にゃんにゃん Reading Group -- Getting the most?

I’ve got a question for the group, that I’m breaking out into another post, to keep it from cluttering the (amazing) discussions going on in the main thread.

What should I be doing to get the most out of this? My grammar skills are … let’s say, “lacking.” Anything much more complicated than XはYです stumps me. And yet, I keep seeing advice like, “don’t translate,” and “don’t use a dictionary, just get the sense of it.”

Right now, what I’m doing is something like:

  • Pass my eyes over two pages, picking out words I know, and the occasional sentence fragment, or maybe a (rare) full sentence.
  • Go to the discussion thread, and try to pick out the conversations about things I don’t understand.
  • Read the pages again – this time I understand more, but not because I’m actually reading more, but because, now that I know what it all means, I can sort of see it.

That doesn’t feel like I’m actually comprehending anything, and I have less confidence that I’ll be able to understand it in another context. Or even on a later page.

I feel like I ought to be taking notes on what I don’t understand, and using that as a plan for the things to learn in detail. I also feel like that those notes could just as easily be the word “everything.”

Any suggestions? I’m not sure if I need help figuring out a study plan, or if I just to just keep going as I am, letting things wash over me in hopes of something (anything!) sticking. Or maybe I just need a hug.

8 Likes

If your grammar is truly lacking that much, it’s too early to be reading native material (no matter how “beginner” it is). You should go through at least the N5 grammar before you try to read even a simple book like this. You need to understand most of the basic conjugations, some conditionals, and so on before it makes sense to try reading native material.

Remember that a native child intuitively knows a lot of grammar, even if their vocabulary is relatively small. So a native children’s book may still not be appropriate for someone who is just starting to learn the language.

1 Like

Right here buddy.

Start at page 30. Do one subsection a day. Congrats you just finished 90% of N3 grammar in less than 60 days.

15 Likes

@Raionus Clearly that’s the sort of thing I need to do. I need to find some way to actually use it – just trying to absorb grammar from textbooks hasn’t worked well for me, so far.

@seanblue Thanks for the cold splash of reality. I’m sure that’s coming across as sarcastic. It’s sincere, I promise. This is just another round of disappointment, and right at this moment, I’m not sure I won’t give up completely, and feeling pretty crappy as a result. But, I’ve hit this wall before, and I seem to keep coming back.

Guess I’m dropping out of this group. Maybe I’ll try again sometime.

I mean, so yeah sure, maybe you’re not doing things the right way or whatever… but the important thing is, are you enjoying it? Is it fun to glance at to pages, understand some of it, read other people discuss the grammar, then look at it again and this time understanding more?

If you answer yes, then just do it anyways! who cares about what’s the best/correct way of doing things?

Edit: also do study some basic grammar, it can’t hurt

6 Likes

I hope that’s not the outcome from my statement. It’s important to be realistic, but there are other ways you can enjoy learning before you’re ready for native material.

If you’re having trouble absorbing grammar, perhaps a private tutor would work better (if that’s something you can reasonably afford). When you’ve studied grammar before, have you done practice exercises or are you just reading the text? It’s often hard to learn without active practice. You can also try Bunpro as a supplement to reinforce the grammar you learn.

While you are working on grammar and vocab, I recommend you to read the “Japanese Graded Readers” series, starting at level 0. For true beginners, outside of textbook, it’s basically the only texts that won’t utterly stomp you. The story are fun and varied and can give a little boost of confidence that at least some japanese are not totally out of reach.

4 Likes

I mean there isn’t really that many other ways to do it. I guess there’s videos from people like Nihongo no Mori and stuff like that, but it’s impossible for them to cover everything.

You say you’re having trouble absorbing from textbooks. Do you write notes as you go along? It’s scientifically proven to help encode stuff in your memory in a way that typing notes can’t.

If you’re neither typing nor writing notes, then perhaps that’s the problem? I don’t know anyone who can consistently remember something long term just by reading.

1 Like

I’m glad you started this thread because there’s probably a lot of others who have the same frustrations and struggles as you do. The fact that you’re asking for help means that you are motivated to learn otherwise you wouldn’t have written it. A lot of people out there are just like you and don’t get much out of reading grammar books.

Can I ask you why you want to learn Japanese and what parts of the language are most important? Is speaking/conversational most important? Is writing most important? Is reading most important? I ask you this because the only thing I want to do is read. That’s it. Don’t care about speaking, listening, or writing so I’m not going to spend a lot of time focusing on those aspects. It doesn’t mean I don’t spend any time on those aspects, it just means they are not a priority.

What’s your priority and why?

(I hope you haven’t already been discouraged from coming back to this thread)

4 Likes

For me it’s also the first Japanese book I’m reading, this is what I’ve been doing:

  1. First I start by reading the whole sentence out loud, as this tends to give me a better idea which kana/kanji belong together, and try and see what I understand. If I understand all of it, I’ll move to the next sentence.
  2. Next, I’ll look up any words I don’t know, via online dictionaries such as jisho, or apps like yomiwa. For some sentences this already is enough to understand it.
  3. If I don’t understand it now, this means there’s usually something grammar-wise I’m missing. Often what I’ll do is write down the sentence, or part of the sentence, and underline the words/pieces of grammar I don’t know yet or am unsure about, and look them up, and write down the explanation. Often you’ll find good sites with info and examples, however sometimes they’re much to extensive. In those cases I will read through it to figure out what is the essential information I need to know in this case, and maybe also add a ahort summary of other things that may come in handy later on. I don’t feel like I should want to know every detail of each grammar point I encounter yet. It feels more natural to build it up in small pieces as I go along, like a child learning to talk actually.
  4. If I still don’t get it, am unsure and want some extra help, that’s when I turn to the amazing wanikani family :hugs::heart:

Anyways, here’s an example of what my notes look like for example:

12 Likes

No worries. I mean, yes, I’m dropping out of this reading group. I’m not giving up completely.

1 Like

Discouraged, yes, but I’m still coming back.

Reading is the priority, because I want to read manga and Japanese fiction, and I’ve always found that translations just don’t ever feel “right”. Conversation is the second priority, because I’ve been to Japan twice, and will go back again, and I’d like to be a better tourist. So, the most stereotypical possible priorities.

I did read one volume of level 0, and I have all three volumes of level 1, though I haven’t read all of them, yet. Guess they might be more my speed.

Thank you for this thread, and thank you for the honest replies. I was feeling pretty much the same and I seem to be at about your level with my grammar knowledge. Glad to see I am not the only one who jumped into the native reading a little too early it seems. I will just leave my bookmark to come to that thread on a later date I guess.

But what it did to me was give me a motivational boost to get more into grammar because I have probably been neglecting that regard a bit.

~Cheers

5 Likes

Coming to the realization that you’re a little in over your head is quite sobering. When I first started WK, I had also started studying Japanese. I remember at about level 12 or so trying to jump into reading based on others’ suggestions X or Y was really “easy” and doable for me. But the reality was that I hadn’t had a lot of exposure to Japanese in the first place, so my foundation was almost nothing. I remember resenting the advice that was being thrown around without much concern to experience, but then had to realize that there was no possible way other users would know if a particular resource was suitable or not for me. Needless to say, I continued to study and didn’t jump back into reading until I was around level 26 or so. I did spend consistent amount of time and effort studying, so when I started reading again I was shocked at what I was able to understand in just 3 or 4 months of additional studying. In retrospect, I had wished to just jump in a little bit earlier to see what I could’ve been able to do.

Perhaps some of the barriers you face with reading lie with having consistent exposure to Japanese study. (I don’t know if this is the case for the OP because I’m speaking in generalities). Many times discouraging situations create a situation where one would like to retreat and take a “break” (i.e., stop studying for a time) to regroup. Contrary to what one may think about such breaks, one can lose a lot of progress and momentum that would have pushed them to a higher level had they continued with their studies.

What I suggest instead is changing one’s pacing to create a fresh start. For example, if you feel like what you’re doing isn’t working, search for new materials to work on, adjust the amount of time you’re spending on your studies, or focus on a different aspect of study (i.e., you’re focusing a lot of reading instead put some more focus on a different language area). By essentially shaking things up you give your mind a rest on the area that was really bothering you, but you also reap the benefit of maintaining some form of contact that can help areas that you’re struggling with start to right themselves.

To the OP and anyone in a similar situation as the OP, please remember that a temporary “change of pace” is good, but a temporary full-on retreat/sabbatical from studying will result in losing gains you’ve worked very hard to obtain. Particularly for beginners, the lack of mastery of many things makes taking such breaks critically damaging to progress. Please understand that there are merits with taking short breaks, but they are usually more effective and less detrimental for people with an established foundation and skill. For example a first year piano student vs. piano student with 5 years of continual study will be affected quite differently from taking a month or two off from practicing and/or playing.

In any event, I wish you all the best in your studies.

17 Likes

I’ve been lurking in the reading group since marcusp set it up but didn’t feel my grammar was up to snuff, so I’ll be following in everyone’s footsteps in a couple of months.

Don’t let it get you down, just keep working at it. :blush:

4 Likes

This was my attempt to find new materials! :stuck_out_tongue:

That is definitely a factor. I’ve gone back and forth on this for years, usually crashing at the point where I look at my progress, extrapolate it forward, and see, “At this rate, in another year I’ll know enough kanji to be able to start learning grammar, so a year after that, I can start reading toddler-level Japanese. Maybe.” (It’s probably not actually that grim, but it definitely feels like it.)

But, maybe switching my focus to grammar will get me through this round of frustration.

2 Likes

That is frustrating! All I can tell you is stay in the game, eventually you’ll get out of this rut provided that you’re constantly striving to move forward. Sometime one has to shift a bit before they can find the right spot.

If you’re intending on focusing on grammar and textbooks aren’t really doing it for you right now, then I highly recommend trying a different medium. Consider exploring Youtube videos that can teach grammar (if you haven’t already). I recommend Nihongo no Mori and Japanese Ammo with Misa. I’m sure other people have their favorites, I find it very useful to hear the same grammar explained by different sources because I’m likely to come across an explanation that really helps me learn.

Beyond this, try connecting with Japanese people (I know this sounds intimidating) with an app like HelloTalk where you’re able to exchange and contribute. I think having met people from there really helped my reading and grammar (i.e., sentence building) because I was given feedback about what I was writing. I’m glad you’re still pressing to push forward, though!

5 Likes

First off… :hugs::hugs::hugs:

I started studying Japanese about nine months ago (there had been a few earlier false starts, but they all came to nothing) and I was determined not to use a textbook. I hate textbooks. I really hate them. I hate the way they are full of dumb, patronizing, “culture notes”, I hate the fake dialogues, I hate everything about them.

So my first textbook was the manga Yotsubato. Someone here at WK set up the reading group and I plunged in. It was the first book and first manga I’d ever read and I was in way out of my depth. But I kept at it. I looked stuff up, relied on the vocab list, asked hundreds of questions on the threads, and make all my notes on the pages of the book itself. Then we did volume two, then volume three.

Now I’m doing the same with にゃんにゃん. I read it as much as I can (though I am still shy about reading it out loud - that is something I MUST overcome), make constant notes in my book, and will ask all the questions I need on the thread. And answer any that I can too. Then, importantly, I go back and re-read too (something I neglected with Yotsuba).

My Japanese listening is terrible. My grammar is awful. My speaking is a joke, I can’t say a single sentence in Japanese. But the fact is, you get good at what you do. And thanks to WK, Yotsuba, and now にゃんにゃん, even though it doesn’t feel like it a lot of the time, I’m actually reading Japanese! That feels good to me and makes it fun. Now I pick up a page of にゃんにゃん and read it through first to see what I know before I start on the dictionary, and there’s actually stuff there that I can do!

So, @Stagrid is absolutely right, do you enjoy it? That’s what matters. I enjoy it despite the pain! lol! Like @trout, my only real love is for reading, and I love seeing myself make progress. But, yes, I know that I really ought to follow the advice @Raionus and get stuck into my Tim Kae (now that IS a good text book, the only decent one there is, I don’t know why I let it gather dust on my shelf the way I do).

Long story short - if you want to read Japanese, then the best thing to do is read Japanese! And here you have a beautiful book and community to support you! :hugs:

10 Likes

I think you’ll get the most out of studying Japanese by learning multiple aspects of the language at once. I don’t mean reading/listening/speaking/etc., but rather kanji/vocabulary/grammar. It’s harder to make progress towards your end goal of reading real Japanese if you only do one at a time. Of course it’s natural (and I think reasonable) to emphasize one of those at a time, but you should never neglect the other parts of learning the language entirely. The last time I completely neglected grammar (for many months) hurt my learning, so this is my recommendation based on that experience.

6 Likes

Even the AJATT folks (who are probably the most hardcore about using native materials only and doing complete immersion) recommend that you read all of Tae Kim and put all the example sentences in a SRS deck before you do anything else.
Whereas it is maybe theoretically possible to “absorb” grammar purely from primary sources, unless you have someone who is actually going to do what parents do for their kids (talk to them hours a day correcting their speech and prompting them to answer questions etc), you are going to have to use some resource to get from the “knowing nothing” stage to the “having a little idea about whats going on” stage.

As I understand it, what ppl are cautioning against is that you don’t just study decontextualized grammar points.

If you start off trying to read something, especially if you have not studied alot of grammar, it’s going to be slow going. But there isn’t anything wrong with using resources to help you understand the text you are trying to read. The idea is that as you continue to do this you will need to look less and less stuff up.

The only thing that has been proven to be correlated to language proficiency is amount of comprehensible input. The more comprehensible input, the higher your language proficiency. You have to find a way to make your input comprehensible though.

Since you asked for suggestions:
when reading a manga, for each page, scene whatever, look up the words you don’t know. Then go through sentence by sentence and see if you have a “rough” understanding of what it’s saying. If you don’t, try to identify the grammar point that is messing you up and look it up. If you really get stuck ask on the forum.
Are there going to be things that you misunderstand, of course. But I don’t think there is really any other way to get started than this. It’s always going to suck at the beginning. But in my experience at least, it got better pretty quickly.

If you are trying to do this and it really does seem impossible or way too frustrating, I would suggest putting all the example sentences in tae kim in an anki deck and doing those.

There are alot of levels of understanding between “these are just a bunch of words thrown together in some random order” and “this sentence is transparently meaningful and nuanced without me having to correlate any part of it to english”. Using grammar resources lets you make the first step in your understanding.

5 Likes