So, am I doing this "right"?

Hey everyone,

before I start - I am aware that there is no particular “right” or “wrong” way when it comes to learning. What works is fine. :blush: But:

I started “reading” a picture book of “Spirited Away” in Japanese (obviously). After working on my grammar I want to put my knowledge to use and reading is my first priority when it comes to studying Japanese. Unfortunately I don’t know much vocabulary so I have to look up SO MANY words. That’s not much fun, but it seems I have to fight my through this until I learned some more vocabulary.

What I’m “reading” is this:

So, at the moment I copy the text into my notebook (mainly because I don’t want to write into the book itself and a bit of writing practice doesn’t do any harm, right? :wink:) and then I try to decipher it:

This way I have nearly made my way through the first chapter.
I thought that with the beginning of the second chapter, I will only write down in English what I didn’t know before and leave the known Japanese words “blank” (my blue notes). This way going a bit faster.

What do you think about my method? Should I create cards with the before unknown vocabulary in a SRS system to study or should I just read and read and read until I know the words from having them looked up multiple times?
Other than copying the complete Japanese text down*, can I do something more efficient?

*I don’t want to write in that book. I tried to just write down the words I didn’t know with their translation, but then they’re out of context and I didn’t really like that.

“Reading” like this takes some time (at the moment I need about 20 minutes per page) and isn’t that much fun. But when I worked through a page and understand everything that is going on, I’m really happy about that :slightly_smiling_face:

How did you start reading something other than graded readers?


This is perfectly normal.

If you want to add cards to SRS, I’d recommend only adding cards you’ve seen a few times. There are a ton of words that you’ll only see every once in a while and aren’t worth your time studying (right now).

I never read any graded readers. I started by suffering through and looking up a ton of words like you’re doing now. The only other thing I realized (specifically when reading my first book 魔女の宅急便) is that it’s okay to not understand everything. I still look up a lot of words and grammar I don’t know, but now I’m okay with understanding 90% instead of 100%. This allows for a good balance between learning and enjoyment.


Also, just from reading your notes:

  • ブレーキ = brake
  • ふみました = 踏みました = to step on

And you accidentally wrote “object” once for は. :stuck_out_tongue:


I think I’m going to do that a little farther into the book. Fortunately I do know the Anime, so I know whats going on anyway :wink:

Btw, 魔女の宅急便 is also great - maybe my next read? :smile:

oops, thanks!

If you do, be sure to check out the old book club threads. We have a vocab sheet with a ton of words already filled out, plus lots of questions and answers when people needed help. And you’re always welcome to ask new questions!

Keep in mind though that this is the original 魔女の宅急便 book that the movie is based on. The story is largely different, even though many of the characters are the same.


Oh, and before I forget to mention. Since the book is a real novel, there’s some general novel patterns that will be new to you at first. Many of those should hopefully be brought up in the discussion threads, but it’s still something to work through with your first book.

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Thank you for all your tips!

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I’ll join the intermediate book club in march and I am also asking myself, which vocab to study and which just to ignore.

I think, first, I won’t add words with unknown kanji. Not knowing the kanji of a word makes it way more difficult to remeber it. On the other side, I know that I will learn (alsmost) all important kanji sooner or later via WK. I just add the furigana to the word and write a translation somewhere on the page.

I will add words in Hiragana, when I heared them before. This ensures, that the word is quite common.

For words in Kanji, that I know, I first try to gess the reading and meaning. If I can guess the word from the Kanji, I see no need to add it. When I read enough, I will remember it automatically. But if it has an exceptional reading or an unusual meaning, I add it, if it seems useful for me. gives you information, if the word is a common word. I think this is extremely helpful.

You see, I try to add only the words, that I really have to study. I think reading Japanese is very much about guessing and the more you do it, the better you get :slight_smile:

Btw: I also have to look up many words. Just as an idea I added an usual page from Kino no Tabi. For such a page, I need to look up about 10-20 words, but I do only add 2 to 5 to my Anki deck. It takes like ages to read a single page -.-
But the most important thing: It is definetly fun :blush:

~T :lion:


I‘m also currently trying to find the best compromise between just reading and adding some cards to Anki for me.

What I started doing with Kino and the other „book“ I‘m currently reading (Finding Nemo! :smile::tropical_fish:) is: I copied the raw text chapter by chapter into because this seemed to be the most convenient way to read it for me. (I bought them legally on Amazon but was a bit disappointed by the Kindle dictionary…)

When I look up a word and it is marked as N3-N5 them I mark it with a star. I can later select to export only the starred icons to Anki.

Currently, this seems like a good compromise for me: I still can read somewhat fast and enjoy the process but I still have the option of repeating some words that I learned. I had initially gotten Finding Nemo for 100 yen at a bookoff but looking everything up manually in a dictionary and writing it down was fun for the first two pages. I also don’t notice a difference in retention when it comes to the words I looked up in a dictionary compared to the ones that I just had to click on to get the definition.

This doesn’t work of course for more image based content like in the OP. For that I would probably just read as much as I can and move on. I tried for a while to create Anki cards based on the Shirokuma Cafe manga but I stopped since the time investment wasn’t worth it for me.


I also think adding words with unknown kanji won’t help that much. I’m relying on Wanikani to teach them over time. In my case, as the book is written for children, there aren’t too many difficult kanji. Actually it is the opposite: sometimes I stumble upon a word written in hiragana and don’t know what it means. As soon as I look it up and see the corresponding kanji I also know the word because I already learned it through Wanikani :joy:

That looks a bit intimidating - I’m glad my pages have so many pictures on it :wink:

That function seems very useful! Unfortunately I don’t like to read “digital” that much. So writing notes it is!


The looking a lot of words seems like whats expected, the more vocab you jump in when tackling native content, the less, but overall I would put a limit in any case.

I had the books which I started quite some time before jumping into those… by the time I could read those whithout having to search more than 5-8 words per page (aproximately) I decided to give them a try. Before that it was painful and not really fun… so I kept with graded readers for a while.

This was only my approach, it only depends if you can keep up with it.

I underline the text in the book though (mine aren’t as cute as the one you posted, so I’m ok with underline on the book with a graphite) after searching, and then that goes to my list on Evernote.

I’m currently keeping a document with the words I found when reading, and will use Yomichan and one of the dictionaries it has (Innocent Corpus) that actually its a frecuency list… since reading can bring a lot of new words, I will use yomichan to know which words are more common and will pick enough words from my readings as to have a constant new words per day to add to my Anki deck.

Using digital media it’s more efficient, because you can automate the process a lot more, and have the exact sentence where you picked up the word right there to add to a possible card. But, I’ve realize that if I review the card soon enough, I will keep some memory about where I read it at least.

I’m not too keen on tacking notes… writing side comments or anything like that … the less I do that more time to read; so I’m trying to keep all my media in a format that’s easy for me to pick up new words and review them without to much hassle.

As @irrelephant mentioned… after the first pages it all comes down to time management. Reading a couple of pages it doable no matter how you do it… making an habit out of it… that’s the real challenge :man_shrugging:


That picture book looks beautiful :heart_eyes:
With the relatively simple sentences, furigana, and pictures to assist in understanding the context, it seems like a really good first book to read.

Regarding your notes, I was impressed by your diligence, but if you ask me, it’s a bit much :sweat_smile:
You can try a more lax (sentence based) approach like this:
If there is a word you don’t understand, but you still get the gist of the sentence, move on.
Only look things up and write down the sentence when a) you really don’t understand what the sentence is saying, or you b) come across a sentence with a word or grammar pattern again that you came across earlier but didn’t understand (if it’s nagging at you, you are more likely to remember the answer).

Two more points:

  • Don’t translate everything. If you know a word, don’t write down what it means in english. This helps to start the process of seperating the two languages in your mind. When you copy a sentence, only write down the translations of the words you don’t know (or even don’t write any translations at all).
  • Rather than analysing the sentence by writing down the meaning of particles and so on, try internalising the sentence as a whole and by repeating the words in your head, “convincing” of the roles and meanings of the words. (Does this even make sense)

The copying is really good practice, but can be quite tedious. Don’t wear yourself out to the point where you don’t want to study at all anymore.

Good luck on your journey!


My first thought exactly. I would color photocopy or scan the pages then write directly on the copies. I would highlight new words on the first read through then make notes in pencil on the second read. As I learned more kanji I would erase the notes or replace the hiragna with kanji if appropriate.


Thank you for all your comments!

I need to look up more than 8 words per page right now. But I hope that it will get better when I have more practice and I’m going to try some of the tips you all gave me.

That’s right, but I really like to write something with my hand and I tend to remember it better that way. Well, I’m using Anki/Kitsun to study vocabulary, I don’t write all these by hand, but handwriting really helped me a lot in school and university. :slightly_smiling_face:

I find it way more enjoyable than Yotsubato. Tried the first few pages, but it wasn’t the right book for me (at least right now).
Thank you for your tips, I wil definitely try them!

First I also thought about that. But as the book has about 160 pages it seemed a bit much. On the other hand copying down all the sentences really takes quite some time. :sweat_smile: Maybe going to copy the pages in the long run.
If it wasn’t such a beautiful book I would just take my notes directly on the pages, but, well :woman_shrugging::laughing:

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I’ve been doing a similar thing with a manga that I got free from ebook Japan (I can’t even remember the title, but it’s about the new doctor working in the school infirmary who hates kids, which is fairly entertaining).

My rule of thumb is that if the sentence has something particularly interesting or confusing (e.g. I can’t figure out what it means once I’ve looked up all the words), I copy it down. I also do sentences that help me keep track of the story (because I’m totally unfamiliar with the plot, which may not have been the best choice ever).

I’ve been using loose leaf paper, so I copy the sentence in black or blue, then mark important (reasonably common, or really important to understanding the sentence) in red, and unfamiliar grammar in green.

Unless it’s really unusual vocabulary that I don’t care about learning atm (I’m looking at you 養護教諭), I actually write my translations of the vocabulary on the back of the page, along with explanations of the grammar if it’s not really brief (I noted that ご was an honorific prefix on the front, but have been describing the meaning of different sentence ending particles and longer constructions on the back).

Since I take down sentences that help me remember the plot, as well as sentences that are working on grammar, when I pick up my notes to keep reading, I read back over the previous couple sentences to jog my memory about what was happening. It doubles as a quick quiz, like “Do I remember any of these vocabulary words?” - Often I can remember enough of the story to infer some of the vocabulary that I don’t remember, and I can flip the sheet over to check vocabulary that I’m not sure about. Not having the vocabulary on the front of the page with the Japanese helps me actually try to remember the words before I cheat and look at the translation.

It took me a few attempts to settle on a strategy that I liked. When I was reading Chi’s sweet home, I looked up words when I had to, but mostly just kept reading and tried to understand as much as I could. This time I’m trying to look a bit more closely at how the grammar is working (because I have a bit more grammar background now, though not a ton).

I have the 魔女の宅急便 Studio Ghibli book like the one you’re doing, and it is quite lovely. I totally sympathize with not wanting to write in the book.

Sorry for the major long post, I talk too much. I’m also kinda new to the reading thing, so this is just my two cents.

I’m glad I’m not the only one who just kinda skipped graded readers because I don’t mind (and actually enjoy) working through difficult things and having to look up tons of words so that I can choose something I’m interested in.

Good luck! As long as you’re enjoying it and can stick with it, I’m not convinced there is a “wrong” way.

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@Nishi790 thank you for telling us how you take notes while reading! :smiley: That’s a really interesting way of doing so. Maybe I’m going to try it.
At the moment I don’t copy all the Japanese any more, but I only write down the vocabulary that I didn’t know before. That’s a lot faster :sweat_smile:

Well, it is often recommended to “just keep reading”, but I’m not sure as to how much I would really learn doing this. I believe without taking notes I might forget most of it.
How did you enjoy reading Chi’s sweet home like this? Do you feel like it was a benefit for you?

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I found it pretty helpful. I picked up some vocabulary and grammar from trying to figure out what was being said. It was also nice for just feeling accomplished that I was getting what was happening, even if I missed details. I also really enjoyed being able to figure out roughly what a word meant by looking at the context, rather than looking up an English equivalent.

I probably wouldn’t try it with a book yet, because I know I’d get lost. The pictures in the manga kept me on track, even when I wasn’t sure what all of the words meant.

In general, I plan to go back to Chi and read it more intensively (trying to learn the vocabulary and grammar patterns). I kind of expect to read my Japanese books several times - once to get the gist, once to learn more of the details (why did they say it like that? What exactly does that word mean?), and then again a while later to (hopefully) find out that I learned stuff and can understand better now - Ask me in 6 months how that plan works out :stuck_out_tongue:

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