My Reading Experiences - CatDQ

Apologies in advance: TL:DR: this is a reading journey blog.

First off, a bit of background.

  • Since joining Natively less than a month ago, I’ve actually read more in that time than throughout the last 2 years of my active and continuous study of Japanese. I’m a slow learner but I used a lot of the first year trying to find the best textbooks for me to learn from while self studying as well as getting to understand how I actually learn best. I started with Japanese from Zero, got to book three and got stuck. I just couldn’t get my head around the grammar being taught. I then picked up Genki nearer the end of my first year as it’s one of the best resources suggested for learning from, got half way through and got stuck again with the grammar.

  • Early my second year I switched to Minna no Nihongo and found the grammar to be easier to understand because I wasn’t learning it in English, I was understanding it in Japanese. It was slow to start but the immersion was helping me immensely both with grammar understanding and with my reading speed. Now I’m a lot more in-tune with myself, so I know that immersion works best for me and I learn better from context than from complex grammar explanations.

Now the reason for this post;


I want to write a record of my thoughts and experiences of my journey from textbook sentences into native level reading and the challenges I’ve come across on the way. The last year I’ve read news posts from NHK easy news, stuck to the very short 1 & 2 page short stories in Short stories for beginners
and completed all 9 of the Minna no Nihongo 初級 set. I’ve also reviewed each book at least once a few months after completing it to see if I’ve improved on my understanding as well as pick up more of the vocabulary I’ve forgotten as I’m not using anki or anything to learn the vocabulary, just context (and Wanikani for the kanji because it’s working).

So, onto the real stuff:


Since joining Natively I started trying out the free graded readers to test my Vocabulary knowledge and understanding of the basic grammar. Most I was able to read or understand from context (a few really low level ones I had to look up many words - Rock Paper Scissors, I’m looking at you) but even the high level ones I found were simple enough for me to understand the gist of without much looking up of words and most of the look ups were to understand how to pronounce the kanji, not what the word actually meant. Real confidence booster that. I also noticed kanji I knew more often than I thought.

Across the last 3 weeks on 4-5 separate days I read all of the free graded readers and found my reading speed vastly improved when I understood but suffered if I didn’t understand the grammar, even if I understood the words. I then started on the e-book graded readers of my own (picking up a few more from recommendations on the main site) and the Olly Richards “in 30 days” series. 4/5 of those I’ve read though I have been reading more than one chapter a day (Oops) just because I enjoyed the story (the answer look ups are all out of sequence in the e-book and rather frustrating to match up). I stopped the Keigo one because I was struggling with the higher level from the mid way point and not enjoying it, I’ll go back to it at a later date. I also re-read ミラーさん book 1 and then read book 2 across a few days without looking anything up and found I understood most of it or could pick it up from context which was an awesome feeling.

My goal for the remainder of this year


is to read through the rest of my e-book graded readers and start the Read Real Japanese series again, I stopped it because I wasn’t understanding it but I still use the audio to listen to. After that, I’d like to transition onto native level content, starting with キノの旅 and ズー by 乙一 before tackling some longer short stories.

I’ve decided to use a stepping stone type approach but use the shorter but more challenging content for intensive reading while using longer and easier content for extensive reading. Hopefully the mix of both will help me to get to a stage where by the end of next year, I’ll be comfortably reading much higher native level content and be able to understand more without having to look most of it up.

My intent for this post


is to use it to document the books I read from now along with my thoughts and experiences for the journey. Hopefully my experiences will help others and I’ll also be able to post a little review of each book I read incase anyone who reads this wants to know more about the books.

For anyone that’s stuck with me this long, thank you for reading :blush:
And good luck with your own language learning journey.

Edits: spelling corrections and fixing hidden content.


I really love this!! :smile:

That so amazing to read. I remember the first few books I read and it’s so incredibly rewarding and empowering ^^

I really wish you the best of luck in your journey, you’re already well on your way. 頑張って!

PS: It might be good to include some part of your username in the title… to distinguish it from other reading blogs :slight_smile:


Thanks :blush: That’s a good shout on the title, will get that updated.

I really want to be reading the more difficult stuff but I’m just not ready yet so these small victories are a massive motivation boost knowing that hopefully sooner that I think, I’ll be ready to start tackling more difficult stuff. Certainly didn’t think I’d be ready even for some of the more difficult graded readers when I read them.


Update 04/08/22:

I know I only wrote this a few days ago but just wanted to write an update after starting to read my first Manga - ナルト 卷ノ一.

Completed chapter 1 of 7 (56 pages - approx 3 hours total split into two sessions)

I tried reading this near the beginning of original lock down 2020 and found I understood very little of it (a word or two here and there) even though I’d previously read the English version of it and using a dictionary didn’t help.

After reading the first chapter, there are still sections I’ve taken a guess at then checked in the English version of it to see if I’ve understood it but most of it I’ve understood the gist of and some sections I’ve understood everything or almost everything either from knowledge or from context with very few look ups of words.

Pretty proud of myself for this even though it might be a small step in the sea of Fluency. :blush:

Edits: spelling errors


Update 09/08/2022:

Finished ナルト 卷ノ一. I’ve read a chapter a day since I completed chapter 1 (approx 56pages), approximately 20-25 pages for each chapter depending on which chapter. There’s only 7 in this volume.

Although I understood/ got the gist of a lot of the first chapter and most of the second and third chapters through knowledge and context, I found the subsequent chapters to be difficult to understand because of my vocabulary and grammar level. Best laugh is the ninja vocabulary that I’ve not studied was all very well understood, it was everything else I struggled with.

I’ll revisit this at a later date possibly for intensive reading before starting the second volume as I was reading this extensively both to check my level and my general understanding without looking up the vocabulary/ grammar I didn’t know. It gives me a bench mark so I can check my progress when I read it for a third time further down the line.

Over all thoughts:

I like Naruto, I’ve watched several episodes of the anime years back (episodes 1-17 iirc) when I got a few volumes of the Manga in English (volumes 1-9). It was the first anime series other than Pokémon and Digimon that I watched, and the first anime I ever watched in Japanese (didn’t like the English dub voice overs so watched the subbed version).

It’s one I’ll continue to read though most likely at a slow pace since the full set for me is about £300+ not including delivery, so I’ll probably either hold off and buy the set as one early next year or slowly build up the collection if I can’t get a full set in decent condition at a semi decent price.

Next steps

I’ll most likely re-read this using intensive reading in a few months once the second book arrives as I’ve more graded readers to get through first.

Edit: incorrect date.


Update w/c 15/08/2022:

I found an article a while back about Learning to read in Japanese to help you get from graded readers to reading native level content. There’s a good variety of genres included in the content advised and even suggestions for online/ digital as well as physical. I do prefer a physical book but sometimes digital is quicker especially for helping with grammar and vocab look ups.

Step 1: graded readers and easy NHK

was to start with graded readers or easy NHK news articles. So I decided to tackle both which I’ve pretty much done for the last 6-8 months by using either the short story books I have or reading NHK easy news articles, but even in that time, I hadn’t actually read much outside of the reading articles in my textbook. I could still understand most of the stuff I was reading but something still felt like it was missing.

What I changed recently

Over the last 3-4 weeks I’ve really ramped up my reading, at one point I went through all of the free graded readers across about 3-4 separate days and then progressed back onto the short story books and guided reader books (similar to graded readers but they have grammar explanations for any new grammar points that they haven’t covered already and don’t stick to the JLPT levels for grammar used). I found the guided reader books way more helpful than the short stories that just have a vocab list in them as the grammar was explained in context along side the vocab so made more sense to me.

My next books to read before starting step 2

I’ve decided that I’m going to change things up again and switch onto longer or more difficult stories like this, this, this and this before I try to tackle the Read real Japanese books (this one and this one) again (which is step 2 of the article above) and hopefully my understanding for how best to tackle these will have improved.

Final thoughts

I’ve certainly improved in understanding my own process and what works best for me, but also figured out half my issue with reading in Japanese outside my comfort zone is lack of confidence in myself and my ability to improve if I just put in the time and effort like I have done for the rest of my journey so far. I may be slow compared to where I want to be and I may not be as fluent as I’d like but I’m still improving and I’m a lot further along compared to where I was a year or two ago (or even longer since I’ve been studying on and off for several years).