Should you Learn Romaji if you Only Want to Speak Japanese? — 14 Comments

  1. You could potentially get away with never learning romanji at all, the only downside I could see is typing on a computer would become difficult (you can type using kana only though). As Adam said, by focusing on romanji you are taking away from your Japanese development. Whenever I look at textbooks and they use romanji consistently, I can’t take those books seriously.

    I never learnt the Korean romanji while studying Korean. I still don’t know it. I seriously have no idea to the point that if I see a romanised Korean word I have no idea how to read it. This is not an issue whatsoever because the only time I’ve seen romanji is in text books (which I haven’t read). When actually interacting with Korean materials (comics, texting people, etc) I’ve never come across a need for it once.

    Same goes for Japanese. Outside of typing on a computer (which isn’t a problem in Korean), is there a need at all the learn it?

    • Funnily enough, JALUP has an article about that:
      Here is a summary of the points it makes:
      -All Japanese people learn romaji
      -It is very easy to learn
      -It makes learning the Kana easier (for some people)
      -If you need to write something on a computer, sometimes romaji will be your only option
      -You can use to teach someone visiting Japan (but isn’t interested in learning the language) to teach them some phrases
      -You will occasionally see signs in romaji when visiting Japan
      -Japanese restaurants in your home country will use romaji
      -You use it to hide conversations from small children

      • Just to make it clear, that article ends with this:

        “However, please note that I don’t support using romaji for any other reasons than the above. Don’t take this post as me promoting romaji as a good way to learn Japanese. For the most part, romaji will not play any large role in your Japanese adventure. However, it is still a useful tool to have.”

      • Yes, these are the rare exceptions where you may find romaji useful. But as I stated there and Manan pointed out, this has nothing to do with learning Japanese, including learning Japanese “just for speaking.”

    • If you want to be proficient at typing in Japanese, the buttons that you will press are slightly different than ‘standard’ romaji anyway.

      For example: tu instead of tsu, ti instead of chi, si instead of shi, nn instead of n or n’.

      • This would make for a good article. I feel it’s very beneficial to type like that and it’s not hard to learn at all. I started doing it after noticing it was how Japanese people typed and it quickly became automatic.

        • Not sure if you’re talking about on mobile phones, but if that’s the case I recommend the swipe keyboard anyway (harder to learn, but then there’s no English to look at).

  2. I was one of those people who resisted learning the kana because I thought I only wanted to talk. I bought Japanese in 10 minutes a day and See it, Say it in Japanese. Now that I’m using Jalup Next, I love it and am not bored, the way I became with the Romaji. Second, I realize that I want to read books in Japanese, which I never would have done. Now those old books are useless to me because it hurts my eyes to look at them.

  3. I think another key point, that I found really surprising in my early studies, is that while it’s slow going to read in Kana at first, you will get to the point you can read it with reasonable speed. You’ll also be completely clear on what is a long vowel, where ん’s are, etc.

    Romaji can be rife with errors or just variances, and some English versions of Japanese words omit or erroneously transcribe them into English (such as Tokyo vs とうきょう, “romanji” vs ローマ字)

    I cannot imagine getting to the point where you can read romaji fluently, but I guess it happens. But it would be hard to divorce how English (or another native language using the roman alphabet) sounds when parsing romaji into pronounceable Japanese. It’s almost just easier to start over and learn kana.

    Also, there isn’t too much material out there that’s all written in romaji (vs maybe pinyin), so there’s a pretty short ceiling for growth for a romaji-only learner.

  4. Hello, after years of saying I want to learn another language , as I know ONLY english , I finally decided on japanese . I really would like to read and write it as well as understand , am in no hurry to speak as I might never visit japan .

    I just wanted to know if you had any advice or pointers on how and where I should start and ways to help me learn it . Thank you .

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