The following suggestions can help you to practice reading in Japanese more efficiently. These ideas assume that you are reading a PDF version of one of our three books on a computer screen. We do not recommend that you practice reading the PDF files on hand-held devices like phones and tablets because such devices do not facilitate the selection of a single kanji, and they do not permit multiple windows to be opened on the screen.
Formatting of the Kanji Catalogue
Please be aware that the Kanji Catalogue is formatted to allow you to locate any kanji heading easily. (A kanji “heading” is the first portion of the section in the Kanji Catalogue that describes a particular kanji.) The formatting of the kanji headings is “XXXX. kanji” (notice the empty space between the period and the kanji). Of course, the word “kanji” here represents an actual kanji, such as 自.
For example, the heading for the kanji 自 is “0055. 自” (this occupies 7 spaces; again, notice the empty space after the period). If you click in the Kanji Catalogue window and open a Search box, you will be able to locate this kanji heading in one of two ways: either by typing “0055.” (this occupies 5 spaces) or by typing “. 自” (this occupies 3 spaces; think “dot space kanji“). In order to “type” a kanji your computer should be equipped with an IME (input method editor) that converts romaji typed on your keyboard to kanji on your screen. Alternatively, you can place a copied kanji in a Search box by pasting it, as described below.
With some software, including Adobe Acrobat DC, it may not be necessary to include the “space” when typing “dot space kanji” in a Search box. Typing “dot kanji” may be enough. Please experiment with your software to see if you need to use the space or not.
Reading Book 1 on a Computer Screen
- Download the free version of Adobe Acrobat Reader DC. (Note: when acquiring Acrobat Reader DC, be careful to uncheck all of the other options on the screen that might force you to install applications that you may not want.)
- Purchase the PDF files for Learn to Read in Japanese, Volume I. You will need both the Japanese Reader and the Kanji Catalogue.
- Duplicate the Japanese Reader PDF file by copying the file that you have purchased and pasting the copy into the same folder as the original. Your computer should assign the copied file a new name. For example, if the name of the file that you have copied is “LearntoRead,1,PayHip,2020-12-22,” you should now see a new file in the same folder named “LearntoRead,1,PayHip,2020-12-22 – Copy.” This will allow you to open two versions of the file in Adobe Acrobat, one for reading Japanese text and the other for reading romaji and English text.
- Using Adobe Acrobat Reader DC, open three PDF files: the first copy of the Japanese Reader, the second copy of the Reader and the Kanji Catalogue.
- If these three files are not already in separate windows, separate them by clicking on their headings in Adobe Acrobat and dragging them onto the desktop outside of the Adobe Acrobat window. Your screen should now look something like this (in Windows 10).
- In the first Japanese Reader window and in the Kanji Catalogue window, set the text size to 135%, using the tool in the toolbar at the top of the window. Since the second Japanese Reader window will only be used to display romaji and English text, set its text size to 125%.
- Turn off automatic resizing of windows. (If necessary. This only needs to be done once.) In Windows 10, click on the Windows button in the lower left corner of the screen. Then click Settings, System, Multi-tasking. Then turn “Snap Windows” off. This will prevent windows from automatically expanding to full screen if you move them partially off the border of the screen.
- Prevent your computer from automatically restarting. (If necessary. This also only needs to be done once.) In Windows 10, you can install the free tool Shutdown Guard. This will prevent Windows 10 from automatically restarting when you are away from your computer. Automatic restarts cause you to lose your place in your reading and force you to reopen all of your study windows and readjust their sizes. After the tool has been installed, you will find a small icon resembling a padlock in the taskbar at the bottom of the screen. When you want to allow your computer to restart, simply click on this icon to unlock it. After some Windows updates and restarts, the icon may disappear from the taskbar. In that case, simply click on the Start icon in the lower left corner of the screen, locate the program Shutdown Guard, and click it. The icon should reappear, in the “locked” configuration.
- Adjust the size of your windows. Be sure to close the right panels in the Adobe Acrobat windows by clicking on the arrows in the bars to the left of them, so that they don’t use up valuable space. Then click on the frames around the windows to resize them as needed. Window 1, containing the first version of the Reader, should allow only Japanese text to be visible. Window 2, containing the second version of the Reader, should allow romaji and English text to be visible, but it need not conceal the Japanese text completely. Window 3, containing the Kanji Catalogue, should be just wide enough to show its single column of text. Your screen should now look something like this:
- Now start reading the Japanese text in Window 1. As you read, refer to the romaji and English text in Window 2 whenever necessary to ensure that you are reading the Japanese text correctly.
- When you need to look up a kanji character that you encounter in Window 1, highlight the kanji and copy it to the computer clipboard by using Control-c (holding down the Ctrl and “c” keys simultaneously). Now click inside the Kanji Catalogue window. If the Find box isn’t already open, use Control-f to open it. Click in the Find box. Then use the format “dot space kanji.” In other words, type a period, touch the space bar (the “space” may be optional, as mentioned above) and use Control-v to paste the kanji that you just copied into the Find box. Then press Enter, and you will see the entry for the kanji that you are seeking.
- If you need to look up a kanji character by using the kanji’s identifying number, type the 4-digit number in the Find box and follow it with a period. For example, if you want to look up kanji # 37, click in the Find box in the Kanji Catalogue window, and type 0037. (don’t forget to include the period). Then press Enter. This will ensure that you are taken to the beginning of that kanji’s entry.
The following video demonstrates the use of these techniques to read Volume 2 of the book, but in this video only two windows are open, one for the Japanese Reader and the other for the Kanji Catalogue. After making the video, I realized that it would be easier to use three windows, as described above.
Reading the Books on a Touchscreen Laptop Computer
A disadvantage of the techniques described above is that they require that one sit in front of a computer while engaged in Japanese reading practice. I wanted to find an alternative that was more comfortable and more flexible. For example, I wanted to be able practice reading on flights back and forth to Japan. So I purchased the equipment described below and made another video showing how reading practice on a touchscreen laptop might work.
- HP Pavilion x360 laptop computer with 11.6″ touchscreen display, or any similar touchscreen laptop.
- Stylus Active Pen for HP Pavilion x360, or any similar stylus pen.
Technique Modification for Stylus Pen
- When you need to look up a kanji character, use the following copy technique: highlight the kanji by placing the tip of the pen stylus in the middle of the space just to the right of the character, click on the proximal half of the stylus button, and drag the tip gently to the left. Now copy the kanji by using Control-c. Next click inside the Kanji Catalogue window. If the Find box isn’t already open, use Control-f to open it. Click in the Find box. Then use the format “dot kanji,” i.e., type a period and use Control-v to paste the kanji you just copied into the box. Then press Enter, and you will see the entry for the kanji that you are seeking.
- Note that I used the format “dot kanji” rather than “dot space kanji” in the previous paragraph, because I found that the Adobe Acrobat DC program was able to locate kanji headings even though I did not use a space between the period and the kanji.
- Also note that, contrary to my statements in the video below, the single long button on the pen used in the video can be used to produce either a right-click or a left-click effect, depending on where you press it. The video fails to make it clear that, when you highlight a kanji, you need to press on the proximal half of this button, i.e., the half that is closer to your hand.
The following video demonstrates the use of the touchscreen laptop with a total of five windows open on the screen. In addition to the three windows mentioned above, there is a window containing supplemental reading material from Satori Reader and a window containing the “Mnemonic Dictionary,” which was the precursor to the current Glossary. If you would like to be able to look up vocabulary terms quickly while you practice reading, you may open the PDF version of the Glossary in this fifth window.