What process do you use for intensive and extensive reading?

Looking at reading processes, I know the difference between intensive and extensive reading and the pros snd cons of each, but just wondering how people break out of the graded readers into native content without feeling swamped and overwhelmed.

So far, my process for short stories and graded readers (or the 2 ミラーさん novels) has been to read the story or chapter extensively, see what I do pick up, read it again after checking some vocabulary or grammar I was unsure of and see how much I’ve picked up the second time then intensively read it a third time so I understand as much as possible.

For the ミラーさん novels, after a break from them, I’ve gone back and have understood most of what I missed the first time and with the short stories and graded readers I’ve re read them extensively after finishing them or another book.

I don’t really want to use this “read 3 times” method for all the books I read, so basically what I’m looking for is, what process do/ did you use and how do you find it helps/ helped you break into native materials?


Casting my mind back to when I was getting started with native materials, I never read anything more than once. My process then was basically what it is now – read through, only look things up if I feel I absolutely have to to understand the section or if the same word has just come up three times, don’t bother doing lookups for “I know this word but have forgotten the reading”. I don’t try to harvest vocab for pre- or post-reading review.

My philosophy here is that I enjoy reading, and I do not enjoy dictionary lookups or vocab review, so I try to spend as much time on the former and as little on the latter as I can. More important to me is reading stuff that’s not too difficult for me, and reading stuff where I want to keep reading, to find out what happens.


I try to have one book that is harder that I read extensively (right now that’s かくりよの宿飯, where I look up all the words I don’t know), typically for around an hour a day, and another book - where I know most of the vocab and grammar - which I read extensively (つぐみ by 吉本バナナ, where I look up a word or two a page) for maybe thirty minutes.

If I find a passage quite difficult, I’ll reread it (which usually helps quite a bit), but I certainly won’t read anything all the way through multiple times. Sometimes you just have to let things go, honestly. You’ll probably find that when you come back to something difficult after a few months you understand it really well!


I’ve just remembered that I actually wrote down my views from back then (14 years ago, where does the time go?), if you want a take from past-me who presumably had fresher memories of the process :slight_smile:


Enjoying reading is exactly where I want to get to as I’ve found my enjoyment starting to dip quite badly. I’ll try seeing if I can find something that’s a bit easier than what I’m trying now and see how I go.

Thanks for the insight :blush:


I certainly have found that when re reading the ミラーさん novels. I tend to have taken quite a break between reads of those and it was more for trying to pick up the grammar and vocabulary from the minna no nihongo text books.

The other stuff I’ve read tends to be quite short per chapter or story (like a few pages at most) so re reading wasn’t much of an issue.

I’m trying to read “Read Real Japanese” (has native material in it that is in full then English meanings for certain more difficult passages and sentences explained) just finding it difficult to read them first time and understand most than a few bits here and there.

If you used graded readers, how did you find your first book/ story in native Japanese? Was it a difficult switch over or did it just feel a bit higher level with more look ups than normal?

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Awesome, thanks. I will check that out. Much appreciated :blush:


This got a bit long and sort of goes off topic, but:

I used Satori Reader, which was a nice way to practice for a bit. I then (~8 months into my Japanese studies, at N5/N4 grammatically and level ~15 of WaniKani) went into a volume of manga (high school romance, ~N4 level) which exposed me to the N4 grammar points that I was fuzzy on/hadn’t learned yet. It wasn’t too bad, as I knew how to read and could understand lots of it.

However, I then succumbed to the urge (read: stupidity) to read the first volume of a light novel series that has an excellent English translation (ティアムーン帝国物語) which is somewhere around the N3 level. I love it to pieces, but what I did was less reading, more looking up every other word. I made it through because I love it, but it was way too above my level. :sweat_smile: I wasn’t really reading for the first half of the book (although I’ve properly read two more volumes in the series).

So… I’m definitely not the best example to follow, lol. In all seriousness, I have a high tolerance for lookups, so I don’t mind even if there are a lot of those, but I would recommend transitioning to something that matches your grammar knowledge after doing graded readers. They will prepare you to read, but you should choose something that’s more manageable. I recommend trying Kindle samples and seeing how difficult you find books. Natively is also helpful for transitioning!


For me, the process was more or less:

  1. Find something I really wanted to read, and go through it intensively.

  2. Outside of intensive reading lookups, also learn grammar separately along the way (I used Cure Dolly’s Youtube videos here).

  3. Once comfortable with N5 and some N4 grammar, find something I already knew from reading/watching in English that I wanted to go through again. Since I already knew what was going on, I could read extensively. No need to understand everything from reading since I already knew what was going on, and I built up reading speed and recognition of grammar at a rapid pace.

  4. Start extensive reading easier manga (items you’d find in the Absolute Beginner Book Club here on the forums) while also intensively reading slightly harder manga (like you’d see in the Beginner Book Club).

That worked out well for me, but for others, it might not.


Thanks for the insight. I’ve been marking my owned books on natively to get approx levels for them to then try reading them in a sort of level order, although a lot of my owned books aren’t yet graded so are probably way above my level.

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Thanks for an insight into your reading process. In that case, I think most of the stuff I have for reading is probably N3 or higher (most are ungraded books for native readers and very few have grades on natively or such yet) except the short story books and maybe one or two beginner level books (nyan nyan kitty detectives set being one).

The absolute beginners book club books that I can see, aren’t anything I have currently so thinking I might need to either dive into the intensive reading first for a few books then switch to extensive reading, or might need to shell out on something like shirokuma cafe maybe.


for me, the most important aspect was always reading something i actually wanted to read.

when i started reading (around WK 13, very poor grammar) i reached way above my level (with やがて君になる), so i had to do a lot of lookups. and i mean a lot, often i was typing whole sentences into google. didn’t do any vocab mining or anything, re-reading only if something really springs out (as i would in any of my other languages). i was reading for the story, that reading is excellent practice for language learners is incidental.

now, i read as extensively as i can. the last several manga i read (隣の吸血鬼さん, the Kase-san series, ハピネス) i read without doing any lookups. sure, there are occasional words i don’t know, or have to guess at by context, but i consistently understand enough that i’m fine with that.

with my first LN (the やが君 spin-off) i’m looking up words i don’t know. this is made very convenient by being able to look them up directly on the kindle. i’m still reaching above my level when it comes to grammar, but i’m close enough that i don’t have to look stuff up.

when looking for native reading material, you might find natively useful. they rank books by perceived difficulty, which could be helpful in choosing what to read. they also link to the WK bookclubs when applicable


Thanks for the insight :slightly_smiling_face:

I’m currently on Natively as well but a lot of the native books (non graded readers) I own had to be added to their database so that’s made things a little more difficult with picking things that should be suitable for me, unless it’s graded readers but I’m trying to find something longer so I’m not re-adjusting to a new writing style too quickly.

Starting to think it may be best just to try jumping into something I’m interested in and just take it slow, keep notes on plot/ characters etc and just look up what I need to til I get the gist of it.

Did you find that reading those series became easier as you progressed through them or was it more a case of it getting easier because your grammar understanding increased through studying?

I’m still studying from a textbook or other sources for grammar and have the dictionary of grammar set to help support that as well but I really want to start reading more indepth books and stuff for fun that isn’t graded readers.


it definitely got easier! i read やが君 over the course of half a year or so. so obviously i made a lot of progress overall with my japanese, but also the writing style etc. became easier. with Kase-san, some of the characters have distinct speaking styles, and it definitely got easier to understand them as i continued.

much of what i’ve been reading is source-material for anime i’ve watched. that means i’m at least familiar with the characters and (parts of) the story. that definitely helped with context, which helped a lot with understanding the written japanese.

but yes, i’d recommend jumping right in. at worst, you’ll realise that you’re not quite ready yet, and try again later. at best, you’re reading native material! which is a thrill! :smiley:


Ahh that is very interesting. The first physical manga I ever cracked open was also Magic Knight Rayearth. I’m slowly making my way through that, and it’s honestly not as difficult as I anticipated. I imagine I’ll have a lot more difficulty with Slayers and Sailor Moon due to the heavier subject matter and specialized vocabulary. I picked a trio of vastly differing (and awesome) magical girl manga series that I’ve seen the anime for.

And that site was a great read. I wonder how (and why) your opinions may have changed in the mind numbing 14 years since you wrote that (which probably doesn’t even seem like half of that time to you).

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I’ve just been buying Japanese books that looked interesting, and then sorted them by how difficult they seemed after skimming through. I found that for my level (around N2) the short stories by 星新一 (Hoshi Shinichi) are a decently comfortable read, and I keep a notepad around so I can write down anything I’d like to look up later (the stories are also around 10-12 pages so you can comfortably finish one or more in a sitting). I also got a few books intended specifically for learners that want to break into Japanese literature where they explain everything that is happening in the text (grammar, cultural references etc.) in great detail which helped me a great deal in understanding tiny pieces of grammar (or ways of using them) that previously puzzled me. I also bought books that are obviously too difficult for me at the moment, but I like to keep stuff around for the future as a sort of goal to work towards.


Buying books that look (or sound) interesting seem to have been my go to since most of the books I’ve currently got are either from reading blogs aimed at learners (but the books are native material), they were from book lists advising how to increase your reading level or they were recommended either to me or others when asked for options in certain categories and I’ve picked them up from there.

Are these the “Breaking into Japanese literature” books or the “Read Real Japanese” series or something else? If it’s something else, would you be able to post either a link to the books or give the ISBN number/s? It’s so I can check them out as the Read Real Japanese series and the Breaking into Japanese literature series and similar seem to be geared more towards intermediate - advanced learners but have helped me even at the level I’m at.


I actually have both of those. I also have one called “Reading Japanese with a Smile” (ISBN: 978-4-9902848-1-7) which was also useful for the reasons mentioned in my original post.


Me too, though so far I’ve read only the first 3 stories in Read Real Japanese fiction. I found it quite difficult at this stage without the help so I’m working through other stuff first before going back to it :slightly_smiling_face:

Ah, ok. Thank you. I have “reading Japanese with a smile” but hadn’t looked at it properly yet so didn’t realise it was like those as well. Will add that to the list for reading when I’m tackling those.

I’m currently working through my e-book graded readers and a few short story books for learners (I use these at work so I don’t need to take my iPad).

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I don’t think there’s anything I wrote then that I think I was actively wrong about – it’s perhaps more that if I wrote something from scratch today it might miss some ideas because it’s just been that much longer since I was going through that ‘beginner learning’ phase. Obviously some of the specifics like which online dictionary site or internet book store to use have dated. From a modern perspective it’s noticeable that I basically completely ignore the idea of ebooks, assuming entirely paper based reading except for online news articles. That’s partly the era when I wrote it, but also partly my personal preferences, which haven’t changed…

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