Attempting to read よつばと has been a humbling experience

I’ve been considering myself to be a lower intermediate level Japanese learner for a while, and I’ve decided it’s time to start trying to read manga. So I grabbed my copy of よつばと! vol 1 and started… and it’s REALLY HARD.

Primarily I’m thinking about when the adults are speaking to each other using very casual and slangish language… Nothing I’ve learned anywhere has prepared me for any of that! I struggled to try to figure a lot of it out and finally found a YouTube video where the presenter broke down each sentence and described what was going on. The whole time I was thinking “Damn, I didn’t know ANY of that!”

I think it’ll eventually be a superb learning experience, and I wasn’t expecting to know everything, but knowing that this is a very easy manga shows me just how much I don’t know at all!

What are some good strategies for tackling this sort of casual language? Will I just pick it up after a while? Are there good resources for looking up stuff like this?


That’s a typical experience everyone has to go through. You’re doing great!
Also, yotsubatos start is known for being a bit rough at the beginning and people feeling lost. It will get better in the middle of the first volume, the latest.

For the slang, I don’t actually know. I just learned it the same as you by stumbling through all the え that are ない and dropped いs and ちゃうs until I had a pretty good feeling for it. I just googled or asked in the book club threads for the relevant book until it made some sense. If I didn’t get it in like 5 minutes, I moved on.
You also have to be careful with yotsuba sometimes. She’s a 5 Yo (I think) girl and still stumbles sometimes in Japanese as well, and it’s super hard as a learner to notice her doing it. Sent me on some pretty big hunts for nothing.

I know some people who don’t like the casual talking style in Manga at all and therefore even feel like books are easier to read then Manga. Books have a lot of explanatory sentences which use standard grammar as well. So there’s that too…


  • I would recommend the book club thread
  • Slang/slurring is hard in the beginning
  • You’re doing great
  • Don’t read it if you don’t enjoy it!

I am enjoying the story, and I am actually enjoying learning stuff. It’s just hard! :slight_smile:

As for the book club thread, I can no longer ask questions in there since it’s so old, right? Though I suppose there’s probably other people asking questions about stuff I’m stumbling on.

I’m still motivated enough to keep on keeping on!


Uh, you are right, the first volume thread just closed. The book club was old enough that it still had only one year of lock time. The newer book clubs are kept open longer. Hmm, maybe we should ask the mods to reopen it?

Normally it is no problem to ask questions in the old book clubs since a LOT of people are still looking out for the threads and are glad to answer any questions of any newcomer.


Watch LOTS of TV shows and keep trying to read. Besides the Japanese stuff, you can also watch lots of US or European series with Japanese audio on Netflix.


Yeah, if it’s traditional to keep them open, maybe it’s a good idea to request that. I’m not sure how to go about doing that, though.

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Yotsuba was the first thing I tried to read in Japanese, after hearing how easy and perfect for beginners it was, and I was so sad when I picked it up for the first time and really struggled with the first page!

I ended up leaving it, and going away and coming back to it a few months later with the help of this reading pack.

And also the bookclub threads of course. :slight_smile:

As far as learning the slang and casual language, as others have said its not really something thats easy to learn through any way other than encountering it and getting used to it! It takes a while, but it does start to get easier to understand over time!


@Mods Sorry to ping you but apparently the Yotsuba thread 1 just closed right before there’s renewed interest in it. Could you please kindly reopen it for our new learner?

Thanks :smiley:


Thanks for the link! And I suspected that the slang and more casual stuff may just have to be acquired via osmosis.


I gave Yotsuba a whirl a month or so back and stopped pretty quickly, though that was due to a lack of vocabulary on my part. I think the book clubs on here rate that one as N4, so you might be better off trying something ranked N5 instead if it’s your first time?
I’m personally trying out Wadanohara and the Great Blue Sea at the moment, and that one feels a lot more manageable for my level. Might be too easy for you, though.


For now, I’m going to persist in attempting to get through Yotsubato. The vocabulary isn’t tripping me up nearly as bad as these slangy casual grammar forms. If I can’t make it through the first chapter, then I’ll definitely try to find something easier!!


Other than pinging Mods in another topic, reopening can also be done by flagging (for other reasons).

If you find Yotsuba to be an enjoyable series (if you can tell such while struggling through it), I highly recommend sticking with it. Utilize resources such as the YouTube video you mentioned and the aforementioned book club thread, and look up and learn about unknown grammar you encounter as you go.

A large part of handling the overly casual dialogue is encountering it repeatedly in different situations and contexts. This allows your brain to build up a pattern recognition that will ultimately lead to you recognizing it without thinking.

Before you reach that point, you’re going to be deciphering your way through a lot of it, no matter how easy of a manga you begin with.

I think it’s only worth switching to another series if you genuinely believe you will enjoy the series more than you are enjoying (or not enjoying) Yotsuba.

Of course, when starting out reading, a series may be more enjoyable because you can see tangible progress early on, meaning a less interesting story may be worth reading first. So, there’s no harm in trying out a few series. Just don’t fall into the trap of giving up if everything seems too hard!


I’ve not stumbled on any that teach this level of casual/slangy language. But it shows up in manga a lot. So if you want to read manga, it is necessary to learn. Especially if you read ones with a lot of it, you will get that pattern recognition that @ChristopherFritz talked about.

The way I learnt it was the book clubs here of WK. We thankfully have many experienced readers following along and teaching this stuff (when people ask questions). ^^


I feel like when it comes to reading native Japanese content and assessing yourself, there are two types of people

  1. People who have had humbling experiences

  2. People who haven’t tried it yet.

It’s more or less an inevitability, and there will be more down the road for you if your experience looks anything like mine. You seem to be taking it the right way though and I like your enthusiasm to continue.

I’d say for slang, and grammar in general, I never actually stuck to one resource. I would always just… literally google it. You get better at googling the exact question you’re having the more you try. Then I would just pick a top link at random really.

My suggestion is to not hesitate to do 2 things

  1. Don’t hesitate to skip anything that seems hard to find the answer for. You can screenshot and save things to look at later and sometimes you’ll just magically get it.

  2. For stuff you’ve skipped but seen multiple times, honestly just ask on here for parsing help, or check the translation and use inference.

Let’s hypothetically say you can learn 20 new things a day and the rest of your reading time is reinforcing other stuff and training your subconscious. There’s hella stuff to learn. There’s nothing wrong with skipping some stuff and looking for 20 low hanging fruit instead. I did that with visual novels when I started reading. I didn’t really do it with light novels, but I had already read a decent amount by that point and it was more stubbornness than wise decision making.


Sorry if it’s been mentioned already but my advice to you (and anyone else starting reading/having started recently) is using these 2 tools:

  • gives you the extensive list of vocabulary used in books that you can add to review prior/while reading said book.
  • has a grading system of books that helps you figure out whether a book is out of your league for now or right up your alley

Combine these two and you’ll have a much less frustrating experience reading japanese.


I just started using learn natively the other day, and am using it to track this volume. It’ll probably be more useful for me as I begin being able to read more and more.


Adding a plug for my own site here, for manga readers I have similar for a small selection of manga, but as spreadsheets with Japanese word frequency lists only (no English translations), and nothing fancy on top of that.

I’m still waiting for JBDB, or Kitsun/MaruMori, or another site to start adding manga into their SRS systems, but in the meantime, one or two manga readers may find it useful to see what the most common words are in what they’re reading so they can pre-learn them.


I’m at that same point myself… crossing over into intermediate learning, same place in WK, have the first volume of Yotsubato on my shelf, etc. Material designed for language learners (NHK News Easy, Satori Reader, Crystal Hunters, textbook sentences, etc.) start to seem like smooth sailing, so I pick up some supposedly easy book intended for native readers (Yotubato, Flying Witch, Ayumu, etc.) and am like, “nope, no idea what those guys are saying”. It’s humbling.

But stick with it. Keep learning more Japanese every day, and books become just a little easier. This is a tough phase of the Japanese journey because native materials are still so hard, but it’s also the gateway into “learning Japanese” becoming “read books I like in Japaense” instead of “stare at an SRS”, which is pretty exciting.


I’m having a similar experience reading Prince of Tennis. I know the plot inside out already, and in the first volume I was frustrated having to wade through all the slang. But after bringing up some questions to my tutor, I more or less can intuitively tell when something is slang now. I wonder if this is how non-native English speakers feel when they hear/read American slang…(I mean I already feel way out of the loop since I’m an old woman of 30 lol)

I still have difficulty with Osaka-ben or Okinawa-ben and their slang, but I’m working on it, lol