Thanks, I appreciate it!
I tried out the app. I’d been waiting for it to be rereleased! The biggest feature that seems to be missing is that I want to be able to turn off furigana on katakana and certain kanji. The screenshots show that level 2 still uses furigana on katakana! Ideally I’d be able to click on a kanji/word in the story to be able to toggle furigana off and on. You’re linking this on a kanji learning site, so likely most people here would want this feature.
Are you able to talk about what features are planned for future releases?
Love the app and the stories. I think the stories are a bit too expensive though… Satori Reader at 10 USD/month is way more “bang for the buck” than this.
The ability to toggle furigana on/off is something we are carefully considering. We didn’t include this features because our product is really purposefully design to facilitate reading. There are other products optimized for kanji drills, but we feel flipping back-and-forth between kana-mode to self-check your ability to read kanji undermines the purpose of our app. Reading is a separate and distinct skill from kanji and vocabulary drills. Beyond recognition and recall of grammar and vocabulary, reading enriches the ability to work with ideas. Focusing on self-testing and brushing up on your kanji skills while reading is at cross-purposes with staying in the story and making reading as pleasure an activity as possible.
This is why we are adamant about not using a dictionary when reading graded readers (see earlier post). Our stories aren’t intended as material for a study session. Japanese Graded Readers are designed so that learners can experience reading in Japanese at a level of comfort and fluency approaching first language reading.
After considering our argument on this topic, do you still feel this is an important feature for you? Can you help us better understand your reasons?
Sure! Currently we are working on:
- get kanji w/ruby in the story titles (currently they are only in kana on some screens).
- add a feedback form/contact us page
- add a help page (where the various features and gestures are explained)
- improve image sizes (make images larger)
- various minor tweaks
- creating new and improved stories!
White Rabbit Press Japanese Graded Readers are a very different kind of product from Satori Readers. If you enjoy reading Satori Reader articles you’re doing great, and graded readers may be of little use for you.
As mentioned above:
The vocabulary load of unsimplified material is so high that learners would have to study for several years before they could read a book where they knew most of the vocabulary. In a single Satori Reader article we found vocabulary such as “medal of honor,” “(battle) front”, “departure for war,” and “meritorious achievement.” Their solution to the problem of unknown vocabulary is to provide a Rikaichan-like tool which converts characters and words into links which reveal definitions and usage guidance in English.
Our approach is radically different. We simplify stories, into discrete levels, by reducing story complexity, reducing vocabulary and grammar, and provide additional context by using carefully considered illustrations to elucidate vocabulary. Along with the use of illustrations, each story is painstakingly handcrafted to introduce vocabulary and use grammar with a certain amount of redundancy so that unfamiliar terms and ideas can be grasped contextually, as you keep reading, without needing to jump away to a dictionary.
Regarding price, unfortunately creating illustrations and simplifying stories this way is more labor intensive than adding a Rikaichan-like dictionary widget, but we believe the benefits of our approach are worth it! (The stories, after all, cost less than a cup of coffee!)
I don’t mean to disparage Satori Readers. It seems they’ve certainly invested a lot of hard work into their product, and we wish them a lot of success. But their approach isn’t the right approach for the kind of product we wanted to create. Our stories don’t have any links because links distract from the reading experience–each link presents the reader with a decision whether or not to click the link. As technology writer Nicholas Carr has written about links:
“they’re tiny distractions, little textual gnats buzzing around your head. Even if you don’t click on a link, your eyes notice it, and your frontal cortex has to fire up a bunch of neurons to decide whether to click or not. You may not notice the little extra cognitive load placed on your brain, but it’s there and it matters. People who read hypertext comprehend and learn less, studies show, than those who read the same material in printed form. The more links in a piece of writing, the bigger the hit on comprehension.”
While popup definitions certainly provide a form of instant gratification, they have a way of interfering with learning and short-circuiting comprehension.
We certainly hope you’ll give Japanese Graded Readers a try and see for yourself.
For me it would be very important to be able to turn furigana off. I have certain copies of older Graded Readers and I use a piece of paper to keep furigana covered until I run into a word I don’t know the reading of. I hear you on how you want the readers to just read, rather than learn, but that’s not how I personally use the Graded Readers that I have.
Just cramming vocab isn’t enough to really master it. I have to see the kanji “in the wild.” It’s nicer to do this with a Graded Reader that more befits my low level, rather than hope an NHK Easy article will use a lot of the relatively basic words that I’m learning. Forced furigana means that I can’t begin to cement my lower level knowledge with reading material befitting that lower level. That would frustrate me.
I understand that there is a certain vision of the mindset you wish people to have when using your product, but forced furigana would greatly reduce the value of the product for me personally. Graded Readers are fundamentally aimed at students of Japanese, so it’s safe to assume that at least some will use it as a practice/learning resource, rather than only something to relax with a Japanese story.
I prefer to read something above my level and look things up in a dictionary, rather than tell myself I mustn’t use a dictionary and delay Graded Readers until I have the needed vobac to get all the details. I do use Graded Reader as a study tool, because I know that I learn better and far more enjoyably that way. Just cramming kanji and vocab only gets me so far in retention.
I know it’ll likely involve coding hassle, but from a consumer standpoint I see it thus: if it can be toggled, people can use it as they see fit. The reader knows how they want to read it - options to personalize it to their wishes will only ever increase satisfaction. It would for me, at least.
But of course: that’s just me. You know what you have in mind for your app, and you know better than I what your users are asking for in features. Just putting in my two cents on why I wouldn’t feel a strong pull towards using it if I can’t adapt it to my personal learning style and preferences.
Thank you for taking the time to answer questions and clarify your viewpoints! Best of luck!
I’d like to add to this that even with the mindset of using Graded Readers to read smoothly and without lookup, being able to turn furigana off is a valuable option.
I like to return to my low-level Graded Readers sometimes to practise reading without furigana (and have to do the same annoying paper trick). They’re well within my level of comfort in terms of grammar, vocabulary and kanji, so reading them without furigana does not interrupt the ‘easy reading experience’ I’m looking for. It just helps me to consolidate my kanji recognition in the wild, and gives me that rush of “woah, I’m reading Japanese!” which the Graded Readers are designed for - but this time the rush is from reading seamlessly without furigana.
Very true. I definitely enjoy that rush you mention!
Just wanted to let you know: we are listening! We aren’t staying “'no” to the “turn on/off furigana” feature, we just want to think it through carefully. It’s helpful to hear your reasons. Also I’d like to try and correct some misunderstandings which seems to have emerged:
Sorry if I’ve not explained things well. It’s not correct that we don’t want readers to “learn”. Graded Readers are absolutely designed with Japanese language learning in mind. Along with improving reading speed, reading fluency, and reinforcing already known vocabulary, Graded Readers introduce new vocabulary and grammar as well.
It’s just that we recommend a certain approach and mindset in order to best reap these many benefits.
This isn’t what we are recommending either. There is a third alternative between 1) reaching for a dictionary as you come across new words; and, 2) delaying your reading until you “have the needed vocab to get all the details”.
What we recommend is that instead of reaching for a dictionary while reading Japanese Graded Readers, just keep reading! Try to skip words and phrases that you don’t understand and simply keep on reading. Their meanings will become apparent eventually from the context and illustrations.
Consider it like working on a crossword puzzle.
Maybe you’re struggling with 17 ACROSS “Prized taste in ramen”. Sure, you could flip to the solution and copy the answer. But we’re just saying, “Try to keep going! Because as you make progress with the surrounding puzzle, useful clues may start to fall in place.” Eventually, you should have enough clues to complete the puzzle.
Finally, if the story is hopelessly difficult, then you may be reading too high above your level. While readers could certainly break open a dictionary, we recommend simply stepping down a level. We believe readers will learn more by working things out for themselves rather than falling back on a dictionary whenever the going gets tough.
Reading in a foreign language involves a lot of uncertainty and confusion as learners try to process ambiguous vocabulary, grammar, and cultural inputs. While too much ambiguity can result in counter-productive anxiety, success may often depend on the tolerance of ambiguity that learners exhibit during reading. Some studies show that ambiguity tolerance is correlated with achievement in language learning. Findings also indicate that the higher the proficiency level, the more tolerant learners become in foreign language learning. Perhaps it’s a two-way street: leaners excel in proficiency as they develop better skills for dealing with such ambiguity, which in turn enables them to tackle more challenging material . . .
Reaching for a dictionary too quickly may undermine the development of subtle but important language acquisition skills, such as the ability to hold what-if scenarios in one’s head, create and test hypotheses, and to adjust one’s interpretations as new information comes in. But these skills may never have a chance to develop if a low tolerance for ambiguity compels readers to dig the answer out of a dictionary every time they get stuck instead of plowing ahead into the mist.
Of course graded readers may not be for everyone, and that’s fine too!
I also want to mention that turning Furigana off would be a great feature. Having Furigana makes me read the kanji without double checking if I know it or not. Since graded readers is aimed at introducing beginners to reading real japanese texts, we should also get used at not having furigana. A toggle to switch it on or off would be really helpful.
And I think we are all appreciating that you are engaging with our feedback ^^ That’s certainly why I added my comment to the mix.
Hello, I love graded readers. Actually I have a whole bunch of them from at least three different series up to now.
I really love to see a new series comming.
While I have soft spot for the actual physical book, two features I would love to see are: the above mentioned on/off furigana option and the possibility to pick up and make a list of unknown vocab while reading. By the way is vertical orientation an option?, so far I have only see horizontal text.
As some people mentioned, actual price seems high. After all you’re not getting the actual copy of the book, so it’s to be expected that the costs involved in production are less.
As a reference: Taishukan Graded Series with shipping costs from Japan goes for about 24 euros (to Spain) and the Let’s Read Japanese series goes for almost the same amount (free shipping in Europe), both prices from the respective Amazon Japan and Spain website.
The Taishukan series are 7 stories (somewhat shorter) per volume and the Let’s read Japanese series has five per volume.
If no extra features taking advantage of the digital format ar present, it’s difficult to see the actual improvement over the rest of the series.
Edit: maybe some of the request been made here don’t fit exactly to the Tadoku graded readers description… but then, who knows… maybe the next research study actually shows that graded readers are actually a terrific tool for learning kanji gradually. So with small changes you can accomodate a larger audience and make this series a very distinctive product
Because I already know most of the kanji/vocabulary, but still I feel compelled to look at the furigana, just because they’re there
I wrote before reading comments above
I definitely I appreciate your willingness to have a conversation about this and see what users want. Thank you for the dialogue! When you’re paying a premium price for the stories, it’s nice to know our preferences are being investigated.
For me, learning and remembering the readings of kanji is a big part of reading. I want to work up to the ability to read native material without any furigana. Unfortunately native material often goes from full furigana to no furigana, without many stepping stones in between. Graded Readers are nice because they slowly go from the simplest kanji in Level 0 to much more complex uses in Level 4. I love the progression of Japanese Graded Readers, and it’s why I have nearly all of the physical books.
To me, having furigana when I know the reading is like have romaji next to hiragana. My eyes automatically drift to the training wheels. I’m also one of the people that cover up furigana while reading. When I’m reading along and remember the readings without needing to check, it gives me a great rush of accomplishment. Just like not reaching for a dictionary, it makes me feel like my ability to comprehend Japanese in improving! It makes sense that the print editions need full furigana for kanji. On the other hand, apps and digital books allow for people to customize there reading experience. I understand that programming features in apps takes time, but this one doesn’t seem like it would hurt people who don’t want to use it. I suppose it doesn’t make sense to me why the company would be against it.
As my Japanese abilities increase, I reread stories. I love that I can catch more and more nuances. I’ll notice a kanji or grammar structure that I’ve recently learned. I generally read them as a break from my studies, but I want to use my skills as they grow. If I don’t cover up the furigana in the books, I’ll read it (because most people’s eyes automatically are drawn to furigana), realize I knew the kanji, then kick myself a little for not trying the kanji in the first place.
Radish8 is much more concise than me! I just feel like I’d get more out of the stories, and therefore more likely to purchase them.
I think the progression to native material is a good point: ultimately you’re aiming to make that jump. It’s hard to find material that’s easy enough for a learner to read but doesn’t have furigana, so this would help to fill that gap.
It’s possible that we are a slightly unusual subset amongst the Japanese learning community of course, as most WK users probably find after not too long that kanji actually becomes one of their strongest suits. Certainly my experience though has been that the kanji in the earliest volumes of the Graded Readers I have are trivially easy for me, and not having furigana wouldn’t impede my ability to read them at all. Being able to use them twice over in slightly different ways would give me a lot more value.
Feature request regarding furigana: Only show furigana for words containing unknown kanji. The set of known kanji could be determined either by API (WaniKani, etc.) or by pasting a list into a text field. Furigana mode would ideally be chosen directly in the story, between “Off”, “For unknown kanji (WaniKani mode)”, “Always show”
Oh wow, how did I miss this?!! I LOVE the Graded Readers! I have the entire set of the physical books and all the old apps for iPad! But as much as I love them I rarely get around to read them again as my iPad is getting old and keeps getting a flat battery in no time. So I got the app, and to those complaining about price, THESE ARE SO GOOD I BOUGHT THEM TWICE!
Sure, you can always compare them to others and ask word for word, who gives you the most for your money. But honestly, I have several kinds of easy readers, but these are by far my favorites. You can tell how much work has been put in to making sure the vocabulary and grammar starts at a easier point, and the repetition to help you gradually understand and learn new concepts. There are a few of the physical books I found harder (especially those that didn’t have an actual story, but talked about things instead, like the book about soy. Interesting and worth reading, but found it harder than the stories in the same set)
Of all my graded/easy readers, the level zero book about the Grasshopper is my ultimate favorite! Not only cause it is of the easiest, the story just stuck with me. I still enjoy re-reading it enough to buy it again (costs less than a small bottle of cola, definitely worth having again) And lvl 1 about the bat too! I had to get my friend who studied Japanese for a year in school long time ago, thus is below the zero book even, to read them with me helping, just so she could experience them. She loved them too
I do want to add my voice to the already singing choir though. Yes, easy reading at your correct level is great. But when I go back to read them again I would love to see if I can read them effortlessly without the furigana =)
I would hate for them to be without furigana as standard, and the physical books should keep them of cause, but the option to toggle these digital ones for when going back to re-read them would be a great improvement.
Also, someone mentioned “you can buy them in physical version” , and no one really answered properly to it, so want to add this: These are made by the same people, but the stories are not the same ones. I haven’t ready all the later levels, but the first few levels’ stories are unique, and I believe I flicked trough all the stories in the higher sets and couldn’t find them there either. So if you have the physical versions you can buy these without getting any duplicates.
For us on WaniKani, we love (and will favor) apps that have integration with the WK API to only show furigana based on our WK progress. The ability to hide it for words we know is an important part of our learning progress, because it’s one of the best ways to practice what we have already learned.
This feature is going to be a big decision point for WK users which you can see in the other comments; they just have not been quite so specific in what they’re asking for. Satori Reader does this incredibly well and the WK integration is a highlighted feature every time it’s mentioned here.
From this, I’m not sure you’re understanding specifically is being asked for. The easiest explanation is just copy what Satori Reader does. Their implementation of this feature makes it possible for non-WK users to manually add their kanji lists too, so you can have a targeted feature towards WK users that only adds an extra API call onto a feature that can still benefit the entire user base.
I can safely say this is a major, if not the determining feature for WaniKani users on whether they are going to put money down.
An API for WaniKani users to toggle furigana on learned Kanji would be great, and we should be a big enough user group to be worth the effort too, since the API is made to make it somewhat easy to implement. Think of it this way; we are your perfect target group already, we are also already showing willingness to pay to learn (WK is not cheap) and we often tell each other and share with new users what materials we recommend; if you tailor it to us we will start recommending it - giving free promotion.
But for a start, a simple toggle all would be fine too, put it with the text size toggle. ESPECIALLY on katakana, should be a separate option to toggle furigana on katakana and kanji. I never needed those. I learned both hiragana and katakana in a week each, one directly after the other. People should simply make the effort to learn them, whether or not they plan on doing Kanji.
Will there be more stories anytime soon? I’d love to have more of these, especially since I know some of them by heart already
I’ll try once more to make my point. Let’s say you hide the ruby with some setting. Now what happens when you come across an unfamiliar kanji? You have to stop reading so you can flip a switch or tap a link to show the ruby and BOOM you let yourself get distracted and lost your flow.
Now if ruby was always on, you could have stayed with the story. But because you decided it was important to mix reading practice with kanji recognition (instead of unbundling your study objectives and tackling these two things separately) you’re no longer reading effectively nor are you drilling your kanji recall very effectively either. As zen teachers like to say, “When reading, only read. When eating, only eat.” In other words, no multitasking.
That’s basically it.
I can certainly appreciate wanting to turn off the ruby on familiar kanji, but we left that feature out because we feel like it’s best to separate concerns when studying because it can be counter-productive to try and accomplish too many different things at the same time. What started out as a reading session devolves into a kind of unfocused channel surfing between kanji level settings . . . while you’re already struggling to ignore SMS alerts and social network notifications
Too many people these days suffer from attention problems. Society is full of “multitaskers” who’ve lost their ability to focus attention in the face of irrelevant distractions. People who are pretty much mental wrecks because they can’t manage a working memory or sustain executive control in the task span. Perhaps I’ve overstating my case , but we just hoped to encourage good habits by keeping things simple and removing this potential distraction.
But also I can appreciate how, as Radish8 put it,