Trying to Read Above Your Level? Need Advice

So I have this light novel. I’m dying to read it, but it’s lightyears ahead of where I am with Japanese - for comparison I recently read a level 0 graded reader and got about 80% of it.
Is there any way I can make use of this book in my studies? Vocab? Grammar? Anything? Or should it just sit on my bookshelf taunting me?
I know the graded readers are a better fit for trying to read but what about just studying in general? Anyone else go through this with anything?


My personal experience with trying to incorporate material from something I want to be able to eventually read is that it ends up not working. That is, if there is a disconnect between the source material and what I’m learning from it (such as pre-reviewing an Anki deck with vocabulary from the source), I find there’s no “meaning” to the material I’m learning, and thus it does not stick.

Disclaimer: Some people do very well such methods.

What has worked for me personally is sitting down with the actual item I want to read, going through it line by line, looking up the vocabulary I don’t know, and looking up the grammar I don’t know. It’s a long, slow process in the beginning, but the more grammar I learned, the faster it went (little by little, over time). Not everyone likes the upfront time and effort cost to this method, versus other methods.

I actually haven’t properly tackled light novels yet, as they have a lot more words than manga, and it’s harder to follow the context because it’s driven entirely by the vocabulary and grammar (no imagery or tone of voice).

When I learn words from manga I’m actively reading (or anime I’m watching), there’s a connection to the scene where it’s from, which helps me remember to meaning and reading.

Lately, I’ve been learning kanji (aside from WaniKani) from a book that’s coming up in a book club here, and I’m definitely feeling that disconnect. I’m having difficulty getting used to the kanji, to associate a meaning to the vocabulary word, and to recall the reading.

Your mileage may vary.


I’d say try it and find out!

Chances are you’ll be able to at least understand something (remember even recognizing hiragana is presumably much farther than where you were in the past), and as long as you keep up a basic amount with your studies it’ll only get easier in the future, so there’s no reason to get discouraged.

You may find that it’s too slow and painful to be fun, and that’s okay, you can always come back to it later (and those eventual “wow this was incredibly difficult for me before but now it’s not too bad!” moments are awfully satisfying). Or you may find that your enthusiasm for the material now outweighs the difficulty and you enjoy pressing through.

Either way, it’s just a little more opportunity to know where you’re at and figure out what motivates you.
If you’re dying to read it, there’s no harm in trying, as long as you go in with the mindset more like “this will probably be too hard but maybe It’ll be fun anyway” than “I’m gonna read this now or fail.”
Good luck!


This. This is exactly what I wanted to try. I don’t need to READ the book cover to cover. I just want to learn from something I know I’ll enjoy. Cover to cover can be for graded readers.


By the way, I was probably not much further along that you in actual grammar knowledge when I picked up my first material that I was serious about reading. (Although I had a good amount of vocabulary that I had learned and forgotten.)

Back then, I would sometimes spend an hour on a panel like this from it.


But I enjoyed the material very much, as thus was able to work my way through the whole first volume. Since then I’ve stumbled through the second volume, which I plan to re-read when I know some more kanji. I haven’t started the third yet, but I’ll be ready for it one day!


Can I ask how you look up kanji/words/grammar? Since mine’s a light novel it doesn’t have furigana. I know how to look up by radicals but when there’s hiragana mixed in I get a little lost.

When I first started reading I basically did this. I went through line by line and would literally look like everything up I didn’t understand and just try to understand the sentences. Sometimes I wouldn’t be able to, but I got good at knowing how to Google stuff and learned a lot.

But yeah, make the goal learning and not finishing. I mean, you should try to finish it, but don’t gauge your success by how much you read. In a way, your goal should be to come across as much unknown stuff as possible that you are then able to figure out thanks to Google and whatnot.

With that being said, you should try not to get hung up on sentences that just don’t make sense. It’s hard to move on and even I would get hung up sometimes, but it’s for the best not to spend 30 minutes on one sentence.


Is yours a digital or physical copy.

Physical. I looked for the ebook but didn’t find it.

You can buy the vocab list on (if it’s not there) and start SRSing the most frequently used vocab to be able to jump in asap when the time comes.

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You might be able to take photos of pages with a smartphone if you have one, and use an application that can convert it into text and do a lookup. (I’ve never tried this, so I’m not certain what’s available.)

Another option is to buy a digital version of the light novel, then copy text into Jisho (if the reader software lets you), or else screenshot it and run it through Copyfish to convert to something you can put into Jisho.

Way back in the past (when the Internet was younger and smartphones didn’t exist), it was a matter of carrying around a thick kanji book called The Learner’s Kanji Dictionary and looking up kanji one by one =D

What’s the name of the book?

I second this. Even if you don’t get to reading very far into the book right now, the most frequent vocabulary words are likely to come up in other things you try reading.


Just curious, what light novel is it?

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ダンガンロンパ0。I’ve read an English translation awhile ago but not sure how accurate it was. And the books are so pretty! They have a few illustrations.


How do you look up grammar specifically? I tried putting 絶望してわた into and it said the last bit of it was a cotton plant. I need a dictionary of Japanese grammer.

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Is it this?

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Yes! It’s two volumes. I don’t know how to get japanese kindle books tho…

Personally for kanji I just got used to searching by radical, or guesses at the reading. Not fun at first but eventually it’s not too bad as you get used to it so imo the practice pays off.

If an android phone, I personally think the app “Takoboto” has a more forgiving search system than Jisho’s when it comes to chunks where you aren’t sure where words begin and end. It’ll often be able to give likely word boundaries where Jisho tends to give up if you aren’t just right.

These ones are great, but honestly for looking stuff up during reading regular dictionaries are often going to be more helpful, as they’ll have grammar-related phrases in them too that can get the job done for you in a pinch.


You can look up a guide, but I would highly recommend doing that. Then use the ttu reader to yomichan everything.

Especially as an absolute beginner to reading books, I think the cost of getting the ebook is far worth it when you consider the time you save on lookups and whatnot. Yomichan will even help you with grammar.


Even if the translation was so-so, having read it before in English gives you a super power.

You might not see it right away, because you have so much waiting to be learned. But once you’re able to start to sort of get the gist of what you’re reading, having read it in English helps you fill in the context that might otherwise be too difficult to discern from reading in Japanese alone.

It depends in part what you’re looking for, but often putting in a part of a sentence followed by the word “grammar” into a search engine will help. Not always, but you’ll get used to what works and what does not work over time.

For 「絶望してわた」, I’d need more content, such as the whole sentence that it’s in, and maybe the sentences before and after it.

If you can afford it, A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar is really good to have around. But you can also get a lot of the information online (in various articles) once you get used to how to search for grammar. (Basically, the same as what @rodan wrote!)

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I sort of forced myself with much frustration to read a book above my level.

I did not even know was talking at times to be honest. But the next book became a muchhhhh easier experience.

I belive I could even reaf that book now. I don’t mileage may vary?

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