Reading Japanese

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RE: Reading Japanese

Post by natemb » Mon 08.01.2005 3:41 am

Well, translating from just hiragana can be pretty hard (that's why kanji are actually very useful when you know them), but with practice you will learn to guess where words start and end. My advice is to study verb endings, adjective endings, and particles. Once you can recognize many of these, they will help you divide the sentence into words that you can look up in a dictionary (if you don't know them already).

The particle を (marking the direct object) is a dead giveaway because that hiragana is not used in any other words, but the particles は, が, に, and の are so common that when you see those hiragana you should see if it makes sense that they are particles.

The basic verb endings like -masu, -mashita, -masen/ -ru, -u, -nai, -ta, nakatta you most likely know already, and tell you that the word before is a verb, but there are of course many more verb endings. Check out the article that was written on verb conjugation for a more comprehensive list: ... cle_id=186

Basic adjective endings are -な for na adjectives and -い, -くない, -かった, and -くなかった for i adjectives.

Here's a very simple example. Most stuff you come across will of course be more complicated:


If I were translating this sentence and didn't know any of the words I would immediately see を near the end, and the verb ending -ました. I will assume that the verb starts after the を so the verb is あげました. To find the dictionary form of verbs ending in -emasu you just change the "masu" to "ru", so you get あげる. Look that up in a dictionary and you get "give".

Next, I see は near the beginning of the sentence, so I can't be sure, but it's probably the particle "wa". Sure enough, かれ means "he" so that makes sense. So far we have "He gave.", and we're left with this in the middle: いもうとにあおいかさを

If you don't know these words, it's just trial and error. I might see the hiragana "と" and think that's the particle for "and" or "with", so I would look up いもう to see if that's a noun. I don't find it in my dictionary, so と must not be a particle here, but maybe に ("to", "towards") is. Yes! いもうと means little sister, so we have "He gave to (his) little sister."

あおいかさ is followed by を so you know the direct object's in there. So what's left is probably a noun or an adjective and a noun. い suggests an adjective ending, so look up あおい and かさ separately and you get "blue" "umbrella". So: "He gave his sister a blue umbrella."

It's a tedious process, but it's nice when you actually get it, and reading is good practice, so Gambatte!

If anyone notices any errors in my example or has a better way of translating, please don't be shy!
Last edited by natemb on Mon 08.01.2005 3:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

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