Absolute Beginners Book Club // Now Reading: Tamamo no Koi!

For future reference, how long is your “Cute kitsunemimi manga I’d like to nominate for ABBC” list?

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It had one entry, which was Tamamo no Koi, so…

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And here we go!

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For now that is

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I went back to the first two book club books (cat detective and the graded reader) and these are the sort of books absolute beginners should be reading. These are actually comprehensible and enjoyable to read unlike the nightmares that were Horimiya and Yotsuba. It’s refreshing to not need to fumble around speech “quirks” and to just have regular conversation and clear writing.

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I agree that those are good books for absolute beginners, but there are cons as well.

The main issue I had with the detective series as a beginning reader was the lower kanji count making it harder to grasp words.

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The more interesting the material is for a reader, the more likely they are to stick with it. This is an area where I expect graded readers to be lacking in. But most manga will cause many to drop it as “too hard”.

That's why my nomination, Detective Milky, is trying out a new look. He's hoping to present an easy read for absolute beginners *and* something the "animal-eared main character" crowd.

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I agree with this in general. However, I find the grammar so straightforward and “by the book”, that it isn’t a significant obstacle.

As for the current selection, out of print books should be disallowed, IMHO. $16 USD ($22 CAD) for a single volume of an OOP series, essentially only available from one retailer, is a big ask.

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In reality, the “absolute beginner” in the club’s title isn’t “absolute beginner to Japanese”, but “absolute beginner in reading”. There is an expectation, that you have at least most of the N5 grammar patterns already studied (though not necessarily perfectly memorised), but sadly the reality is, that even children’s books are full of grammar that aren’t on that list. The fact of the matter is, that most people here are adults, or at the very least close to that. If the choice comes down to it, they will rather pick a story, that’s not pre-grade-schooler level.

It’s also important to note, that there is a very natural ramp up in difficulty. It starts with easy books, then over time harder ones are nominated and accepted by those, that haven’t yet moved on to harder book clubs, then once a tipping point is reached, it quickly falls back down to easy books.

Without the book club being there, I’d say that, sure, go ahead, choose easier books, that way you can fight through them on your own and still get something valuable out of them. However, with an entire hoard of people there to help with any possible question, it might be even more worthwhile to read a more difficult book, fail, and ask questions about the parts you had difficulties with.

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Mostly because a six-year-old Japanese child has spent every single waking hour for the last six years studying Japanese by immersion, so they know the language pretty well, even if they’re not at the point of being able to express higher concepts. A foreigner learning in class or from books for a year doesn’t stand a chance.

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Yep, I believe I heard a statistic recently, that children over the age of 5 or 6 speak on the level of adults, just without the full vocabulary or base knowledge.

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One way to look at this is:

Sometimes a widely available physical-only book is selected. Some people strongly prefer digital for a variety of reasons. The book is available for them, but not in their preferred format.

An out of print book that is available digitally is essentially the opposite of this. Some people strongly prefer physical, but may have to settle for a format different from what they prefer.

When putting in a nomination, it’s worth noting these access restrictions as a “con”.

(And out of print physical books without a digital option should be avoided when nominating.)

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Yeah I’m wondering about this. As you can see, I’m totally new to WK… I’ve got some very very basic vocab from a year or so on Duolingo (which is crappy, I know, hence why I’m here)… so I understand mostly nouns, a few verbs and some simple sentence constructions. Looking at some graded readers I am a total beginner, even very simple things are hard work. So my instinct is to not join in because I won’t cope.

But… with so many people reading the same thing and working together, and if I treated it as ‘deciphering’ and ‘studying’, would it be good to do? Or would it just be disheartening?
I’m not sure!

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I can just speak for myself but I am on the same level as you and I am reading currently together with the book club. I have times it is really frustrating when I see a longer block of text I can’t grasp anything. On the other hand it is really rewarding when I see improvement of my abilities or just that I can decipher some things I couldn’t at the beginning.
It helped me to use sources like Mokuro and Yomitan. They made the “deciphering” part a lot easier :wink:

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I’m sure @ChristopherFritz will soon link to his essay on the topic, but the tl;dr is: No matter how much vocab and grammar you learned before and no matter how easy it is supposed to be, your first book will not feel like “reading” yet. Treating your first book(s) as “deciphering” instead of “reading” is a good attitude.

And yeah, this is something basically all of us go through at the beginning. If you push through it, it will be easier the next time you read something.

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If you have any interest in joining the upcoming manga, I recommend the following one-month routine:

1) Pick a grammar source and start reading/watching through it daily.

You don’t need to understand all of the material, so long as you are being exposed to various concepts.

I’m a fan of Cure Dolly’s subtitled Youtube series “Japanese from Scratch”, and many people enjoy Tae Kim’s free online text-based guide for learning Japanese. There are various other guides out there that offer a single-page document that gets you through the basics (which I unfortunately lost my bookmarks to, so I can’t name any of them).

You can even pick a few different guides/sources to go through a little of each day, and drop any that don’t mesh well for you, until you find the one you like best to keep up with.

2) Start learning some of the more common Japanese vocabulary.

We don’t have a frequency list for the upcoming manga, or else I’d recommend using that. But you should be able to find lists of common Japanese words.

The idea here is to get used to Japanese vocabulary.

Look up vocabulary words on Forvo and listen to the user-submitted audio pronouncing the words. It’s important to know how the words sound so you can more easily subvocalize them when you read.

Even with this as a month’s worth of prep, you’ll probably spend an hour or two per day every day the first few weeks of the club learning through the discussion threads, between asking your own questions, and reading responses to others questions.

This is where many give up, as they cannot keep up.

This is what separates the people who merely want to learn and read Japanese from the people who have decided they will learn and read Japanese.

For the latter, it’s okay to follow the club at a slower pace and lag behind the club. Just keep learning every day and you’ll make progress.

Oh yeah, that’s right. I wrote a thing that may worth reading for first-time readers who haven’t seen it yet.

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So helpful, thank you, and I completely agree about deciding you will learn Japanese. Language learning is hard, and that is just a fact isn’t it. But tbh every small win is spurring me on. I’ve been watching Hana Yori Dango with English subtitles and every time I recognise a phrase or word I get stupidly excited :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: So I will take the advice and go with the latter, that I’m following more slowly and using it to pick up vocab and grammar.

I’ll definitely follow your advice re the month’s prep too.

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The discussion threads are really open to all sorts of questions – I only started reading along with book clubs very recently, but I’ve already seen both very simple N5 type questions and very in-depth advanced questions and discussions. The community is really helpful and all questions are usually answered within a short time. I can only recommend it, especially if reading on your own intimidates you.

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It’s worth to mention, but I’m a fan of the “as many sources as possible” way of doing things. Instead of trying to internalize a single textbook and learn everything there is from that, you speed through 2, 3 or even 4 resources, covering the same topics and you pick and choose the explanations they provide. Certain concepts are better when explained in a certain way, keeping to only a single grammar explanation might strip you from that good way.

@Bluelotusmind you have a good month before we start the next book club. It’s not a crazy huge amount of time, but it’s certainly enough to at least read about every single grammar point enough to know that they exist, even if, for example, you won’t be able to properly conjugate (or better yet, deconjugate) by the end of it. But that’s fine, that’s when the book club comes in to strengthen your understanding in the topic.

A fun thing you can do is check the profile of those that often write corrections or explanations during book clubs. For most, you will be able to find their first book they participated in and see how little they knew back then. And for a lot of people, this was only a year ago, if that.

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Yeah it’s enough time to do a bit of a ‘sprint’ and it’s good to have something to focus my attention and light a fire under me! I also am realising that ‘as many sources as possible’ might work well for me.

Love the idea of seeing what others have done and how their journey has unfolded! Thanks :slight_smile:

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Ah great, this is so good to hear @Thubanshee :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

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