This has probably been hashed out before, but:
I’ve been at this for a while, and good lord I want to read. When I close my eyes at night, I have fantasies of fitting all those familiar words and grammatical structures together, and having lightbulbs of understanding go off—like when I read my textbook, except the thing I’m reading is actually interesting.
But as far as I can tell, I can’t read anything that gets brought up here or elsewhere as being for beginners even though I’m getting closer and closer to what I would call “conversational” at Japanese. “Read Yotsuba” they tell me. “There’s furigana. You’ll love it.”
Well, here’s the thing about Yotsuba: I have a pretty deep well of vocabulary and grammar to draw from at this point, but no, that doesn’t mean I can read Yotsuba. I keep trying to read Yotsuba, and I can’t, and then I try to read Yotsuba a few months later, and I still can’t. In fact, I don’t understand how anyone getting their Japanese from lessons and classroom instruction could possibly read Yotsuba. All the grammar in Yotsuba is casual. It seems very accurate to how people actually speak, which seems great, but it’s way beyond my comprehension level. Plus it’s little-kid-talking-to-dad-speak, and dad-talking-to-little-kid-speak, and this is not grammar they’ve taught in my classroom at all. I never have any clue what’s going on in Yotsuba, and it’s discouraging that this is supposed to be my starting point.
I picked up some actual kids’ books and I fared a little better. I got the Japanese translation of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and I’m pleased to report that yes, I understood that, cover to cover (mostly). And I was able to beat my head against the pages of a kids’ book by an apparently famous author named Shiro Yadama, and after considerable effort I understood bits and pieces of that pretty well. It was cute, but folks I’m 34. It’s not that I’m too proud to read stuff for kids, but kids’ books are a little boring. Reading them made me miss Yotsuba, which at least had interesting subject matter for an adult even, though it’s about a kid.
I suppose I’m looking for a silver bullet. Any suggestions? I’m not good enough for even a basic manga, and kids’ books are kids’ books. It would be so helpful to just sit and read a book(?) that—with some struggling and lots of dictionary-ing—I actually understand and finish.
Yotsuba, but easier? Like I said: a silver bullet. Maybe it doesn’t exist.