Read,red, onyomi, kunyomi

Q: Richard

I feel like your “answer” to Emily was a bit offensive and decidedly off point.  Perhaps you are having a bad day because this is uncharacteristic for you.

The fact is, as I understand it, all kanji characters (or symbols) have an ONYOMI as well as a KUNYOMI meaning.  It is important for folks who wish to become proficient with Japanese to understand this.  Am I wrong?

I’m surprised you did not talk about this some.

As I read Emily’s question, I too wanted to know the answer.  Your reply was .. well … lacking.

Could you be a bit more forthcoming, please?



Q: The quality of answer to this email was very poor. If your responses to other valid queries are as bad it will be my intention to mark your future emails as junk  – Anthony

A: Sorry guys!  I wasn’t trying to be off, I was just trying to get you to think about how we solve problems in English, because very often that gives us the way to solve problem sin Japanese.  I guess the zen like approach didn’t come across as I intended!

(Here’s the original reply just for the record)

I was trying to compare the Japanese way of having different readings with the English way of having different readings for the same word.  i.e. the word “read” where you can read it as “reed” or sometimes it can be read like “red”.

You could think about the grammar rule of which reading to use where.  But in reality you just read the correct reading based on your previous listening experience. For example your brain just knows that it sounds wrong.

Your Japanese teacher will probably tell you otherwise (as do English teachers over here) but Japanese kanji are exactly the same.  There are different readings and there are grammar rules to explain them.  But in the vast majority of cases you unconciously decide which reading to use based on your past listening experiences.

For example if you saw 日本 you could potentially read it as “hi hon” or something, but it sounds wrong so you go back and read it until you hit on “nippon”.   Now this does sound like a long way round.  But it is the most natural way to do it – I can guarantee it!

Luckily Japanese TV, and hence youtube, is super great in this respect because they have a habit of kanjing up nearly every show in TV.   So by doing lots of listening to TV shows you get lots of subconcious yomikata (reading) practice.

As I say this isn’t the way they teach you in school, but it is the way those of us who have learnt to speak Japanese use all the time.

Does that get me off the black list now?? : )

Be genki,


One Response to “Read,red, onyomi, kunyomi”

  1. Justin says:

    Genki desu ka? first of all. Secondly I would like to point out to ‘Anthony’ that I think he is over reacting. The comment that you made Richard made sense and obviously looking at the comments helped out in saying that by looking at the context of the sentence that determines how it is read.

    “By looking at the context of the sentence that determines how it is read.” Normally you wouldn’t have read that as “How it is reed” So I think you do a great job Richard and that your answer made perfect sense.

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