My friend and I are beginning (~6 months) learners of Japanese, and while we both "know" the kana, we still read very slowly - slowly enough in my case that by the time I finish reading a sentence, I've sometimes forgotten what the beginning said! How do people usually improve their reading speeds for the kana scripts?

Please note that both of us know under 200 kanji, so while theoretically the answer might be "start reading more kanji-ful texts and not relying on furigana so much!", that won't be practical for us for some time, probably years.

(I'm not 100% confident this question is appropriate for Japanese.stackexchange, because it's asking about learning the language, not the language itself. But I couldn't find a StackExchange site dedicated to learning languages specifically, so this seemed like the closest option. If it seems better asked elsewhere, I'll be grateful for comments suggesting a more appropriate place.)

  • 4
    That type of question specifically about learning the language is not considered appropriate for JLU. You might consider asking it on Meta.
    – Dave
    Jun 18, 2012 at 2:06
  • 6
    Just keep reading. Speed comes naturally once you get used to recognition of individual characters. Don't avoid kanji, so what if you only know a couple, everytime you encounter a new one look it up. So what if you forget? Look it up again! It's these small slow accumulation of learning you do every day that makes for a large improvement later on.
    – Flaw Mod
    Jun 18, 2012 at 6:58
  • I also had this same problem. More than likely, at 6 months the most focus is placed on knowing what individual words mean and basic grammar structures. After some time, patterns of expressions and word combinations are developed rather than needing to focus on remembering the definition of a word. For example, I could say I read kana faster now, but I'm actually just getting used to what these patterns look like.
    – Chris
    Jun 18, 2012 at 19:29
  • @Dave Technically, it's not even appropriate in Meta.
    – Alenanno
    Sep 28, 2012 at 16:37

4 Answers 4


Practice, practice, practice. I'd suggest finding source material to practice, so you can get a feel for how the language flows while you're at it.

If you can find a book aimed for a lower target audience, perhaps elementary school aged, even if there is kanji written, a lot of them will have the furigana above them, so you can just read those. The added bonus is if you read the kanji first, then read the furigana if you don't understand it, that way you get to practice both.

Another suggestion I can think of is installing rikaichan for Firefox, or another such browser addons, and find a Japanese website that you want to read and just keep mousing over the kanji you don't know. The same thing goes for trying to read the kanji.

I'd also highly suggest reading everything out loud (circumstances permitting). That way it gets cemented better in your brain, it keeps you honest (you can't skim over the tricky parts) and you get pronunciation practice as well!

Keep at it, and you'll get it over time!


You could try sites like this which are aimed at children. It's mostly various kana words along a theme, with illustrations, so no getting bogged down with unfamiliar grammar.

You could try kid's stories but see above re: unfamiliar grammar. That site does have English versions for some of the stories.


Practice more with short words using only vowels, then with words only using vowel and k row, etc. For example, first practice words like あい うえ あう あお おい then go onto かお おか かく きく くき かこ かけ おけ and then go onto さお かさ すし etc.

Do not go on to sentences until you are confident with your speed with simple words.

  • I think that “reading” in the question means “understanding written text,” whereas you answered how to speed up speaking or “reading aloud.” Jun 18, 2012 at 1:08
  • No. I meant writing them down and then reading it.
    – user458
    Jun 18, 2012 at 1:14
  • My apologies. I assumed that you were talking about improving pronunciation because grouping the sounds with the same consonant is a typical exercise in voice training in Japanese. Jun 18, 2012 at 12:47
  • @TsuyoshiIto I see what you mean. I remember hearing similar things repeated over and over by 演劇部 when I was undergraduate.
    – user458
    Jun 18, 2012 at 12:56

Old question, new answer. Nowadays I would suggest KanjiBox. While it's mainly geared towards kanji study, it does have a Kana learning section and IMO it's pretty good. It uses SRS (Spaced Repetition System) to work on your weak points while making sure to also refresh the parts you've learned. I also recommend purchasing the KanaDraw addon if you have an iOS device - AFAIK the motor memory (handwriting) is one of the strongest.

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