reading materials, interactive tools, and language assistance to aid learners in improving their reading comprehension of Japanese. You can gain useful practice and exposure to real Japanese texts by including them in your language study regimen. 

  • NHK Easy Japanese News

NHK Easy Japanese News provides simplified news articles with furigana (small hiragana characters above Kanji) to aid reading comprehension. It is an excellent resource for improving reading skills while staying updated on current events.

  • Satori Reader

Satori Reader offers graded reading material with integrated dictionaries and audio recordings. It caters to learners of different proficiency levels and provides an in-depth grammar and vocabulary analysis. 

Tips to Learn Reading Japanese Fast

Whether you’re an aspiring student, a language enthusiast, or someone planning to visit Japan, acquiring the ability to read Japanese quickly can greatly enhance your understanding and appreciation of the language and culture. Here are some valuable tips to help you speed up your journey toward Japanese reading proficiency.

Watch Japanese movies with subtitles.

Try to find subtitled Japanese films or animations. There are numerous options. You can view it with Japanese subtitles after you watch it with English subtitles. Additionally, numerous YouTube videos explain the words and language used in anime. Try watching anime and movies with Japanese subtitles if you are confident in your ability to grasp the language. You can pause a movie, review the unfamiliar words and syntax, and then jot it down in a notepad. 

Read three times.

To enhance your Japanese pronunciation and fluency, read three times. The initial stage is to read the passages, during which you can observe the sentence structures, highlight unfamiliar terms, and search for kanji readings. After that, read each paragraph out loud. Reading aloud is crucial since it enhances general pronunciation and fluency. Look for the grammar and vocabulary you don’t know after that. Read the entire passage through then the full text once more when you have finished reading the passages. 

Read according to your interest.

Books occasionally offer extremely dull reads that you don’t want to read. You may become so discouraged that you genuinely come to detest reading. Therefore, do not push yourself to read the material you find unappealing. Find out what reading genre you enjoy; if you are interested in the book, it will be easier for you to understand the content. 

Shadowing reading.

Shadowing is another method of approaching literature. It is the practice of reading while listening to the audio. There are numerous ways to accomplish it. For the first time, you can simply listen to the audio because doing so will aid in improving your listening comprehension. After that, repeat listening to the audio while reading along with it. Additionally, you can practice your pronunciation by listening to one line and then reading it out loud.

Sign up for the Japanese Book Clubs.

Try to enroll in a Japanese reading class or book club. Numerous Japanese book clubs are available to foreigners both in Japan and abroad. Look for a book club in your neighborhood or search online for a forum or book club. You could also enroll in the Japanese reading course. Additionally, you will be more motivated to read because you must participate in discussions regarding the readings. Some Japanese book clubs have native Japanese speakers to help foreigners and answer all their questions. 

Ask questions.

Asking questions is absolutely fine. Do not hesitate to ask questions of Japanese speakers. Not all of your questions will have answers in textbooks. An explanation from a textbook may not always be sufficient for understanding. Furthermore, in textbooks, formal speech typically receives more attention than casual speech, so try to ask questions to your Japanese friend or one of the native Japanese speakers.

Is Japanese Read Right to Left: Conclusion

Remember that learning to read Japanese takes time and practice. It’s essential to have patience, stay motivated, and gradually build your skills. Combine reading with other language learning activities like listening, speaking, and writing to develop a well-rounded understanding of the language.

To sum up, learning to read Japanese is an exciting and rewarding journey. By mastering Hiragana, Katakana, Kanji, grammar, and vocabulary and practicing regularly, you can unlock the ability to read and understand Japanese texts. Embrace the process, immerse yourself in the language, and enjoy the wonders of Japanese literature, manga, news, and more with Denwa Sensei. Ganbatte kudasai (Good luck) in your reading endeavors!