Reading is Fundamental

by Kensatsukan Gaijin

t’s back to school time here in the United States, and that means time to plan your courses and hit the books again.  If you are wondering how to jump-start your Japanese, and traditional methods haven’t been working for you, the internet is full of different apps and methods to learn Japanese. One of them is Tadoku, a method that actually became popular in Japan for students of English.


Tadoku (多読), which is also known as “extensive reading," is a method of language learning which stresses reading and listening as a more enjoyable and more effective way of language learning than the traditional approach grammar based approach. Introduced (but not invented) by Professor Sakai Kunihide, Tadoku emphasizes reading and listening to easy-to-understand resources.  Essentially, Tadoku consists of reading as many easy-to-read texts as possible.  There are three basic rules to Tadoku-style reading:

1) do not look words up in the dictionary
2) if you are stuck, move on, don’t ask questions
3) if you do not like what you are reading, get something else to read.
Because Tadoku emphasizes continuous, unbroken reading, it is important that you start reading texts that are almost 98% comprehensible.  For some people, that might mean reading a book that has only one word per page - but that’s OK!  As you move to more difficult texts, the key is to keep up the pace, keep up the rhythm, and internalize the language through reading and listening.  Tadoku postulates that every 5 minutes spent looking through a dictionary is another 5 minutes in which very little language is acquired and a reader isn’t spending time comprehending the language.  But more importantly, Tadoku emphasizes the joy of reading; a reader who wants to keep reading will read more than someone who is bored or frustrated.  


Extensive reading requires reading large volumes of material at or very slightly above one’s comprehension level, aiming for overall understanding of the work instead of worrying about every detailed twist of grammar or every word.  This approach stresses learning from context and getting used to the language by massive exposure instead of understanding things point by point.  Of course, it cannot replace intensive reading (in which a difficult point or a sentence well above the learner’s level is studied in detail).  Many contend, though, that the two methods are simply complimentary.  

Tadoku is not just a method, though.  It is also a system that offers carefully-graded readers for Japanese-learners of all levels.  These levels were first invented for students of English in Japan.  You can find official texts, created and designed for your level, at the official Tadoku website:  But the internet is also full of places where you can find free resources for students.  For example, you can find folk tales, some with audiobook versions and translations, here.  You can also find Tadoku reading materials here: and here:   UVa Library even has an online library of Japanese texts, with and without furigana, here:


Tadoku is as much about sharing the love of Japanese as it is about learning, and the Tadoku community frequently offers games, contests and challenges that you can join online, on places like Twitter.  One popular Tadoku contest is regularly held here:


If you want to try Tadoku with a text that you have found, but aren’t sure at what level you are reading, you can use this online app to figure out the level of a particular text.