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To Use Romaji, Or Not To Use Romaji? That Is The Question.

Posted October 29th, 2011 by Kimberly in Learning Japanese

I have been going to a lot of forums and groups lately and I find that many users seem to be afraid of studying the kana tables plus kanji.

After speaking with some users from some of these groups, they tell me it’s easier for them to type and to read in romaji. While others say, they do not have any time to study the kana tables and how they couldn’t be bothered with learning kanji characters because it’s too hard.

I admit, I use romaji when I don’t feel like typing in Japanese or when I’m on a PC that cannot type or display Japanese characters.  Which, of course is understandable if you are from a country where your computer cannot display Asian characters.

I have always encouraged others to start with the basics of a language you want to learn. Reading and writing is as basic as it comes.

Now, with that being said, if you feel really uncomfortable taking the step to learn hiragana and katakana, then stick with romaji until you are more familiar with the sound of Japanese. But keep in mind, the longer that you put off learning hiragana and katakana, it could hurt your studies in the end.

Sure, being able to read Japanese in romaji is great, but what if you do not understand the context being spoken about, you could even get some of the words confused because they sound and look similar to another word.

That’s where kanji really shines.

Kanji is a great way to show us the difference between one word and another by simply seeing the kanji character they have used in the word. So, there is no longer any confusion.

With a great foundation of hiragana, katakana and even some basic kanji, one will be able to read Japanese textbooks that are used in Japanese courses with ease.

I have noticed that there are a lot of people that can type in romaji but when you show them the kanji version of the word, they usually cannot recognize it.

If you need to stick to writing in romaji, I would recommend that you try and remember what the word looks like in native Japanese before you type it in romaji.

Learning a language is hard, but skipping out on learning the basics could hurt your progress.

Also, since there is no official way to write words in romaji people can get confused if they see the romaji written differently.



Renshuu shimashou.  Let’s practice.

Renshyuu shimashiou. Let’s practice.


As you can see from the above example, they both mean the same thing but they are spelled differently.

Even native Japanese speakers can get confused while chatting in romaji.

This is why I think that everyone at one point or another in their studies, should take the time to learn hiragana and katakana in the least.

And because there are thousands of kanji characters to study, learn kanji as you encounter them in daily situations, textbooks etc, rather then just cramming as much as you can in a short period of time.

Over years of study, you will find that Japanese will become easier and easier once you know how to read.

And of course, it will be even better if you know how to hand-write everything you have learned.

I feel that romaji is a band-aide when it comes to Japanese studies. While it is easy for anyone that can read the English-language to learn Japanese through romaji, I feel you are not getting the best that the Japanese language has to offer.

Having a strong foundation of the basics will help guide you through the journey of becoming fluent.

See you all next Friday!

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  1. One Response to “To Use Romaji, Or Not To Use Romaji? That Is The Question.”

  2. By Enrico on Oct 31, 2011

    I would go even further to say that anyone who would seriously learn Japanese should pick up the kana as soon as possible. Sure, they have limited utility for speaking, but reading is one of the best ways to pick up vocabulary in many contexts and you most definitely can’t do that without kana at the very least!

    In my Japanese courses in university, I remember we had reading exercises that would often involve many characters that we hadn’t even studied formally. My peers would complain, “what’s the point of making us struggle through these if we’re not studying these characters? Why not just stick to the ones they’re teaching us?” I always appreciated these exercises because they taught me many words that I still passively recognize, even if I couldn’t write the characters anymore (or I had never studied the characters individually at all).

    Reading real Japanese (or, in the case above, stories written by your Japanese professors) is a great way to build proficiency and until you can read the kana, all of that is completely inaccessible to you. It may be intimidating to attack all of this stuff that you don’t recognize but break it down bit by bit and eventually you’ll look back and see how far you’ve come!

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