Teasing Master Takagi-san 😝 ・ Absolute Beginners Book Club

I already started to dip in a little. It’s my first book and it is really difficult. I feel like I learned nothing after 4 month of Japanese study.

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It’s only natural in the beginning, no worries! I remember my first few pages of Yotsuba taking easily one or two hours per page, because I still needed to check / double check every piece of text, look up unfamiliar grammar and stuff. It gets easier the more you practice! Just hang in there, and if there’s anything unclear, don’t be afraid to ask :smile_cat:

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Can’t wait to start! This will be my first book club involvement.

I feel like I’ve been getting to the point in my studies where I need to start integrating more reading and this next book is starting at the perfect time.

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This is exactly the expected experience, so you’re on the right path =D

You’ll find you are experiencing one of two things:

  1. You haven’t learned enough grammar.
    Caveat: At four months in, any amount of grammar you may have learned won’t be enough for the first time you read.
  2. You haven’t read enough to build up pattern recognition. (And in that case, you’re in the right place!)

Regarding point (2), the brain is a pattern recognition machine. The way you become familiar with things is by encountering them over and over again, so that patterns become recognized. It takes time, so don’t worry if you’re needing to re-learn some grammar and vocabulary multiple times along the way.

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I would read along but I am really really new so I wouldn’t understand a thing. I might try to read the first chapter(because I can get it for free) and then maybe I’ll try.

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I’d say still to give it a try. With the furiganas, your wanikani level doesn’t matter. You can still read the pronunciation, and can find the stray kanji by typing them out. At the same time, even just by reading along and listening to the surrounding discussion you’ll get to see where other people struggle, and might learn a thing or two from them. The earlier you start, the more exposure you get, and the easier it’ll be in the end

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Yeah that’s a good point. And I guess when I am doing something with other people it keeps me motivated. I know that I’m extra motivated now because I’m a beginner, but I also know it won’t last so maybe it’s better to get in the habit.

Since this is my first time participating in a book club, I was wondering if any of the more experienced members had any tips on how to make the most of it?

Particularly around grammar, as I think I have a better handle on how to approach the vocab (e.g. look up (some) vocab I don’t know, and if important or re-occurring then add it to Anki).

E.g.
Do you write down / record sentences you struggle with to break down later? do you break down sentences in the moment?
Is your goal to understand everything? or just enough to progress with the story?

I have started dabbling in the first chapter to figure out how difficult it will be, and I’ve started writing out some of the more interesting sentences to break down how they work (particularly around particles and verb-endings/helper-verbs).

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This is the intensive reading/extensive reading split.

For my first manga, I went the intensive reading route, looking up every grammar and vocabulary I didn’t know. After a while, I started to get used to the most common grammar, and reading became easier (maybe 5%). However, I was reading something I knew I’d enjoy (having had seen the anime adaptation), and I have a high tolerance for spending two hours working through a four-panel strip.

I continued the same method for the next few manga, but it wasn’t quite as enjoyable because the material wasn’t as interesting for me. (Shirokuma Cafe, and Chi’s Sweet Home. Things picked up for me with Flying Witch.) By then, reading was a lot easier because I got to know so much basic grammar.

After I had that basic grammar down, I was ready to dabble in the extensive reading route. As sort of a bridge from intensive to extensive, I picked up a series I knew well, having previously read it in English and having seen the anime adaptation two or three times. Knowing the context to everything in advance removed a lot of ambiguity, allowing me to read at a faster pace. This lead to increased acquiring of grammar recognition. I was also able to skip looking up a lot of unknown words, because I still knew what was going on.

Extensive reading gets easier the more grammar and vocabulary you know. Try it too early, and you may find it both unfulfilling and unrewarding.

My recommendation for grammar is:

  1. Read up at least a little on any grammar you don’t know. You want to have at least a vague idea of it so you can recognize it when you encounter it again later.

  2. In-depth reading on grammar can be time-consuming. Do it if you can, and if you know you won’t burn out on it. But if you don’t have the time or stamina, then focus on reading up more on grammar that comes up two or three times.

  3. After you’ve see grammar show up more than a few times, consider how well you know it. You may have had enough exposure that you can better understand explanations of the grammar.

This method will work for some people, and not for others. If you give it a try and it doesn’t fit your learning style, don’t hesitate to try a different method until you find something that works better for you.

And most importantly, this manga’s volumes are nicely compartmentalized, so if you struggle with one chapter and fall behind on it, you can skip it when we begin the next chapter. (But never hesitate to ask questions!)

There’s quite a lot of grammar in those first several pages!

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I usually use a mix of the intensive and extensive styles of reading, depending on how much is going over my head. I’ll happily read along until I’ve literally lost the plot, then I’ll go back over what I’ve just read to figure out what’s going on. That usually involves looking up words, googling a grammar point I don’t understand, and/or breaking down the sentence to get my bearings before continuing on.

Looking up unknown kanji can be an interesting experience, but thankfully you’ll have furigana to help you out with this book club. It is kind of handy to have a decent number of kanji under your belt sometimes (I just reset from Level 30 for a refresher course, and I’ve found Level 30 covers a whole lot of the most common kanji), especially when the furigana are super tiny and blurry, but you can get by without knowing any kanji at all.

And always ask questions whenever you need to. Everyone is super supportive and no question goes unanswered.

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What I would recommend against is what I did when I started out, and that is to translate everything line by line. I felt like it would give me a better grip of what was going on, but it ended up costing a lot of time and sometimes confused me more than it helped. A lot of structures in Japanese cannot be translated into English very literally, so you end up wasting a lot of time worrying about such things, when reading and translating are very different skills! I would suggest reserving the full-on translation treatment only for the most difficult sentences you otherwise can’t figure out.

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My motto: Do what you can do… It’s all you can do. :upside_down_face:

I guess that I did a hybrid of Phryne's and Christopher Fritz's methods.

Starting at 6 months of Japanese, I found that I could look up kanji, and what “looked like” a “word” to piece together a probably meaning and how to say each line. But all of that stuff at the end (verb endings) and particles, were “spaghetti” to me…a tangled mess.

Side effect: Using “handwriting input” into Google translate, and having handwritten notes REALLY improved my handwriting and kanji learning. (also meaning/reading recall, because I would write those down). 4 lines:
Original sentence, reading notes, direct meaning, Clean English. Boxes around [word, reading, meaning] is like a little flash card.

I looked at what other people said about the grammar and meaning and particles… Researched some, but it would take me over an hour or sentence for “the intensive”. I absorbed “what I could”. I wrote down everything and tried to read it and tried to memorize the Vocabulary. It ALL helps. It took into after a year of Japanese study before I was able to find things on that Aeron Buchanan verb chart.

I like having my written notes to review later, as my understanding evolves (and yet I forgot some Vocabulary), it is very helpful.

Hey @FokkoFenneken , did you happen to update the 消しゴム anki with the kanji? I got crabby going through the deck with only hiragana, and altered the notes on a Tagisan 消しゴム deck I expected to my Google Drive. I’m not good at technical stuff, but beginners might find this deck more useful, because it has more “correct answer” options, and the kanji so you can see it. I’m not sure how these are “supposed to be” shared and stuff, though…

I prefer having the kanji, because weekend I learn something, I only want to learn it once.

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that’s fair! i haven’t gotten around to it yet, but my plan is to create an anki deck that only has kanji - that way you can either type the definition or the reading, since you should know the vocab from the original deck.

EDIT - nvm, i created it. original post is updated but you can also find the kanji deck ~here~

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I felt pretty happy recognizing that from Wani as well. This must be what it felt like when we were little learning how to read. You read the word “cat” for the first time, beside the big cartoon pic of the cat, and peed your pants with excitement, literally.

Thanks to everyone for the great advice!

I have been working through some Tadoku graded reader series from ASK publishing prior to this, the grammar is simple enough though that I haven’t had to look it up generally and so it ends up just being vocab.

I have tried to go through the graded readers extensively but I keep getting too curious and just falling back to look up every word (intensive).

Will do, thanks!

That’s comforting to know, I was a bit worried that I’d fall too far behind if I went too far into intensive.

Yeah! It was somewhat surprising, but I’m hoping that similar grammatical constructs will keep re-appearing in later parts.

I guess you have to get used to that feeling?

+1
I have a Japanese electronic dictionary which makes kanji lookup a bit easier (it can somehow make sense of my incorrect stroke order and bad technique?!?)

Will do =D

That makes sense, what I’ve been doing is writing down either lines or critical parts of lines, and then writing a note under them - not translating the meaning - but annotating what the grammar point is.
E.g. for rareru I wrote receptive/suffering helper verb, and other another verb I wrote the dict. form and a note on the kind of “conjugation” (IIRC it was potential).
So I still have to do the sentence deconstruction in my head, but the notes help me keep track of new things.

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When asking a question we should include a page number, but which page number?
It seems that this book has 2 different sets of page numbers =O

The contents page for example specifies page numbers for chapters, and then correspond with the very infrequent page numbers in the bottom corner of the page (e.g. of chapter title pages).

Here is the title page for the first chapter showing a number “3” in the bottom left

Summary

Additionally every page includes a small page number between the panels which doesn’t match up with the numbers from the table of contents.

Here is a picture of the first (on the right) and second (on the left) pages of panels. Note the numbers “2” and “3”, whereas according to the table of contents (and title page) they are pages “4” and “5”.

Summary

If I was asking a question about the first page of panels could I call it “page 2”? or should I call it “page 4”?

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Looking at the first chapter, some common grammar (and writing styles) I see includes:

  • Replacing some れ/る sounds with with ん.
  • Explanatory の (as I wrote about somewhere earlier in this thread).
  • Katakana for some words. (We’ve been talking about this a bit in the Beginner Book Club this past week.)
  • Replacing some long vowels in hiragana with ー (as normally seen in katakana).
  • All sorts of sentence-ending particles (including combinations thereof).
  • こと.
  • Shortening じゃない to じゃん.
  • [name]め.
  • All kinds of helper verbs, such as れる, ます, and ちゃった.

I expect we’ll keep seeing these, so don’t worry if they don’t sink in on the first appearance.

That’s a good catch, and something to consider before we start in…a day or two!

What do you think, @Phryne? We have two sets of page numbers:

  • “Page number of the volume” that pretty much never shows up on pages.
  • “Page number of the chapter” (each chapter beginning at page 1) which does show up on every page.

(Since we’ll have a new thread per chapter, my recommendation is to use the latter.)

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This list is superbly accurate.

This is very confusing =O

オレ was one that kept sticking out to me.

These are my weakness, hopefully this’ll help me improve.

+1, I naively think the numbers on each page will be easier, otherwise I think we have to count or do math.

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You and @chrisosaurus make some excellent points!

I agree about the page numbers. I’ll keep the book-wide page numbers in the schedule, because that is based on chapters anyway, so I doubt it’ll lead to confusion. But for discussion I think you are right that chapter-wide page numbers are more suitable. I will make sure to include a note about that when I make the first discussion thread in a few hours!

Speaking of which… do you mind if I add that list you made to the discussion thread OP as well (with attribution of course)? I think it could be useful for people to know what sort of phenomena to look out for.

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Here in Sydney it is only 2.5 hours until the start time =D

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