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
And good luck with your own language learning journey.
Edits: spelling corrections and fixing hidden content.