Learning Japanese with Clannad visual novel

I don’t know if it’s common knowledge or not, but I will leave it here anyway for people starting learning Japanese. Opinions from advance learners whether my assertions are correct or not are welcome.

The most annoying thing at the beginning of learning Japanese in my opinion is finding something good to read. Reading stories for babies is not for everybody and they tend to ignore kanji with is big no-no for me (how I will get familiar with kanji if I don’t see them being used in material i read?). Normal books on the other hand can be too hard to process since they often use elaborated grammar structures (I started with Harry Potter it is painful experience).

Surprisingly there is a solution to that problem :scream:

Let me introduce you to Clannad visual novel and see why it is good first read in Japanese.

Clannad as most visual novels use first person perspective ( which means the narration is basically what main character thinks at the moment) and has a lot of dialogues. This helps a lot: people don’t usually think or speak page-long sentences. Additionally most of the dialogues are voice over and you got visual clues about what is going on.

Clannad specifically has some other advantages: it doesn’t use polite speech pretty much at all which helps at the beginning. Casual Japanese is hard enough, no need to add 敬語 from the beginning. And most importantly you can change the language from Japanese to English with just one click so if are not sure if you got it right you can see how it was translated into English (at least on Nintendo Switch it is working this way).

The only little problem I see is that i don’t know if you can toggle furigana. I personally don’t mind it since i prefer to read without it anyway.

I personally write down each sentence in my Clannad.txt on and use yomichan extension to auto add words I don’t have yet in my anki. I learn as well each and every single one kanji i meet. It seems like a hassle but I am very happy with the pace after my battle with Harry Potter…

Here you have a few sample sentences from the very beginning of the story.

















Thanks for posting this! I’ve been interested in Clannad for a few years.

Would you mind clarifying the language features a bit more? E.g. are you really able to toggle languages while in the game without having to go into menus?

When you do run into kanji that you don’t know, how do you go about looking it up?

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There is an option in the menu to assign “minus key” to changing the language. Just one press on the minus ofter setting that option and you can toggle between English and Japanese instantly. No need to even pause the game.

As for kanji I use jisho.org and their search by roots option. But I put a lot of effort into learning kanji so i don’t have to use it too often. Focusing on Kanji first is starting to pay off : >

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I first found out about it here.

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Cool, that’s rad.

$45 feels a bit steep though; hopefully it’ll go on sale.

But on plus side this game takes about 150h+ if you read quickly. So price per hour is quite low :thinking:


Thanks, I didn’t know it was possible to set up the Switch to play some games in Japanese. I don’t own Clannad but I have Super Mario Odissey and Breath of the Wild, that can be played in Japanese according to the reddit conversation you linked to. Now I have a good excuse to play video games…

There is a good advice in the reddit conversation: when encountering a difficult to understand sentence, take a screenshot then study the difficult part later. Clever!

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Big note that while this is true for the switch version, due to a licensing issue (IIRC) this option is not offered on the PC version. Their newer game little busters does offer it both on switch and PC though. There are also several games that offer both English and Japanese at the same time, and some others that offer this real time switching. Here is a Reddit thread that lists some (maybe all) that currently have that option : https://www.reddit.com/r/LearnJapanese/comments/52ms84/visual_novels_other_games_with_simultaneous_dual/


if you are looking for a game to play in japanese on switch and you are still around N4, try Let’s go Pikachu or Eevee. It’s the first pokemon game i played to the credits and the first game in japanese i finished. Most of the time I just wanted to play, so I just took what I understood (the biggest part of it i would say) but I translated the battle dialogue and words that appeared often. I feel very proud of it, it is the easiest game in japanese i have encountered yet. :relieved:


What is nice about Switch is that they don’t use region blocking. You can change setting of the console, log in to Japanese version of the store, and buy games that are in Japanese even if they are not released in the west. I am pretty sure it is not that easy on PS.

@MacFinch I bought Clannad and am very happy with the purchase so far. I do wish they had furigana, but most of the lines are voiced, so it hasn’t been too bad to type and search for the ones I don’t know.

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That’s great! Let us know when you will finish first story line. In my case it will take a few weeks… :sweat_smile:

It is so hard to restrain myself from just reading it in English. I wanted to read it since high school , but I totally missed the fact they already translated it :neutral_face:

I have already new favourite phrase from just the beginning of the story:
顔を覆う(kaoooou) xD


What is your level if you don’t mind me asking? I’m around completing N5 and ~17 on WK, so I was starting to think I should replay one of my favorite Pokemon games (Heart Gold). Not sure if it’s good for this level though. I think it’s all in kana which kinda scares me, since I want to see kanji as well.

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I believe the question is not how good you are at Japanese but how motivated you are to read. I am likely worse at Japanese than you and I am still able to read it. It is taking time and I would not call it reading for pleasure, but it is doable.

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I am N4 now, studying the Genki and Minna no nihongo grammar and vocab (only missing around 150 words per bookseries now) and leared a few other words while watching videos or reading example sentences on renshuu

I started Pokemon Ultra Moon before and I had to look up at least 3 word per panel (gave up pretty fast). With Let’s go Pikachu it was one word in a dialogue. I played in the kanji version and looked up the kanji reading with the help of google translate camera scan function. It’s horrible at translating (i am copy&pasting to jisho) but the camera scan feature works great. Or you could get a japanese handwriting input (with google keyboard on android f.e.) and try to write it.

You have to try, if it fit’s your level or if you have the motivation to work your way through it. Maybe you find a rom or a japanese let’s play on YouTube to get a first impression on the level :smiley:


I don’t know how you stand with kanji, but if you intent to play games/read books you can consider this list:

When you see new kanji you can check if it is high enough on the list for you and then add it your anki. :hugs:

Not an expert here, but I have found that list quite useful.

I couldn’t stop myself and I did play once in English. And I am glad I did! I strongly recommend using guides while playing visual novels in Japanese. It is very easy to mess up choices and get uneventful story with bad ending.

I though it would be smart to ignore everybody and focus on one character I want to explore but in the end I meet her twice and story ended after while with main character concluding his life will never change and it would be better to not be born…

It would be heart breaking to get such ending after many hours of struggle with reading it in Japanese…

Thanks! I think finding a japanese let’s play might be a good idea :slight_smile:

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In which game are you interested in? I will check if I am able to find some let’s plays or other resources for you, if you want me to :hugs:

Internet is surprisingly big place :joy:

There is this series for example. I don’t see it mentioned before.

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