5 Techniques To Speed Up Your Japanese Reading

You reading Japanese? Great. You want to read faster? Of course you do. Who doesn’t want to gain more enjoyment and knowledge for less time required. Learning to read fast requires the same technique in all languages, but sometimes we have these techniques so ingrained into our native language, we forget how we learned to read at a faster pace.

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Well I’m here to remind you. Or maybe you never read fast in English in the first place. Here are a few simple tips for taking up your speed a few notches.

5. Read more

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I’ll just start with the obvious. The more you read, the more you increase your vocabulary and familiarity with the language and the infinite variations of how it can appear.

4. Quiet your inner voice

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The internal voicing (subvocalization) of words in your head slows you down, and limits your reading speed to your talking speed.

3. Chew gum

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Yup. That’s it. Chewing gum decreases subvocalization, which increases speed.

2. Remove doubt

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Often times we tend to re-read sentences because there is a lingering feeling that we didn’t fully grasp what they meant. While this will actually be true sometimes, it often is not the case, and a mere wavering of confidence.

1. Read words together, not alone

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Reading one word at a time is fine in the beginning. But it is a major limiter as you get better. Your reading speed will increase as you evolve though the following:

Read a few words at a time >>> Read a group of words at a time >>> Read one line at a time >>> Read a few lines at a time

Rather than focusing on the individual parts, you need to absorb the whole.

Practice and develop the habit

All of this requires practice and conscious effort on your part to develop a faster reading habit. But keep at it, and I guarantee you’ll notice your pace picking up. However I would only start worrying about this for Advanced levels and up. In the earlier stages you want to go slower, getting everything right, and work on developing accuracy.

Other reading techniques?

Have you used any of these techniques successfully? Or do you want to share some of your own that you’ve used to shift into a higher gear?



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Adam

Adam

Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.

Comments

5 Techniques To Speed Up Your Japanese Reading — 17 Comments

  1. I really love subvocalization. I’ve very attached to reading words aloud in my head. Heheh. And I like reading slowly. Not that I read too slowly or anything. I just like to soak it all in.

    But good tips for wanting to place in the top ten on Tadoku! Though… if you wanna place real high in Tadoku, playing visual novels are a good bet. It seems people who read visual novels are usually at the top.

    For me to be at my optimal reading “speed” (or rather, when I have high stamina and am really absorbed in the story, not necessarily related to speed), I like to play music related to the book I’m reading in the background. Really gets me into the mood. I can speed through Kino’s Journey this way.

    • I think for most people there is a time to slow down and a time to speed up, not only depending on what you are reading, but what part of what you are reading.

      But reading fast (not to be confused with speed reading) is not about entering competitions, it’s about tweaking some habits so you can enjoy more.

      • I still prefer savoring what I read. I actually try to stop myself from reading too fast when a story gets really good, because I don’t want to finish the book too soon.

        Reading fast can be about entering competitions though. Doesn’t mean that’s the only application.

        • And Tadoku’s not about speed reading either, so I think it applies just the same. It’s about the quantity you read for the same purpose: enjoyment and improving your language skills.

          The competition factor is only a motivator. No one wins a prize or anything, and people still enter even if they aren’t aiming to rise the ranks.

  2. There’s a lot of speeding up that happens in the beginner levels as well. While I knew hiragana, I read it really slowly. Then after about 2 weeks of reading native material, I’d say I got 5x faster at reading. Then after that it’s a slow but wonderful rise in speed as you learn the words and patterns of sentences.

    • Agreed, gaining speed is a natural process for all of the early and intermediate levels. This is for more when you start reaching a plateau, and it’s not about knowledge but technique.

  3. This is good stuff, and really applicable to any language you want to read in (especially if you want to read out loud and have it sound good).

    Thanks for sharing! =)

  4. Yay, been waiting for this article! I thought it might touch on subvocalisation. It’s so hard to get the balance between reading out loud and reading in my head. It gets especially confusing how much reading out loud when I have anime playing in background. Do you find your enjoyment the same when skipping subvocalisation? I don’t mind missing it but complete speed reading gets a bit much. Though I’m probably doing it wrong haha

    • It really depends on what you are reading. For more important plot points, interesting conversations, or anything I want to give a little more focus to, I keep a little bit of the subvocalization. Also depending on the type of story, the mood you’re in, your patience level, the writing style, all become factors.

      Amount becomes a personal choice, so you kind of need to find what works for you and how.

  5. Fascinating topic. Although I was completely shocked to realise while I was reading, that there was a voice in my head. Could my ignorance have been holding me back all my life?

    So I read this page quickly. Phew! The voice went really fast, and leaped across less significant words. Still, I had to check wikipedia to see if I was doing anything wrong. Apparently subvocalisation refers to the habit of moving your tongue and throat while reading. I tried that, and yes it’s slow. (great tip about chewing gum)

  6. Thanks for this.
    My reading is quite slow. I can’t wait to be able to skim as I do in English.
    I will be applying these techniques and chew gum :)

  7. I am starting to wonder if in the near future I will be able to read Japanese faster than I can in English simply because I am able to see the kanji and know what they mean without having to recite the sounds in my head or out loud. I think it might be easier to rid myself of subvocalization easier in Japanese than in English. I think though, because next semester I have a lot of English reading to do, I will have to try some of the suggestions out in this article so that reading isn’t as painful. Perhaps by the end of the semester I will be reading whole sections of text as opposed to what I have done for my entire life which is to read word by word.

    • As you said, thanks to kanji, it’s easier to read unfamiliar Japanese than it is unfamiliar English. Kanji just gives you a meaning boost in ways that English doesn’t (though it tries with in its own way).

      You’ll get to those sections of text reading eventually :)

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