I have what I hope is a good question. I want to get better at reading as fast as possible. My level right now is lamentable at best. I can follow the story of what’s happening in a basic manga like ARIA but I struggle with longer sentences or even the practice sentences in Wanikani. That said, there is a book club starting for Spice and Wolf and I’d like to give that a shot but can’t help but wonder if that would even be productive for me at this point. What recommendations do people have? Should I give it a shot or not? Is there preparation that I could do to make it a good experience? What recommendations do you have?
I think Spice and Wolf uses quite difficult grammar at times (at least in the prologue - did not check for the rest), so you might have a really hard time following the story if you don’t have a solid grammar foundation yet.
But what I can suggest is for you to check out the Absolute Beginner and Beginner Book Clubs! They read manga and also books, and you can read all the past picks, make use of their language dicussion threads and vocab sheets, and you can even ask questions yourself, as usually a bunch of people from the reading club still stick around and will get back to you, I’m pretty sure. Once you mastered a few books from the Beginner Club, you could move on to the Intermediate Club, depending on how you feel about their picks. Often the books in the Intermediate club are not dramatically harder, it’s just that the club’s reading pace was faster, but that shouldn’t bother you if you read after the club is finished already.
There is also the Master List of Book Clubs which contains links to all book clubs and other reading groups.
probably bad advice that doesnt work for everyone but i say just read whatever you want (as long as its not extremely hard like if it doesnt have furigana or its a light novel or something like that)
im doing a lot of reading right now and ive had to look up a lot of vocabulary and grammar but i would say that my japanese has dramatically improved after just a few volumes of manga
really just pick something that you feel wont overwhelm you but come back everyday to it and commit and you should be good
yeah just give it a shot. you’ll never be prepared enough, it’ll always feel overwhelming in the beginning.
but getting personalized replies in book clubs is the best thing ever, people in the wanikani forums go the extra mile when explaining.
i think to make it the best experience, read through the current chapter of your club as best as you can, ask about everything that doesn’t make a 100% sense and i mean everything, even if your post is a page long multiple people will answer. seeing other people ask questions and get answers will help you understand more too.
I think the most efficient way to get better at reading is to read a lot of content that is just barely above your level.
It’s really tough in the beginning because the stuff that’s way is usually boring (or rather the stuff you would want to read is too difficult). But you have to find something that’s not too bad.
Try different manga series for teens. They often have furigana and generally easier language (with exceptions).
If you read something too beyond your current skill you’d be spending so much time trying to figure out what’s going on. A ton of unknown kanji and vocabulary, often with no furigana (in LNs or novels or manga for older audiences). And grammar knowledge is quite a blocker in the beginning and intermediate stages too.
So, do yourself a favour and read content more suitable for your level. When you have to look up every other word on a page, I don’t think is a good study method.
The best book to read is the one you are interested about the most. Be it anything, the most important thing about reading early on is not giving up.
I’ve been dipping my toe into reading native material by trying “Easier” stories on Satori Reader, which allows you to tap on/hover over words and phrases and have them explained to you on the spot, which really helps when you run into a vocabulary word or grammar construction you’ve never seen before.
I know some of the things I want to read, but I’m unsure of when and how I should try and tackle them.
To be entirely honest, if you reach level 20ish on wanikani, and get through n5 and n4 grammar (either something like tae kim’s guide, or cure dolly, or a textbook, like genki), then you’re entirely ready to jump into a book and struggle like never before.
It’s often said that it will be a struggle, regardless of when you start, but imo having some common vocab knowledge and at least decent beginner grammar makes the experience way less taxing
I need to finish Tae Kim…
I managed to reach level 27 on WK before resetting after taking a like 3 month long unintended hiatus and feeling like I was too rusted to stay on that level. I can still (at least vaguely) recognize a good number of vocab words up until that point, though. As for grammar, I’m around a third of the way through Cure Dolly’s “Japanese from Scratch” playlist. I’ve gotten past the most basic fundamental structure and have started getting into finer grain things like specific particles, expressions, helper verbs, etc. I have no idea how much I’ve covered of N5 or N4 grammar, though. I guess I’d have to find some means of informally evaluating myself, like for example cross-referencing Bunpro’s list of grammar topics. Maybe I can assess my grammar knowledge after I’ve finished Cure Dolly’s playlist and see if there’s any N5 or N4 stuff I’ve missed.
Personally, my experience trying to read manga before I was ready was that it was fun to experience the story, but it wasn’t really a productive learning experience. I made way more progress on reading by working through my textbook.
Now, I’m starting to get to a point where I know enough grammar that I can learn from stuff that’s above my level, but long sentences were still a big problem for me until I got further along in my textbook and learned how to deal with them there . So I don’t really have advice outside of following a more directed grammar path for the beginner level. Just jumping into reading did not work for me at the beginner level. I needed a more structured learning environment that gradually walked me through how to interpret a sentence without trying to somehow process a whole bunch of unfamiliar grammar at once.
“struggle like never before” indeed…
N4 level grammar and lvl 20 wk is still a beginner Japanese level. Maybe what someone would call pre-intermediate.
It is really hard to read native content at this stage, and IMO unproductive.
You say it’s a struggle to start reading at any level. I would disagree.
I got into reading after passing N3 and being around lvl 35-40 on wk. And I’ve been studying grammar consistently and doing regular lessons on italki.
Reading novels was too difficult. I tried some manga that I wanted to read and found a series that was not too hard, so that I can read consistently. It was Soul Eater btw. I tried eg Made in Abyss but it uses fancy vocab and has close to zero furigana, so looking it up was too painful. And that’s not even mentioning the grammar (which at that point I couldn’t differentiate from vocab).
But I stuck with Soul Eater for a while and kept on studying Japanese. About half a year later I was lvl 50+ on wk and covered a lot of N2 grammar. At this point I felt ready to dive into novels. Started with コンビニ人間 and it felt relatively easy!
I think reading stuff that’s too difficult early on can even discourage from reading. If you struggle to read a page a day, what do you expect to finish a book in a year? Who even had the patience to do that?
I’m sure that this time is better spent studying and reading easier material.
Here’s an analogy if you want: if you want to get in shape and want to run a marathon some day, you don’t start by trying to run a marathon on the first day. You try running 1km, maybe walk 3km. And over weeks you increase your distance and intensity until you feel you can do a marathon. And then you can work on improving your marathon time.
Same with Japanese learning. Don’t jump straight into a novel. Read short news articles, maybe graded readers, simple stories, then manga for kids, for teens, and over time you’ll get ready to tackle your first novel. Just don’t pick something like 雪国😆
This is what I’m kind of worried about. I don’t want to try and read “too early” and burn myself out because I rashly dove headfirst into something I just wasn’t ready for. Though ofc there’s so much stuff out there, it’s hard to tell what stuff it is you’re “ready” enough for and what you’re not.
That’s as far as I know somewhere around start of N5, so still a lot to go, but it does get easier over time.
In my experience, it’s really hard to read when starting out, but by the time you get through your first book, you’ll get quite a bit of actual experience. I think your results can be achieved by reading, it just depends on what kind of person you are. I can get lost in a book, even if it takes ages to read one page, if the story is interesting, so I work best with this technique
And that’s fine if I’m still at the baby level, lol. Cure Dolly’s videos have been digestible enough that I’m able to watch at least one video (and write notes for them/feel like I understand enough to move on to the next one) every day and not feel like I’m getting overwhelmed. So studying grammar will (hopefully) be a steady process.
Though I guess actually applying what I’ve learned in practice can be a whole different world.
I think for the majority of people it’s optimal to read something close to their level but a little higher.
I heard this advice so many times from different sources. And it matches my own experience too.
Put simply a text too difficult would introduce too many new words and grammar points.
You can look them up but you will forget most of them because you have a limited capacity to learn new things.
If you read a text that’s just right you learn just a few new things on every page and it becomes much more manageable to remember those. Plus, you get to read more in total, which improves your reading skill and also gives you a chance to review stuff you’ve seen before.
This makes sense to me. Plus you can’t really get into a flow of reading something if you’re having to stop every 5 seconds to look something new up and spend a few minutes trying to understand what that new thing is before moving on. You end up spending more time doing research than actually reading, which might suck out a lot of the enjoyment from of the activity. That’s how it is for me, anyway.
And I know there’s probably no clear answer for this, but I must ask anyway: how can you get an idea of whether something is “just right for you” in terms of difficulty?
Try reading the first few pages. Most manga and novels have a roughly consistent difficulty level, so you can get a decent enough idea from that.
Makes enough sense. I’m guessing text in video games works in a similar way?
Do things get notably less consistent once you start checking out stuff on the internet like comics/manga made by fan artists and the like (like the stuff you might find on Pixiv)? Cause that’s one of the things I’m interested in eventually checking out. I would guess yes to some extent, since those are put out by everyday people instead of a publishing company so any “standard” grammar and vocabulary can kind of go out the window depending on the creator, but I could be wrong.
Edit: I’m willing to just share a link to the exact stuff on Pixiv I want to be able to read, if that would help this discussion at all. It’s nothing explicit, just some Pikmin fan comics, lmao.
I think it’s more about an author’s individual style, and also the genre and content of the work. Some people tend to use short, clear sentences; some people like to use a wider range of vocabulary. Some books are about normal everyday life; some are philosophy texts. But within any particular book or manga, the style and content don’t change, so the difficulty is unlikely to spike or drop suddenly. (It does happen sometimes…)