My Reading Experiences - CatDQ

Update 29/11/2022:

This weeks progress:

This week I’ve continued working through the main textbook, reading/ listening books and the exercise book for MNN. Alongside that, I’ve also read through the bonus story from Short stories in Japanese (there’s no option to mark this on natively so I’ve just marked init me personal notes for this book) and started to work through Read Real Japanese fiction as well as listening to the first story, 神様 before I’ll start reading it properly. I tried to make a start on the penguin parallel text book and Reading Japanese with a smile but neither have furigana so I decided instead to work through those once my kanji recognition is better.

Read real Japanese has furigana the first time a kanji is shown then each time after, the furigana is removed, so I can use the text itself to look things up if I’ve not recognized it the second time etc. Whereas with the penguin parallel text and reading Japanese with a smile, I need to look it up in an app or dictionary each time. Sounds silly but if I need to look stuff up every few words, I tend to get distracted and lose interest in trying to figure out what I’m reading so I’m trying to get my recognition skills and grammar skills up to scratch before tackling things where I need an external dictionary or app to search stuff.

I will be going back through several of the higher level short story books for the grammar explanations at a later date but for now, I want to focus on trying to consume as much different material as I can while still getting the gist of what I’m reading if I can’t understand it fully.

Next steps

For now, I’ll continue with Read Real Japanese fiction and focus on one of the stories for a few days, reading through it intensively, listening to it and trying to better understand the grammar used.

My hope is that by working through this book and Read Real Japanese essays intensively, it’ll better set me up for starting キノの旅 once I’m ready.

Hopes for the beginning of 2023

My hope is that by just after Xmas, I’ll be ready to start tackling キノの旅 though I think it will be slow going to start with and I will have many vocabulary and grammar that I need to look up but I’m hoping that if I start by reading the first few chapters intensively (or first few books if I’m really struggling) then my understanding of the vocabulary and grammar within the series will be enough for me to then continue by reading them extensively. We’ll see what happens when it comes though.

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Update 19/12/2022:

Although I’ve not posted the last few weeks (partly due to not having a lot of time and partly due to being unwell) I have continued to keep up with MNN and with reading through Read Real Japanese fiction.

Progress:

I’ve read through the second and third story as well as both the grammar notes running alongside and the more intensive grammar notes at the back half of the book for each of them. I’ve also read both sets of grammar notes for the fourth story but decided to do this before reading the story this time as the previous three stories I understood very little about what they were about until I read the grammar notes. I think once I’ve finished this book (there are 2 more stories after the one I’m on) and after reading through Read Real Japanese essays, I’ll come back and try to read each story and essay again before moving on to キノの旅. Hopefully that will help me enough to understand the gist of what’s going on when I’m reading it extensively.

Challenges and possible solutions:

I’m finding that I’m struggling still to understand the nuances between certain similar meaning grammar points, so I don’t yet understand in what situations one would be used over another. I’m also struggling to hold on to the knowledge I’m picking up but I think that’s lack of repetition as I’ll recognize things but just not remember what they mean or I’ll remember a part of it but not quite remember the full meaning. It’s mildly frustrating because I want to push forward but understand that if I’m not understanding it then pushing forward might not help in the long run. I’ll need to re-work through MNN sections that I’m struggling with once I’m done so I can try to get some more repetition of the grammar points and may also work through a few of the other short story books intensively as well.

Thoughts:

I’ve 16 sections of MNN to complete this set of books and finish the full 50 sections which I should have completed by around mid April (doing one section a week including the reading, listening and writing practice books as part of my studying). After I’ve worked through it a second time, I think I’ll switch to Genki or Tobira for alternative grammar explanations to see if that helps any. At the very least, there will be new examples to study and practice with which should help.

Possible options for next year:

From around mid year, I’m considering getting a tutor a few days a week for speaking/pitch accent practice and help with feedback on my writing practice since I think regular feedback will help me progress quicker. Also considering signing up for Dogen’s pitch accent course but we’ll see how the tutor thing goes first.

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Update 27/12/2022:

Progress:

In the last week, I’ve continued with the next chapter of MNN, finished Read Real Japanese Fiction (still struggling with them but understood more after switching to reading over the grammar help first) and completed half of the Read Real Japanese Essays. Still got 4 to complete which I may have finished by the end of the week if I do one a day, meaning I’m not too far off track from my original plan to start キノの旅 in the new year.

Next steps:

As I’m over half way through MNN shuukyuu series, and got some amazon vouchers for xmas, I decided to get the Chyuukyuu series, so those are on the way, just hoping they arrive in time for me finishing this set. I’ve been getting on best with MNN and immersion for learning so felt best to stick with that though I will be using the other textbooks for additional practice and understanding.

I’m also looking at the possibility of going back over Read Real Japanese series and Short stories/ Folk tales for language learners in more detail to try to pick up more of the grammar and vocabulary explanations but I’ll see how I get on when I start キノの旅.

Thoughts:

I think half my trouble is trying to understand how best I learn for each part of the process. My reading and recognition skills are way higher than any of the other language skills. Writing is my weakest though speaking is possibly on par with writing since I don’t have a way to practice conversations and responses. Listening is just behind reading but there is still a gap in my understanding speed.

Thinking back across the last few years:

If I compare myself to others or where I expected to be at this stage (2 and a half years down the line) I’m not happy with my progress and feel I should be further along, but when I look back on how I was at the beginning of lockdown 2020 (couldn’t remember hiragana or more than a few words), and the fact that all my learning has been self driven, I’m actually pretty proud of myself.

Hopefully 2023 will see more progress and better understanding that will bring my level up to a solid intermediate level across all skills instead of still feeling like a beginner because of the areas I’m lacking confidence and consistency in. Here’s to 2023.

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Update 30/12/2022: (just a heads up, this is a long post about how I feel my progress and learning has improved across the last year.)

My last update of the year since tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and I’m working from early morning then joining friends straight after for a game til the bells.

Over the last 3 days I’ve re-read ミラーさん novel to see how my reading has improved. I’ve done this a few times through my learning to gauge my progress and each time I’ve been surprised at how much more I’m able to understand without look ups and without struggling as much as the last time.

This time I only looked up 2 maybe 3 words since the rest I could understand the gist of from context or previous readings. There’s still a few sentences where I’ve stumbled a little but got the gist of what’s written, however, I noticed this time as I’m reading, I’m watching it play out and not translating much, it’s just understood without translating. There’s a few sentences I’ve purposefully translated and found I’ve done so with ease so I’m definitely improving on how I was the time before.

I feel with this first ミラーさん novel, I’m passed the point where it’s useful to me now unless I’m translating it word for word to better my understanding or copying out sections for the grammar or vocabulary practice (I’m not intending to do either) so it’ll be at least a year if not longer before I pick it up again to review my progress. 2023 I’ll be using the second ミラーさん novel for part in the same way as I’ve only read it once so far and there were parts I didn’t understand or were having to look up a lot of words for the first time round.

This year I took steps to review my previous progress, build more into my foundations for Japanese and also focus more on my reading and listening skills. I went from being able to read short sentences to reading full chapters and graded readers extensively (for the most part) to try to improve my reading skills and speed. I’ve done intensive reading during my study sessions with extensive reading during my downtime and breaks at work as well as spending 3-4 days in a row working through almost every free tadoku book which really helped me to get quicker and read smoother.

I’ve progressed onto Japanese stories/ essays written for native level understanding (still struggling with those) and I’ve found my kanji recognition skills have greatly improved as a result, even if that’s only for the kanji I’m seeing more regularly. Still can’t write many of them though.

I’m kind of hoping the next year will see further improvement in my reading as well as a better understanding of the grammar and vocabulary I’ve been using so that I see more of an improvement in my writing and speaking skills, both of which I think I’ll look at getting a tutor for so I’m not relying on other language learners for feedback when they’ve their own learning to focus on. Of course, that means I need to write more and speak more to bring them in line with my reading and listening skills. My shadowing books should also help with that too.

For study materials, that will be finishing MNN blue set (on section 35/50 atm) and then reviewing that before moving on to the MNN intermediate level text books. I also want to look at Quartet for intermediate level study (especially the writing and speaking books) but should probably go through the other beginner and intermediate books I’ve got before buying any more.

Overall, I’ve seen a lot of improvement this year and steps in the right direction even if sometimes it’s been an up hill struggle to do so. If anything, next year I’m hoping for more improvement in the right places and that should help me build my foundation skills higher to give a better base to work from.

In short, my goals are to focus more on writing and speaking while still improving my reading and listening skills. Here’s hoping for another good year for learning.

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Update 13/01/2023:

First update of the year, just a little late…

I kind of had a little bit of a learning crisis within the first few days of this year and decided on a whim that I needed to start reviewing all my old studies for Japanese from the start :sweat_smile:
As a result, I put down MNN at section 35 and picked up Genki 1 and started reviewing all the exercises in the main text book (I’ve got 2 left until I need to start the reading and writing sections at the back then I’ll review again with the workbook).

As my learning has progressed, I’ve found at times I’ve hit the dreaded wall and when I do and it feels like I’m stuck in a swamp, I’ll pick up something easier or restart one of the textbooks and work my way through it seeing how much I need to look up, how much I understand without translating and how much I genuinely get correct without checking the answers as well as trying to dissect wrong answers to find out why it’s wrong. I do this the first time I go through a textbook but also each subsequent time and re read all the grammar explanations etc as it’s how I feel I learn best though SRS for flashcards etc don’t seem to help me if using a similar technique (also makes my learning a lot slower but it works for me self-studying so I’ll continue to so this).

I find for me this is the easiest way to review the information (slow and steady) and I also seem to pick up more each time, either a few new words or phrases with each chapter I hadn’t picked up before, or even a nuance or two that I hadn’t thought of. Lets me review while still learning and it doesn’t feel as difficult when I get back to the same point I was before as the foundations have gotten a little stronger along the way. :slightly_smiling_face:

Since I’ve started reviewing, I’ve been attempting to read through キノの旅 as well as a few different mini textbooks dealing with different aspects of Japanese as a language which I feel is complementing my learning. Partly because my reading is usually during breaks and lunches at work or between calls which doesn’t allow me to look up information so it’s easier to use books I can read without looking stuff up unless the book has the translations, which キノの旅 doesn’t have so reading is slower and has to be done on my own time away from work.

キノの旅 is quite difficult for me in most parts but others I feel like I’m understanding it without trying to translate. Since there are 23 books in the series, I’m hoping these pockets of understanding will grow as I continue to read and learn until I can read them without looking much up :crossed_fingers:

For now, I’ll continue reviewing and see how I get on before restarting MNN from where I left off.

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Yes, you’ll definitely get to a point where familiarity with the series will make it super easier to read. The author’s choice of vocabulary, their writing style, the themes and situations the series tackles. You may/may not reach a point where you’re not looking much stuff up since it’s your first novels, but you’ll be learning a ton regardless.

I hope you enjoy キノ! I read the first book and enjoyed it, though I haven’t read any of the others.

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Thanks :blush:
I know when reading the MNN ミラーさん novels I managed to understand more without looking up stuff (though most of that vocab is from the textbooks) so was hoping the same would happen with this series too.

I’ve been looking forward to starting キノ for months. Even though I’m not quite where I want to be with reading, I’m still surprised at how much I am understanding without translating it. Can’t wait to start reading it extensively so I can enjoy more of it :grin:

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It’s not necessarily really a wall, even though it feels like it. Boy, have I felt like I am stuck in the same place for like a year, but when I look back, I see the improvments. They just happen so gradually, that they go unnoticed.
In the very early stages improvements are big and immediate. You suddenly can read hiragana. The early grammar is simple. The early kanji stick quickly. And eventually this tapers of… you might only memorize a word here or there. Encounter new grammar only every other day.
Where 1 new word was a 10% increase in vocabulary at the beginning, it doesn’t even register now because it’s a droplet in a sea. :face_holding_back_tears:
Reviewing stuff is not a bad idea, especially since it shows you that, yes, in fact, you did improve. :+1:t2:

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For me, when it happens it feels like my understanding of new grammar has plummeted and until I review stuff it won’t improve. It seems to happen every so often and every time I’ve found that as I’ve continued pushing forward, my test marks get worse and my understanding less until I go back and review stuff. It’s a weird feeling but if I keep going, I get to a stage where nothing new makes sense at all so I have to go back to review stuff.
I actually quite enjoy reviewing stuff because it shows me how much I’ve improved. Reviewing also helps me take a break from heavy learning while still allowing me to cement what I’ve learned so far and still feel productive as a result. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Update 17/01/2023

Updates are a little all over the place atm so this is a as short one.

What I’ve been up to:

This last week I’ve continued reviewing by using Genki 1, around half way through the reading and writing sections with the work book still to complete. I’m unsure if I’ll continue with Genki 2 after this and then go back to MNN or if I’ll switch back to MNN before switching back to review using Genki 2. I’ve found that Genki follows a different approach to the grammar so some of the stuff in Genki 1 is covering some of the stuff from the second beginner level stuff with MNN yet it hasn’t covered off some of the other stuff from MNN 1.

I’ve also been working through writing kanji more than normal though some of the ones I’m writing aren’t ones I’ve actually come across yet in context. And I’ve continued to attempt to read キノの旅 all be it very slowly.

Next steps:

I’ll continue reading “Basic Connections” during work and キノの旅 when not at work so I can look up words and phrases to get a better understanding of what I’m reading but I am noticing chunks of text where I’m not reaching for the dictionary at all.

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Update 24/01/2023:

What I’ve been up to:

I’ve completed reviewing using Genki 1 textbook and I’m now 4 sections into the grammar and comprehension part of the workbook. I’ve picked up a few new words and grammar points I hadn’t come across in MNN yet.

I’ve also continued with キノの旅 and I’m around 36 pages in. Doesn’t seem like a lot but there are sections where I’m understanding most if not all of what’s going on. Though there are other sections where I haven’t a clue and I’m looking up most of the words. I think my approach is probably what’s holding me back but I feel most comfortable with it and I am still learning a bot as I’m reading, my progress is just a bit slow.

Next steps:

I think I will continue onto Genki 2 after this then switch back to MNN to get a better feel for the grammar in context again since the no English approach seems to work best for me learning for some reason.

I will also continue to work through キノの旅 and once I’m finished (a while away) I will think about re reading it to see if I understand anything better second time round. I’d like to understand it enough before moving onto the second one but my approach of reading for fun while trying to understand may be holding me back instead of reading to learn so I can understand. I’ll see how things go and how I feel at the end of this one before deciding on a course of action.

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キノの旅 is not an especially easy book. Are you sure slogging through it is the way to go? I’m a big fan of reading for fun, and never found pushing through too-hard books to be worth it.

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I am with Aik on this one. If I can’t follow without looking stuff up, it’s too early and I move to something else. But I also know people who simply cannot stand the ambiguity and just have to know what every single word means.
To each their own. Not reading is the worst. So whatever keeps people reading, that’s the way to go. :+1:t2:

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You’re right, It’s not an easy book for me but my first book in Japanese isn’t likely to be easy regardless of the one I choose. I’ve found that with the previous learner recommended stuff I’ve been reading, my progress has been when I’ve been reading stuff I enjoyed instead of just because it was easy for me to read. There are some beginner level stuff I’ve had suggested that would have been easier but I didn’t gel with so gave up on those.

It’s something I’ve considered at length whether to read it at this stage even knowing I’ll only get the gist of parts of it and may not understand any of certain parts but found the same when I was originally reading ミラーさん. It’s only on the second or third try that I actually understood most of ミラーさん as a novel even though the first time there were sections I understood all or part of from each chapter. Also means when I read it again I can see the progress I’ve made with my reading comprehension.

As silly as it might sound, because I’m actually enjoying it, even though I’m having to look stuff up, it doesn’t really seem like a slog. I’m comfortable with some ambiguity so I’m not looking up everything, just the kanji/ compound kanji I don’t know for the reading/ meaning so I can get the gist. I’m not actively studying the grammar in it (that’s what my textbooks are for) I’m reading as I would in my native language just looking up more words per page.

I know that approach may make my progress slower as a result but my goal is to learn Japanese to the best of my ability while stopping myself from burning out and giving up. If reading harder text at a slower pace means I continue to be motivated to study and learn then it’s the best approach for me even though I know it won’t suit other people. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Yeah, you’re both right in that respect.

When I first picked up みんなの日本語 I also picked up a novel for a multilingual bookclub on a journaling site I’m a part of. The book was a translation of a Spanish novel: La sombra del viento or 風の影. I tried to read it alongside the other language learners on the site thinking if I could even just cover a page a day, then it would be something. Unfortunately I barely understood a word per page never mind any grammar points and it took me around an hour and a half to read one page even then I didn’t understand it so was reading an English version alongside it.

It was far too difficult and I was looking up around 99.9% of the words per page. This time round, reading キノの旅, I’m maybe only looking up around 30% or so of the words, sometimes less, sometimes more and it’s just the ones where it seems to be important enough to know or its ones I recognize but can’t remember the reading. If it was the same as 風の影 then I’d put it down, study more and pick up the graded readers again but for me, this is manageable and it is exposing me to some of the grammar I’ve been studying as well as allowing me to work on my kanji recognition in context. It’s also keeping my motivation since it’s a story series that I’m interested in reading and have been enjoying so far. :slightly_smiling_face:

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That’s really all that matters in the end. And if you really wanted to, you could teach yourself to accept more ambiguity. Stuff like only looking up verbs (which, I argue, are the most important thing in any language and, I mean, in Japanese a sentence can be only a verb, so… yeah…) or only looking up every 3rd unknown word instead of every word. Not looking up words that you kinda understand but can’t “read”, etc.
Or even a mix. 30 minutes of looking up everything (this is about the time span your brain is still fresh), then 10 minutes of free-flow (or “no-lookup”) as a kind of break and finally another 20 minutes of only looking up the important bits. There are so many combinations… even more if you add audiobooks into the mix.

My philosophy: Do something everyday. It doesn’t matter what, as long as you do something. Just so the habit keeps happening. If you are too tired for reading, listen to something. If you only get a couple of sentences done before you fall asleep. That’s OK, too. If you can only squeeze in 20 anki reviews, perfect. We all go through phases of low and high energy, of low and high motivation. As long as the habit exists, we will have times were we do a lot and times were we do little, but it all evens out in the end and progress will happen. (a bit like ETFs :rofl: )

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Update 01/02/2023:

Progress:

I’ve completed more Genki workbook 1 grammar and conversation sections as review for my studying. Picked up a few more words from it and I’m finding it easier to get the correct form for sentences so my writing is improving a lot. Also found that as I’m listening to japanese (currently rewatching a series of Terraced House and re-playing Tales of Arise) I’m recognising more and more of the grammar I’m reviewing and understanding more of the conversations. I’ve also noticed that the sounds are clearer and there is more definition to words so I can hear better where one word ends and where the next one starts.

With キノの旅 I’ve read a few more pages but not much. This is partly due to time constraints and partly due to motivation since most of my energy has been going into studying more recently and less into reading. My plan for this week is to start chapter one again and try to read in larger chunks of time rather than 15-20 minutes here and there where I’m only getting a page or two done so that I can get a larger chunk of the story out which should help my understanding of it better. I seem to understand better if I get more of an image from what I’ve read instead of just little bits here and there which may also mean I need to find something different to read while at work again until my reading is faster.

Next steps:

I’ll continue to work through the Genki workbook 1 sections then I think I’ll continue by working through Genki 2 before going back to the blue みんなの日本語 set by then I should have a better grasp of the grammar again so that I can complete them with a better understanding which should stand me in good stead for reading as well as progressing onto more complex textbook material. This year I’m also looking at starting a beginner level speaking class so that I can work more on my speaking as well as possibly find a few people who may be interested in doing meetups and practicing writing and speaking to help improve those since they seem to be my lowest skills and I’ve not yet found anyone who wants to message or speak in Japanese at a beginner level.

I’ll also continue working my way through キノの旅 in my free time setting some aside each day to read only that and possibly use my work breaks to go through some of the higher level guided readers again since they will be more studying than reading at this point. I’m also still continuing to work on my kanji writing skills with the Kanji learners course though it’s more for the stroke order than for the actual meanings and readings at this point since I’m still using Wanikani for readings and meanings alongside reading in general.

Thoughts:

This year I want to work on rounding out my skill set to be able to listen, speak and write on par with my reading so I can then work on improving everything together at a steady pace. I would like to have read some native level books to a point I can understand what’s going on even if I don’t get the full details and I would like to have my Japanese skills to a point where it’s less studying and more using the skills I’ve built up.

Ultimately, my goal is to become fluent to the point where I can build my skills naturally, just as I do in English.

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