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The first is supposed to be the kanji for mouth, "くち" and the sencond is supposed to be katakana. When I typed them in google translate, the sizes were different so I could differentiate them that way, but now just like in the title, they look exactly the same. How do people tell the diffence when reading?

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marked as duplicate by istrasci, snailboat Dec 11 '13 at 20:44

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2 Answers

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Context.

In theory, you can usually tell the difference based on minor details such as their size. But there's considerable variation in fonts and handwriting, and because both ロ and 口 have the same stroke order they can look pretty similar, so in practice this can be difficult.

Luckily, you generally don't have to distinguish between them visually because you can almost always tell from context. For example, words like 出口 and 入り口 contain the kanji, and words like ゲロゲロ and ローマ contain the kana.

You can learn to read Japanese fairly well without necessarily being able to distinguish the two characters as written in your question title. (At least in the font I'm using, they're pretty hard to tell apart.)

In my opinion, the similar-looking ones you should learn to tell apart consistently are ones where the stroke order or position is different, like ン versus ソ, シ versus ツ, 人 versus 入, or 天 versus 夭, or the ones where the stroke lengths are different, like 土 versus 士, or 未 versus 末.

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Consider it analogous to the characters for capital "o" and zero. You just have to use context. Without context, such as randomly generated passwords, you're out of luck.

kanji = 才; kana = オ;
kanji = 力: kana = カ;
kanji = 夕: kana = タ;
kanji = 二; kana = ニ;
kanji = 工; kana = エ;

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