I’m taking that into account. The problem though, is that I want to go through my usual “courses” too at the same time (WK, BP) and have fun and work on my thesis and ugh… On the other hand, I’ve just checked the “Paths” on BunPro, and according to those, I’m already through grammar points that are in Genki I and II. So how hard can it be?
Give it a go. You might be pleasantly surprised to discover how much you understand, once you get into the swing of it. And everyone will be here to help out with things you don’t understand.
Also, it’s OK to not understand every single nuance. I have noticed that the Absolute Beginner Book Club sometimes go into forensic examination of every character, whereas some readers with more experience accept that, as long as they get the gist of the story, that’s good enough. There will always be more to learn!
Grandly Understanding As Little As Possible Brigade
I wonder if that’s a mistake. We’re kinda reading the books to improve our Japanese, not to merely get the gist of the story…
I mean, in the end, it’s improving little by little via immersion versus improving a lot and maybe burning out because you spend 5 minutes on every page.
Reading broadly, rather than reading deeply, is what helped me the most when I was first starting out.
Let’s say in your reading, you come to a page that has 10 sentences:
- Four sentences are completely comprehensible. They contain vocab and grammar you’ve studied, or they’re just common phrases that you’ve seen many times in the wild.
- Three sentences are i+1. You know almost all the words and can infer the last one by context, or there’s some new grammar that you’ve brushed with before, and it’s just about to click into place.
- Three sentences are incomprehensible. There’s some unfamiliar slang, a weird pronunciation, or a bothersome 和製英語 that’s going to send you off on a wild goose chase.
That’s a decent mix of difficulty and if you sat down and dug into everything, you’d certainly come away with more knowledge. But let’s simulate what might actually happen:
- You open up your manga and the first sentence you read is easy. Things are going well.
- The very next line is incomprehensible. You pull out your dictionary, search around on the internet to see if there’s some new grammar point that would help…but it takes a while because honestly, you’re not even confident in what you need to be looking up. If you’re determined to understand everything you come across, maybe your reading session actually ends here because you run out of time or get frustrated.
- But what a shame! The third sentence is i+1 and you would have understood it with just a fraction of the effort you just spent on the last one. To make matters worse, this sentence actually provides valuable context that immediately clears up any confusion you would have had – a character “pronounces” (in kana) an unknown word that had been written in kanji, and now you suddenly recognize it; or an ambiguous construction is suddenly clear because of context that wasn’t available yet.
Obviously this is a contrived example and it won’t always be the case that every difficult sentence will be followed by one that holds the key to unlocking its meaning. But here’s the thing: in each of these scenarios, it’s the third, the i+1 sentence, that provides the greatest learning boost. For my money, reading should be all about seeking out those moments. If you get bogged down by difficult sentences, you’ll be encountering i+1 material less often simply by virtue of the fact that you’ll have less overall coverage.
I’m a firm proponent of skipping stuff you don’t understand. Pick your battles of course; some words will be easy to look up, and if you run into multiple incomprehensible sentences in a row it’s probably a good idea to slow down so you don’t get lost. Overall though, I find that the more reading you do (not merely the more time you spend reading), the better.
I do agree that you have to be careful not to become lazy. I remember reading のんのんびより and eventually managing to get past all the dialect by just accepting “everything is dialect, wheee!”. But I’m sure I also missed a lot of nuance because I just dismissed everything that could plausibly fit under that umbrella.
I wouldn’t have been able to get through that manga otherwise though, and I did still learn a lot. I’ve been trying to read with a little less concern for books, because there’s so much text to get through, and then actually focusing on making sure I understand everything that’s going on in manga.
If you have to read a bit freely in order to get through the material at all, I think that’s a worthwhile sacrifice for the benefits of exposure and experience. You can get more analytical once you’re more experienced.
And it never hurts to drop the occasional “what’s going on in this sentence?” here for others to explain. Sometimes it’s not easy to look something up, and getting guidance from someone who knows more can result in learning from what might otherwise have been skipped completely.
Along those lines, I’ve had times where I passed over a sentence I didn’t want to invest the time to figuring out, only to have someone else ask about the exact same sentence. If I have the time for it, that drives me to put the effort into figuring it out so I can post my findings.
Boy oh boy my first book club I saw coming early enough to participate!!
I’m really looking forward to this one, I know the manga by heart, have read it multiple times in English. As my kanji is still lacking peeks at WK level I hope that the story knowledge I have will give me the confidence to push through dry spells of heavy dictionary lookups
Now I just gotta hope that my copies will arrive in time, or I’ll have to rely on raw scans for the first week…
Herein lies your mistake: I never give up.
You can read the whole first chapter for free on Honto if you want
(Sidenote: 立ち読み is a great word)
Now this is awesome! Totally forgot about this function, thank you very much.
This will save the span until the actual printed copy comes
My books arrived!
I’ll try to finalise the page numbers this evening
Might be good to put mid-chapter breaks at points where it switches between yonkoma and free-flow style.
Ooh, okay, will do (at least where it makes sense length-wise).
Edit: annoyingly, chapter 1 has an actual break point within, but using that to divide our weeks would result in an incredibly lopsided page count… I’ve tried to match the other breaks to shifts in style.
I’ll be joining in on this one! Just did my first successfull purchase on amazon.jp for Kindle (sadly it’s not free anymore), but ~500円 isn’t that bad.
I’m really really looking forward to my first book club experience.
I am happy to be in Japan! Found the book and am ready to start!!!
Super advanced notice!
I’m going to be putting up the discussion threads on Friday evenings UK time, so that they’re ready for those further East who get up bright and early on Saturday mornings.
However! I am going to be at a wedding on the 16th, so rather than put it up late (and who knows what time I’ll even wake up on the Saturday), I will be posting it early, whenever I get a chance amidst wedding prep on the Thursday / Friday morning. Maybe it will even be Wednesday evening! Either way, don’t panic and think you’ve fallen horribly behind. The discussion should still start on Saturday.
They can’t postpone it a few days to help out the book club?
You’d think, right?