Learn to Read Japanese

You may have tried to learn to read Japanese in a certain way before, something like this:

  1. Pick out a new word and learn the kanji for it
  2. Memorize the correct way to pronounce it with Hiragana or Rōmaji
  3. Repeat, repeat, repeat

If you wanted to learn the word for “cat” in Japanese you might go through this cycle:

猫, ねこ (neko), CAT, 猫, ねこ (neko), CAT, 猫, ねこ (neko), CAT.

Chances are it was hard, boring, and you probably weren’t able to recall it very well. This form of learning, brute repetition, is kind of like getting lightly punched in the arm over and over and over.

After a while it starts to hurt!

But what about the first time you heard the word YOLO? You probably heard someone yell it really loud and then watched them do something super stupid, like jumping off a house. When you found out that it means You Only Live Once your brain fused the word YOLO with that type of activity and you’ve remembered it ever since. No repetition needed.

What’s the difference?

Why were you able to learn one new word after hearing it only once, when an other new word can take tons of repeated exposure?

The difference is that you can feel YOLO. It’s burned into you emotionally. Whereas 猫, ねこ (neko), CAT is something you may only know mentally on a very shallow level. That’s because it’s not yet fully real to you!

So how can you learn something at a deeper, emotional (as well as mental) level? Well, there are many ways, but let’s just focus on one for now: humor.

When we laugh at something, or find something comical it goes past our critical, conscious mind’s defenses and takes a direct route to your subconscious. That’s why advertisers try to make you laugh when they are pitching their product.

Isn’t it true that you have good feelings towards those companies that make you laugh every year during the Super Bowl?

I think you know what I’m talked about. So let’s use humor to help us remember better!

For this comic, remember to read from right to left (and top to bottom)!


Toshi: Where’s my cat?
Background: The door’s open?
Toshi: Did he go outside?
Background: SLAM!!
Cat: Now it’s a cat’s house.

You might like to read Part 2 because it continues the humor!

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