Intermediate Japanese Book Club


#1305

Definitely hiatus.

The problem we have is that, even at peak activity, active members are usually fine reading on their own. That means very few questions get asked, and the low activity does not encourage others to join in.

While there was a few idea about what we could change with respect to that, there’s still the problem that you, me and @LucasDesu (i.e. the people who were active in the home thread, that is, here) are too busy to do maintenance right now (putting polls, making book threads, etc).

I have enough time to be a user, though, so I just moved over to the beginner book club for now. Once things calm down (January or February), I’m planning to be more proactive here.


#1306

I also want to hiatus as well, but technically the group has fallen into a patch of inactivity, which @Naphthalene explained quite well.

I think for the people just starting out to read, having a place to ask questions is important and that activity gives the other book club a lot more buzz because their topic pops up on the recent topics. For this one, however, the readers are either skilled enough to research things they don’t understand or drop out due to time constraints or other reasons. So over time, past threads have waned because it’s difficult to tell if people are still participating or not.

There are quite a few people from the other group who could be active in more “intermediate” level books, but I honestly think the label “intermediate” scares a lot of people away from the start. I’m sure if you suggest a book you’d like to read, other people will join in though :wink:. Then perhaps from that activity, this group will revive again.


#1307

I think right now, there are two barriers that could discourage people from making the leap from beginner to intermediate book clubs. First is the difficulty of the books selected. Second is the pace that the book is read.

Let’s compare the only book read by the beginner club, 魔女の宅急便 (which as you know only had four people finish it including you), to the current intermediate book club book, はたらくまおうさま. We read 魔女の宅急便 at a pace of about 10 pages a week, while you are reading はたらくまおうさま at about 25 pages a week. Also, presumably はたらくまおうさま is much harder than 魔女の宅急便.

Successfully reading an easy book at 10 pages a week doesn’t translate well to reading a harder book at 2.5 times that pace. It could be feasible to read an easier book faster or struggle through a harder book at the same slow pace, but both faster and harder seems like a tough transition to make at the same time.

As a side note, I have mentioned in many threads by now that I will be reading 時をかける少女 with anyone interested within a few months, if the beginner book club hasn’t selected a book by then. After people read that book (or a book selected by the beginner book club), many more people will hopefully know where they stand with reading ability. Perhaps at that point more people will be willing to switch over to the intermediate book club.


#1308

Although I agree with your initial assessment, the reason why the book selection and the pacing went that way was because the more active members were on the higher end of the spectrum. Had some more people on the cusp joined, I’m sure both the selection and the pacing of books would’ve been tempered quite a bit. Initially when there was only one group, the issue wasn’t level it was books people wanted to go through together. When the groups separated, the level of accessibility became a key factor for the other club. Since the same 4 or 5 people continued to be highly active since No. 6, this club has only been concerned about what we wanted to read rather than book difficulty.

In fact, I felt the book (some short stories compilation) this club read while the beginner club tried to read 魔女の宅急便 was far easier and closer to a level that would’ve been approachable to people on the fence had there not been the label “intermediate” attached to the book.

In the end, it doesn’t matter. I’m glad for my experiences with this group because I felt like it stretched me and improved my Japanese all around. Although some may not believe it, but No. 6 was my first book I read in Japanese. It was the catalyst to not get intimidated by difficult goals. I am grateful that everything started as the “book club” and not the “intermediate book club” because I wouldn’t have chosen to start here had there been a choice.

EDIT: Reminder to not send messages via my phone. I tend not to proofread and correcting errors is a bit more challenging. :sweat_smile:


#1309

That makes sense. If the only people still reading were more advanced, it makes sense to read harder books and at a faster pace.

I’m interested in seeing where the book clubs go after we try to read our next beginner book. It wouldn’t surprise me if a year from now rather than a beginner and intermediate club we have a manga and book club.


#1310

Funny you say that, I was just discussing earlier today in Discord about making a book club just for novels and the like, but I was considering naming it the advanced book club. Seeing your conversation above though I think it’d be better not to now. I’ll need to go around and find what people would be interested in since I have no idea. An obvious first choice would be harry potter, but after that I’m clueless.


#1311

If there’s such a thing as an advanced book club at some point, I’d like to read some more Murakami (well, I only read 1Q84 so far, so it’s like I have that much experience with him yet)


#1312

Yeah, this. I bought はたらくまおうさま but there was a lot more vocab I had to look up, and I soon realised I had no chance of keeping up with the pace together with other things happening in my life.
I would otherwise consider myself an intermediate reader.
I was hopeful of making better progress with the Kawabata short stories, which were challenging but really short, but that group also dwindled to nothing very quickly, so I stopped reading that too. I find the interaction really important for motivation.


#1313

I only do the first book cause I literally couldn’t follow fast enough(did finish it though) then wanted to finish the N.6 series since I bought 6 books (was really cheap, 8$ for it I was happy) so I didn’t follow. But same here without the book club I would have never advanced that much. Only reading easy children story whitout challenge. Now my reading speed and vocab has increased a lot in only 2 books(or 14 months).

Just taking this occasion to thanks everyone of the book club to have given me the push in the back to start and to have shown me in an interesting story.

I was quite interested in 時をかける少女. @seanblue I would like to join you on that one. Tell me in advance so I can get the book and see if I have time in my schedule. (If you ever want me to join you even thought i’m not the fastest :persevere:)


#1314

I think there was a poll in the beginners book club at one point? I’m one of those lurkers (guilty as charged, set myself the goal to be more active on forums though), so I’m not sure how recent that actually is though…

Is there a set time frame or a thread or something to follow for that? I’d be interested to read that one too (but I don’t have the book, so therefore the question of time frame).

I second the pace issue. I think the difference between those 15odd manga pages or as @seanblue mentioned 10 book pages a week to 25 book pages is quite a jump. And also generally, I find that it would take too much time (would have tried doing it anyway, but hey) out of my week, so maybe setting the pace lower will help next time. Although what @LucasDesu said makes complete sense as to why it was that steep.

Either way, thanks everyone for clearing that up. I’ll think about maybe putting a poll here to so what the interest level is once I finish that next book in the beginners book club or so. Until then, I’ll just keep an eye out.
But just to say, making this is a brilliant idea and I wish I had made time for it sooner.


#1315

Since some people are posting in this topic now, I guess now may be a good time (or not, but I’m doing it anyway) to mention that I’ll probably give whatever the book club plans to read next after the hiatus is over a try.


#1316

Are you talking about this post?

Then it was in this thread :confused:

Yes, I feel we should address that indeed. 10 page a week isn’t bad, but it means that it takes a lot of time to finish a given book. The first volume of 新世界より, that I read this summer, was 500 pages long. At the proposed pace, it would take 50 weeks to read it (a.k.a almost a year). So, either we go faster, or we have to pick short books (or even short stories).

Although, as mentioned in the beginner book club thread, the learning curve is quite steep at the beginning, but it gets better. So we could do 10 pages for a while, and then ramp it up (as proposed in the other thread as well). Of course, based on the wishes of everyone: the same way people have been talking about the fact that chapter 9 of non non biyori was an easy read, we could spontaneously decide to increase the pace (then have a vote I guess).

Moving on to voting, @LucasDesu mentioned a couple months ago that our selection of books was stale, and I agree. The same thing happened in the beginner book club, and I think we should do as they did: throw everything out and start from scratch. Book can be renominated, though, but that would at least whittle down those never getting a vote. (Also, I like the template @seanblue has put together in the beginner book club.)

And I’ve typing way more than I expected, so I will stop here.


#1317

I agree with @Naphthalene’s suggestion.

I’m heartbroken to hear that the suggested pacing I put together made people feel like keeping up was a near impossible feat. The page numbers I put down were inflated because I used my e-reader to count pages, though I’m not sure how close my count was compared to the physical book pages. For that I take responsibility for any kind of negative effect it had on the club :cry:. I’m sorry.

One thing I felt was helpful for me to gain confidence and eventually speed up my reading pace was using e-books. I know that e-books aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I found when I’m reading a physical book that a lot time is taken up having to put my book down (or take my eyes off the book) to look up words, etc. When using an e-book, I can immediately look up the words and move forward. Plus, by manipulating the font size, I can create a page that doesn’t seem so intimidating. I know that expediting the process of looking up words and playing psychological tricks on oneself doesn’t make for an instant boost in one’s reading speed, but I do feel it helps to keep me from just giving up. I’m not sure any of you experienced this, but having the feeling that I have been on the same page for 20-30 minutes or more really does affect my attitude about my desire and/or ability to finish a book.


#1318

I’d also been wondering about this, and have some thoughts I guess might be relevant to this discussion. It got a bit long, so I collapsed them, if anybody cares to read!

Rambling thoughts from a radish who'd also like to read 時をかける少女

Turning the beginners’ club into a manga club seems like it could work quite well. Manga are inherently easier through being shorter text-wise and having pictures, so it would remove the existing manga vs book tension. You could still have a range of difficulties (e.g. Chi’s Sweet Home to Non Non Biyori) while staying relatively ‘beginner’-friendly through avoiding obviously difficult material. They only take a couple of months to read, so it’s fine if the difficulty varies a bit from pick to pick.

I’m less sure how the resulting book club would work, though I think the problem already exists in the beginners’ club anyway. Book nominations can run from something like Toyger’s set of fairy tales (though it feels like the new book clubs cropping up doing things like the cat detective books are catering to that end of the spectrum) to a 500-page novel, and defining acceptable levels of difficulty is a challenge. Plus, once you pick a book, you’re kind of stuck with it for months at the beginner pace.

It sounds like members of the current intermediate book club would be happy to read easier material if there’s a demand from newer readers, but pace still seems like an issue even if we’re picking books on the shorter end of the spectrum.

I think the “once per week” nature of the beginners’ club works well not only because of the actual pace and because people ask grammar questions (though I do my best :wink: ) but also because of the frequency. Every weekend, I remember that I need to read and comment on the next section. It helps me to pace myself and ensures there’s a steady stream of discussion. If it was only every three weeks, for example, I’d probably end up reading in binges (and then falling behind from lack of structure) and I’d forget about commenting / be unprepared to do so.

The idea of ramping up speed as we get further along seems like it could be a good compromise, if more advanced readers are happy to go quite slowly at the beginning of a book? Maybe we could create an example schedule for 時をかける少女 and discuss whether it would be suitable for all or not (though I agree with Nath that being flexible is probably a good idea)?


#1319

Don’t be. Maybe we could have been more proactive adapting the pacing, but, as I said, we could not realistically have gone that much slower.
(Hopefully, the adaptive speed approach will solve the problem)

I can definitely relate to that. That’s what was really making it so painful back when I started (trying to) read books in Japanese. I wish I had something like the book club back then to hold me accountable and keep me going…
But anyway, those sound like pretty good tricks as well. :slight_smile:


#1320

We were doing that at first, but decided to stop after reading Red Nightmares, mostly because it felt painful at the time. We were literally forcing ourselves to comment, which (we thought) got people to stop. I think, in hindsight, that the problem isn’t with the “every week” part, but with the fact that the book was just not very interesting in itself. Moving to a less frequent schedule after that (and dwindling activity) was probably the last blow.

That sounds like an excellent idea! Even if the beginner book club picks something else (especially a manga) we could also try to do a loser’s bracket book only poll here :slight_smile:

On the topic of manga vs books, though:

Non Non Biyori is definitely on the easier end of the spectrum for manga. Manga like Nausicaa defines words in the margin because they don’t expect native speakers to know them. (Although, sometime they use the clever trick of having one character ask what it means, so that the explanation is part of the story). Gunnm last order basically has side panels explaining physics. When I was around N4, it took me something like a day to read the one explaining how plasma works.

My point is that, if the beginner book club becomes the “manga” book club, there won’t be any place to suggest those. (Well, I guess it’s always possible to do a separate group, but still…)

NEVER COLLAPSE, NEVER SURRENDER. aka I’m writing too much.


#1321

Ah, I see, that’s interesting. I guess depending on the pace there might also be less to comment on over the course of a week - one manga chapter ought to give you a whole little story to discuss. I can see two weeks being a manageable alternative, but there’s just something about forming that Saturday = book club association that seems helpful.

I’d like that!

Ah, I didn’t mean to suggest Non Non Biyori was on the difficult end at all, just much more difficult than something like Chi’s. My point was more supposed to be that the club doesn’t seem to have too much issue keeping the manga within an acceptable ‘beginner’ range, and that some variation seems to work fine.

Yeah, that’s the thing, isn’t it? Axing books from the ‘manga’ club also means that there’s nowhere to nominate really easy books like Scary Stories (though there’s enough interest at that level I think another club could work), but a proliferation of clubs where we end up with a beginners’ manga club, an advanced manga club, an intermediate-beginner book club, a transcendent level of knowledge club, a newspaper club… is probably not going to end well :stuck_out_tongue:

:purple_heart::orange_heart::blue_heart:


#1322

I think the point I was trying to get at is that in the end it’s important to have the perseverance to finish what you start. That’s yet another reason I feel the intermediate book club had trouble keeping active members even with the less challenging books. There’s always a lot of people who’d like to read the books that get nominated but right from the start they’d drop like flies and only a few would finish.

This was very true with Red Nightmares. It started with a difficult short story right off the bat; in fact, I would say that it was probably the most challenging to read due to the register of speech being used in the story. But rather than thinking, “this short story is a wash, next” most of the group seemed to bail before they could even realize how easy the stories that followed were. I voted for that book because I felt that if others didn’t like the story or felt it was too difficult, they could always start again on the next short story. This line of thinking came from Autumn Prison, which made it easy to convince people join the club even in the midst of the book. (*Mind you, I’m not saying that everyone who dropped out were able to complete the book, but I’m sure some that did could have pressed through.)

I think those who realize they have it in them to actually finish a book, they realize that’s how books (mange, etc.) are: there’s a hump one must get through in order to understand the writing style of the author, and afterward the challenge is not as difficult as one would expect. I think there’s a lot of people that allow themselves to get discouraged and lose confidence.

Eventually if we intend on utilizing what we learn on WK, then we’ll need to graduate to more challenging media; be it super-detailed-sci-fi manga, a light novel, magazine, or newspaper.

The more one reads the better they get. The more challenging, the more variety become more accessible.

TLDR; Finish what you start reading to gain confidence.


#1323

@icefang97 @Kyayna @Radish8 I will start noting people who have expressed interest in reading 時をかける少女 with me so I don’t forget. As for timeline, the beginner book club will begin voting on 10/12, so we should know what’s selected by 10/19. Based on that, I will create a proposed schedule for 時をかける少女 regardless of whether it wins (unless a different book wins).

@Radish8 @Naphthalene I like the idea of making the schedule flexible. For example, we could perhaps do 時をかける少女 at 5 pages a week for the first 2 weeks, 10 pages a week for the following 3-4 weeks, and then have a poll to see about keeping it at 10 or bumping it up to 15 pages a week.


I agree that this is a problem, which is why I wanted to limit the beginner book club to shorter books. But unfortunately books don’t usually come at much less than 200 pages, and at 10 pages a week that still comes out to about 5 months. For what it’s worth, 時をかける少女 is 158 pages, which is one reason I’m pushing for it so hard.


But this would be in a monolingual dictionary, right? That only helps so much for lower level readers. I can tell you 9 times out of 10 when I read a definition only in Japanese, I need to look up words in the definition to make sense of it. So that would actually make things slower than looking up an approximate meaning via jisho.


For my own knowledge, where does ご注文はうさぎですか fall on the spectrum between Non Non Biyori and Nausicaa? Would you classify Nausicaa as an advanced manga? If so, would ご注文はうさぎですか be considered an intermediate manga?

There may not be much we can do about that… For cases like that, it might be best just to announce that you’re reading such-and-such book and see if anyone wants to read with you.


@LucasDesu @Naphthalene Regarding the future of the intermediate book club, I would just say that I think it would be a good idea to wait until after the next beginner book club manga/book is selected before doing anything significant here (like polls or whatever). By 10/19 we should know if the next selection (and possibly the one after) will be a book. I think from there, if a book isn’t selected everyone can decide if they just want to read 時をかける少女 with me or do something else in the intermediate book club. Up to you of course, but that’s my opinion.


#1324