One of the great mysteries of learning a non-Western language like Japanese is when your brain actually starts “reading” it normally. We all know that Japanese is just another language with its own unique grammar and writing system, but the first time we look at the characters, they can look like snakes squirming on the page. When I started studying Japanese at SDSU, I was sure I’d have to drop the class because the Japanese characters were too difficult for me to read. And yet, as I practiced with my hiragana flash cards and kanji practice notebooks, things started to get easier. Before I knew it, my brain was starting to read Japanese in the same way it read English, clumping information together in easy-to-digest visual groups, in the same way you process a word like “constitutional” without being aware of the individual letters. Kanji was refreshingly logical once you looked closely, with the character for “tree” incorporated into related characters like sakura (cherry tree), desk, pillar or village, helping you memorize everything. As usual, we have plenty of Japanese study products for you to explore, as well as stock of popular manga to practice reading with (which was my own study method of choice).