Week 4: 小川未明童話集 - Ogawa Mimei’s Collection of Children’s Stories

You mean reading in general or reading specific things like articles, books, manga?

For each of these it will vary. The NHK Web Easy articles are definitely a good place to start if your grammar is around N4 level or above.

Reading manga can be deceptive, because there is a ton of different genres, themes, characters speaking in different styles and there is a prevalence of short colloquial expressions and blurring the lines between politeness levels.

Books and stories can also be a mixed bag. Like the previous story from 大川先生 is actually a decent one, because it has a moderate amount of kanji and only slightly archaic forms. The current one seems to be on the tougher side. But books aimed at children or young teenagers (middle schoolers) are probably a reasonable general direction.

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Oh please don‘t! This story is not very easy indeed, and if you’re only learning for a few months, then I can totally see that this would be a bit much. We also have an Absolute Beginners Book Club who read simpler books and manga. You can join their current pick or select one of their older books - there are discussion threads with lots of explanations that you can still use ans where you can still ask questions. Maybe that’s more fitting to your current level?

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For what it’s worth I think everyone’s interpretations, varied as they are, boil down to more or less the same thing. I don’t have anything more to add to the ほど discussion at the moment, but just for fun, I thought I’d show you how machine translation fared with the phrase.

Original phrase:
旅人は、その国に入りますと、いずれも、この陶器店をたずねぬほどのものはなかったのです。

Deepl:
Every time a traveler entered the country, there was nothing he or she could not find in this pottery store. :thinking:

Google Translate:
When a traveler entered the country, none of them could ask for this pottery shop. :roll_eyes:

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That’s hilarious, thanks for sharing :blush: DeepL is actually not thaaaat bad (at least it got the double negation sorted) but Google just blew it. :woman_shrugging:

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I think Deepl got a little confused by たずね (as we all did), because if one uses kanji, it gets even better:
旅人は、その国に入りますと、いずれも、この陶器店を尋ねぬほどのものはなかったのです。
Whenever a traveler entered the country, there was nothing he or she could not ask for at this pottery store.

But I had some negative experience with DeepL lately when working through NHK articles (the regular ones) where in long sentences DeepL would just lose its way and miss all the nuances :frowning: .

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Oh that’s interesting, that’s another nuance we missed earlier maybe? What happens if you use the other kanji for it?

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旅人は、その国に入りますと、いずれも、この陶器店を訪ねぬほどのものはなかったのです。
Whenever travelers entered the country, there was nothing they could do to avoid visiting this pottery store.

I have mixed feelings about this one, though.

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It sounds a bit funny, but I think it’s somehow spot-on in a weird way…

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Like the others have said, just keep trying right now! In addition to the suggestions that the others have made, I have found that some of the earlier books of the Beginners Book Club were much easier. I can really recommend Flying Witch and Aria. With the vocab sheets and discussions in those threads, you can probably read them without too much trouble (and the pictures also help). Personally, I feel that these old stories that we are reading right now are too difficult for the Beginners Club.

For me, it also really helped to get an App (like Manabi Reader) or other software that makes it really easy to look up dictionary definitions with a single click while you’re reading websites, for example.

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I also wanted to add that everyone should not be afraid to ask questions! I’ve been a bit surprised so far that we have mostly been discussing quite complicated sentences with esoteric grammar (compared to earlier beginner book club threads, I think). I don’t think the beginner book club is meant to be just ~ level 30 users discussing archaic grammar. So if you have any questions about the ‘simpler’ sentences or vocabulary, don’t be afraid to ask! We’re all here to help out. :smiley:

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This one was certainly a slog, but it definitely has a moral. The Emperor’s New Rice Bowl, sort of thing. :slightly_smiling_face:

I’m sure I had lots of questions, but the main one my brain is latching on to is: doesn’t 善悪 refer to whether something is morally good/bad?

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I think so. It’s actually a WaniKani item, I think: WaniKani / Vocabulary / 善悪

To my understanding it’s one of those “2 for 1” words like 男女 or 前後 , but in general it probably refers to morality. I found a couple of words in Jisho, like 善悪二元論 (the dualism of good and evil).

And the 善 kanji refers specifically to moral good, unlike I guess 良 which would refer to qualitative good?
(Apologies if I’m captain obvious at this point :sweat_smile: )

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No exotic grammar question.
Just trying to make sure i understand what is going on :slight_smile:
また、いい絵かきを雇いました.

He also hired a good drawing. It makes no sense at all. Does it mean the owner of pottery is trying to find good designs/ideas. Is 絵 here represents designs?

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絵かき means “painter”. I thought 画家 is painter, but I guess both are?

So I finally started reading the story and it looks like the first translation is more accurate, after all. I would change it a little bit to match the grammar of the sentence better:

When travelers entered that country, there wasn’t a thing they couldn’t inquire about in this pottery store.

The next sentence kind of emphasizes this:

そして、さっそく、そのみせにまいりました。
Thus, they would come to that store right away.

By the way, the keigo isn’t so bad and once one gets used to Ogawa’s writing style, the story becomes very digestible :slight_smile: .

Here’s a sentence that I think is worth discussing due to the convoluted structure:

これならば、こちらに命令めいれいをしてもさしつかえあるまい。
I’ve actually heard これならば somewhere in anime before, I think, and although it’s theoretically not a set expression, that’s how I would interpret the sentence:
If that is the case, carrying out an order for me/us shouldn’t be a problem / cause trouble.

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The moral in a nutshell

All this keigo was definitely a struggle. But hey, I finally saw 存じる in the wild :smiley:

At the beginning there’s someone (a 旅人 I’m assuming) saying

ああ、なんというりっぱなさらだろう。

What does the なさら part mean?

Edit: I accidentally posted this too early but I think that surprise shocked me straight into a revelation. It’s 立派な皿, right? :man_facepalming:

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The breakdown looks like this:
なんという+りっぱな+さら+だろう

EDIT: Correct :smiley:

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I think my brain was too deep in keigo mode so I assumed it had to be some form of なさる :joy:

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Yeah, 小川先生 be throwing them keigos around like a king, but forgets simple kanji :smiley: .
Sometimes with stories like this I really wonder who the target audience is, because no way in hell a kid would be able to navigate through all the keigo and archaic vocab.

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I guess children just naturally pick up on archaic language the more fairy tales they hear or read. They usually have the massive advantage of having a parent around to explain all of this to them as well :smiley:

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I was thinking that this might also be part of the goal of a story like this: to teach children about formal language. That, and throwing in as much lofty Keigo as possible just to make fun of it.

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