Need a little help with reading books

Okay, so look I’m kinda at that stage now where for me to progress my knowledge learning N4 & N3 materials (whilst being Level 21 WK and just having recently passed the N5 [flex, sorry]) I need to start reading more native content.

I’ll be honest, NHK news easy just doesn’t cut the cake for me so I’ve taken to reading Manga and… yeah. It’s a humbling experience to say the least.

Now I understand that manga has the nuance of a lot of slang grammar and vocab, plus the writing style of the author can vary how the sentence structure is based on stylising principles 等等等

With that aside this is a more general question that I want to apply the answer to for all books/novels/manga that I will read in the future.

ATM I’m kinda just reading a chapter, understanding maybe like 30-50% of it, discovering ALOT of new grammar and just having a blast, but obviously I’m missing out on truly understanding the story.

How do you approach this? Do you read a chapter, then go back through and translate? Do you just translate at the point of needing to translate? Hell do you even just read the full book and yeet the translations and go full Leroy Jenkins?

Either way I know the answer is going to be “it’s what works for you” but right now I don’t know what works for me - so I’m leaning on the good people of BunPro to give me their advice and help me really get my teeth sunk into reading.

For reference the manga I’m reading is ふらいんぐういっち

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Learn natively can help find the right books for whatever your level is. You’ll have a much more enjoyable time reading if it’s something you can comprehend at least 60-80% . 60 being a rather low number, but if the material is something you love you won’t even notice it :kissing_smiling_eyes:

I always hated nhk news. Also don’t like how much it’s suggested to new learners when there’s much better materials out there. But then again, I hate reading news in English too so not a big shocker. The best materials to use are ones that interest you. They keep you motivated and hungry for more. Do you like playing Pokemon? The Pokemon games for switch can be played in Japanese and are usually recommended because a lot of people have already played the eng version so they have a sense of what’s going on and they aren’t exactly complicated. Pokejisho can super help with the names of items/Pokemon/Pokemon moves.

Reading starts to really flow around n3, where you get most common grammar out of the way and start noticing new vocab everywhere. This is where I noticed the biggest jump in “ease of read”.

Translating might help you at first and at the lower levels. To help you feel like you really understand what you read. The need to feel this goes away as you progress where you’ll eventually go full Leroy Jenkins (whoever that is :upside_down_face:). At some point you’ll break through that wall and just read. It’s a wonderful feeling. So if you’re going to translate don’t feel it to be absolutely necessary. It isn’t, and if having to do it inhibits your want to read, then don’t. Break down sentences you really want to know, but if it’s over your head, it’s over your head. Racking your brain to make sense of something that is just impossible can be really demotivating. If you can’t, just move on. It’ll come back to you when you’re ready, guaranteed. At n4 and n5 I feel like reading is much more about reinforcing what you already know rather than finding new things

It’s what works best for you :joy:
Reading shouldn’t feel like a chore


Haha thank you very much the reply! I’ll check out Learn Natively, seems like a good resource!

This is the part that excites me, I’m looking forward to when that day arrives. I’m not trying to brute force it to be sooner by trying to read now, just moreso that I want to be able to start reading some things at the least!


The very cold bear had some good tips. I haven’t broken through yet, but I’ll try to be of some help.

For most, the translate-as-you-go idea comes to mind, but you’ll get burnt out fast. That’s why NHK News Easy makes more sense. Even if you grind every sentence, the articles usually aren’t too long. I don’t think this is a good long term practice, since it’s “a lot of homework,” so to speak.

Another school of thought is to just read, skipping over whatever you can’t figure out. This method keeps your momentum, since translate-as-you-go is an absolute grind. This one feels like a cheat, but some people seem to support it.

Of course, “read what you like” is incredibly difficult in the early stages. The children’s stuff is made for natives, so Kanji is missing and there’s likely more colloquialisms and such. (Think “itsy bitsy spider.”) The non-manga reading selection seems to be barren until the N2 level, which is a long road without any way to spice things up.

Either way, good luck with your reading!


Another site that I think has a good selection of graded ebooks (and is free) is Library|さくら多読ラボ .

I would say they’re probably a pretty good selection for studying towards n4-n3 level.

They will definitely be some good recommendations on Natively, but up until solid n3, it’s mostly material targeted for kids (not always a bad thing, but sometimes can be a bit sweet).

(this is mostly from a non-manga point of view - I’ve not got so much experience on the manga side)


I recommend checking out, and also, installing the Yomitan browser extension (formely Yomichan). This extension is a must have for Japanese learners, regardless.

For manga not present in bilingualmanga, you can try instant OCR sites like Manabu, Yandex Translate and Nekostrips - Comics Translation Tool. If you are very tech savvy, you can try to run mokuro, which is a program you can use to make a bilingualmanga for any manga you want.

Learn natively is great to find the level of a manga, as cited before. If the manga you want to read is not there, you can guess based on themes and genre. Comedy 4-komas and slice of life are pretty easy in general. Also, try to not change genres and authors too frequently, check up Narrow Reading.

In actual practice, I feel like dissecting every sentence (aka Intensive Reading) is way more efficient as a learning exercise and rewarding (because you understand “everything” with way more clarity), but it’s also very time and mental consuming. Personally, unconsciously I always skew towards the extensive approach, because it’s just easier to ignore the gaps and faster, but I try to keep myself with the intensive one. Both Extensive and Intensive reading have it’s perks, it’s important to diversify your approach in general.

Edit: This was a bit of a tool dump, but in general I wanted to give you more options, for the sake of finding what works for you!


Maybe this will help:

You just gotta go on ebay and buy the series “chi’s sweet house” on ebay for like 50 bucks and you’ll be good to go. I don’t care what anyone else says this is the best way to get your feet wet.

Source: I’m right and everyone else is wrong.


Just keep reading and looking up what you don’t know. If you want to speed the process up, either switch to novels (digital versions) and look up words using Yomichan, or use manga that have been converted with Mokuro and - again - use Yomichan.

Hell, do both.

You’re going to look up basically everything in the beginning, but as you continually come across words in different contexts and see them again and again you will learn what they mean. It’s like an organic form of flash cards. It may be frustrating but just keep reading.


Can’t believe none mentioned Satori Reader.
It’s like the best thing that happened to my Japanese reading. It plastered over all my cracks I had at N5 and N4 and taught me some things on N3-N1 that often come up. Everything within context and fully voice acted.

Ever since I went through their stories, I can read Japanese books with ease by my self. (Deciphering long, relative clauses etc.)

So, if that sounds interesting to you, you can check out the first chapter of their stories from free.


I quite enjoyed their rendition of 聞き耳ラジオ

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I started out with translation, but really only because I started out reading with a novel series that I knew I wanted to translate once I’d raised my level since the current fan translation is straight-up just MTL’d (a.k.a. it’s terrible), and I also didn’t translate everything as I went. I’d type everything into a document to go back and translate at leisure, while also translating some as I went, whether because it was something I knew how to translate with few to no lookups (which, of course, didn’t start happening all that often until I’d gotten further) or because I wanted to figure out what exactly that line/paragraph/section was saying or because I liked the line and wanted to figure out right then how to put it in English nicely.

It helped a lot of course with typing in Japanese and using an IME (at least my laptop’s IME), but I feel like it also helped me with learning readings, since 1) I couldn’t just leave a blank in my head where there’s a kanji/word I don’t know how to read or else just go, “Ehhh, I think it was something like such-and-such, close enough,” I’d have to look it up (Well. For the most part. There’s always the occasional one where I’m like “Well I don’t know how to read this word since one or both kanji clearly are using a reading I don’t know, but I can produce them both separately, so I’mma just do that”), and 2) I’d have an impression from typing it before to guide me to the right reading. Also helped me recognize e.g. になう vs かつぐ and ぬぐう vs く conjugated, since if I got it wrong, I’d know immediately. I’m the type of person where doing something physically helps a lot to get it to stick in my brain better, which is why I like fill-in-the-blank and absolutely cannot do regular old flashcards.

Of course, it doesn’t necessarily help with meaning, but it’s a lot easier to look up words when you know the reading.

I’ve never translated line-by-line, and I also have a tendency to just skip over lines where there’s more than one or two unknowns since I have difficulty juggling that much info in my head at once. I may or may not look up all the unknown words in the sentence (depends on my mood, how much energy I have, how important this line feels for overall understanding), but I usually don’t try too long to piece it all together before moving on unless I’m really not getting something and it’s because of that line.

And outside of that one series, I rarely translate except a few lines mentally here and there where I can’t get the meaning unless I do, and even then it’s often just a part of it, like where there’s a grammar point I accidentally overlooked, or a particularly long relative clause where I lose track of what particle refers to what, etc.

Mostly I try to just read, and how much I look up varies depending on how much energy I have for it that day. Even early on, I’d surprise myself with how much I could understand even when I didn’t look up much if anything. I don’t like intensive reading, I find it a bore and a giant slog, so the closest I get is extensive with some intensive leanings. It might take me longer, sure, but I get to read more and enjoy myself more this way, even if I understand less. And I will reread, but not immediately. I don’t have any novels that I’ve reread yet, but I do have a handful of manga, all read at least a few months after the first time.

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I periodically test my level by using Yomitan and working my way through a few chapters of web novels on Some novels are easier than others, so you have to browse around a bit to find one that you like and that isn’t too much of a chore to read. So I basically try to read as much as I can on my own but if I run into a word I don’t know I just check it with Yomitan and if there’s a sentence I can’t for the life of me grasp the meaning of despite knowing all the words I use ChatGPT to analyze the grammar, and that’s usually good enough to at least understand the plot. This method is pretty slow going so I can’t be bothered to do it too much, but I do learn a lot and it’s motivating when I realize that I get faster and faster every time I come back.

I also use a browser plugin called Vocab Tracker to keep track of which words I know, which ones I’ve seen before and roughly how well I know them, I find that it makes it easier not to mix up similar-looking words and such. It’s kinda like training wheels but I think at this level we need all the help we can get and if it means I can get through native content that’s challenging it’s definitely worth it.

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Thank you everyone for the replies! I am just getting through reading them now

I recommend trying out some Magic Treehouse books in japanese. I’m sure you can find english copies on ebay for cheap and then you can read it in english and then in japanese. They have very straightforward grammar and a lot of repeating vocab.

Monniebiloney also has a whole video set and discord discussion where they to through the first book. It helped me out SO much when I was starting to read.

Monnie’s videos
Magic Treehouse on LearnNatively

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Read what you want to read. If its not interesting for you, whats the point? Also don’t be afraid to move to another book / manga if the current one is not working. Normally its a good idea to read a series as due to the voice of the author, there should be quite a few repeating words / sentences.

On Bookwalker / Booklive, I would just try to read the sample of any manga / light novel and see how things go. Sometimes I would find a manga series that I can actually understand well enough to continue reading.

What I do has changed over the years, here are some examples:
I did traslate as a fun excersise, just the first page. I prefer to just copy a page from a light novel as it does make me think about what I am reading / writing. A lot of anime (eg Rising of the Shield Hero) that are based of light novels have a web novel version on 小説家になろう ( . Its quite easy to “read” something with Yomichan or just copy paste in Jisho / Google translate to double check.

For others I would make a note of the unknown words while reading. After learning the unknown words, I would re-read the book / chapter. In a way, I build up my vocabulary for that book so that I have an easier time.

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