Which was your first book?

Hello everyone, and Happy New Year!!

Given the New Year’s resolution mood, I would like to start with a book soon enough .

I tried よつばと! a few months ago, but I wasn’t quite there yet. So I kept reading Graded Readers Level 0, starting with Level 1 now.

Anyway, I would like to know wich were your first books, what level were you, if doing WK by then, and the struggles you find.

I wanted to start with a book after Level 1 of GR, kanji wise WK it’s my reference, and grammar wise, finishing Genki 1 now. Anki 10k says 1200 “ish” words by now.

Regards!! And all the best for your 2018!

I didn’t start actively reading until I was in my 20s or 30s. The first manga that I ever read was 神様がうそをつく. That was a fairly easy read by then. I think I was about level…35 or so?

I’ve found that even at level 51 (which was the farthest that I made it before I reset back to 40), reading can be a particular challenge if you don’t make an effort to dive into native material and get a feel for things, so it’s good that you’re starting off early.

I will say though, that after a while, unknown kanji stops really being a problem. Your bigger problem will be unknown jukugo or grammar points, as the more advanced the kanji get, the less that you see them, so you’ll start seeing decreasing returns with each level after a while (that doesn’t mean that it’s worthless to try to go all the way though). So, I’d recommend getting an SRS such as HouHou, so that you can add/learn new words that you come across (and it should go without saying, but don’t add words that you haven’t learned the kanji to yet).

I’d say to start out with something light, possibly even for children. It might seem kind of embarrassing or beneath you, but that’s how you started to read in your first language, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t in Japanese. Some of my earlier attempts at reading were Japanese fairy tales from sites such as this: http://life.ou.edu/stories/ It gives you both the kanji and the hiragana readings as well as the English translations. So it’s a good resource for beginning reading.

Happy reading!


Ok… Maybe I’ll wait a bit into trying anything but Graded Readers for now :sweat_smile:

Hopefully by level 20 I’ll give it another try to よつばと!

Regards, and the best wishes for 2018!!

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The first time I succeeded at reading a book in Japanese (instead of just giving up after a few pages) was when I was around the N3 level.
The book itself was the first book of 「獣の奏者」.
The age target was around 12, so it had a lot of furigana, which was a huge help to look up words I really didn’t understand.

Speaking of which, reading without checking the dictionary all the time is important to keep the immersion in the book and make progress.

Now, since the original post mention よつばと, I assume manga also count as books. I which case, the first manga I was able to read was called 「Working!」, I think. I was able to read it just after I got the N4 (with some pain at first, but getting better over time). It’s a slice-of-life manga like よつばと, so the vocab is fairly easy.

In general, I would say that you should not wait too much to immerse in native material.


If manga counts, I recommend trying to find magazines (monthly or weekly). These will have a variety of short chapters, so if one story is too advanced or uninteresting to you you can skip to the next.

Shoujo or shounen are the easiest, because they usually have furigana and easier grammar, but if you don’t mind looking up unfamiliar characters, etc., seinen or josei might be more interesting for you.

I managed to snag several bags’ worth of free monthly magazines from an anime convention this fall, and it’s been a lot of fun reading through them. I imagine you could find some online if you wanted to try something. Some suggestions are the Monthly Shounen Ace or Spirits Magazine (seinen).

Back to some of your other questions, I didn’t start reading Japanese much until the last few months (approx. level 17 before my reset), largely because my grammar is horrible. But with knowledge of some kanji and very basic grammar, most manga I have tried is readable, or at least understandable. Last week, I blustered through a short piece called Bokutachi no Koto, which is very lacking in dialogue and a seinen. I think I understood most of it, and if you have some reading experience you should have little trouble.

Really, you can start reading whatever you want as soon as you like–at your level, you should already know a good number of common characters and a bit of vocab. What to read is largely based on your tolerance for looking up what you don’t know.

Hope you find something that interests you!

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Do we mean real books? If so, I tried to read こころ very early on in my Japanese studies…it did not go well.

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By all means, branch out beyond graded readers. Put yourself out there!

I will say though that at your level (assuming that you don’t have any outside kanji knowledge here), it will be pretty difficult to read most things, but there are definitely options out there for you.

I would say that probably one of the most important things to this is that you be honest with yourself. If you feel that something might be too difficult for you, it probably is, and as Nath says, it’s important that you don’t read stuff where you have to pick up the dictionary every two seconds. It not only breaks immersion, but it turns reading into a chore, and reading should always be fun! (or stimulating at the very least).

Also, one thing that I’d like to note is that the genre of whatever you read is going to impact things. If you were to read a crime drama, you’d have to learn a lot of words relating to crime and the legal system, but that knowledge might not carry over to say a…medical story or something. So each type of story is going to present a different challenge. The good thing is that once you learn that core vocab for each genre, it will carry over to other works in that genre (in general).

That’s both a good thing and a bad thing though, because it might encourage you to just stick to one particular genre since it’ll be easier to read, and you’ll hit a plateau with your language learning. So, try to be as diverse as possible, but never go for anything that feels like a chore.

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Ah, good ol’ Natsume Sōseki. Yeah, I would definitely advise against reading that for a first book, OP. XD

Not only because you’ll have to deal with literary style Japanese which you might not be used to (Manga is mostly dialogue, so that’ll reflect the spoken style). But it’s also a work during the early Taishō era, so you’ll have to deal with archaic forms of speech and some dialectal stuff as well (although perhaps not as bad Bocchan).

Personally, my literary Japanese is something that I still need to work on, because I still find a lot of adult novels fairly difficult to read for one reason or another.

Coming back to it later though, I don’t think it’s so bad, at least in terms of that kinda stuff, 吾輩は猫である I think similar. Compared to some other writers, of the time period, he’s not so bad. These days I’ve been reading a lot of 太宰治, I printed them off of Aozora so some have 旧字体
and 旧仮名遣い but overall it hasn’t presented a serious problem.

Also one thing about older books is every other word isn’t some 和製英語 abomination I have to figure out what it means.

I read yotsubato but it was sorta easy and didnt have as much kanji as I was hoping for. I wanted something harder that would teach me a lot of vocab and grammar I didnt know. Switched over to VNs for highschool boys and had a much harder, but more effective, time. Havent gone back to books/manga since. Ill probably start getting into light novels once I am past the 2,200 kanji mark.

Oh my god, thanks for making aware of this amazing software!

Can confirm, I use it. Its lit. You can even import the WK radicals to use.


Yeah, you are right about the lack of 和製英語. That’s for certain. XD

Personally, I don’t think that こころ is bad. I’ve definitely found novels that were more difficult, even from more modern periods. But it’s definitely not a good starting point either. Haha

You do bring up a good point though, and that’s since all of these older works are public domain, you can just print them off or read them on your computer for free (the English translations not so much XD).

No problem. XD It’s such a great resource, and it’s a good way to objectively measure how much Japanese (at least in terms of vocab and kanji taught outside of WaniKani) you’re learning in your daily life. Would recommend it 1000 times out of 1000. Only problem (for some) is that it’s not available for Mac. Found that after recommending it to a friend once. Haha

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Yea, a lot of beginners are attracted to Aozora because it’s there and it’s free. But they don’t realize that they may be trying to read some Edo-era abomination. Also of course people like Soseki have English translations, but many authors, even big ones like Mishima, don’t have many of their works translated.

And yes you’re right, I have a habit of trying to bite off more than I can chew.

Also seriously, reading a modern Magazine can be harder because it may be technically Japanese, but it’s all just Katakana English. Like, why does “Weight Training” mean things that aren’t “Weight Training”?

Yeah, those Edo era works though… Luckily I’m taking a class this semester on pre-WW2 literary Japanese (or maybe pre-Meiji would be more accurate), so hopefully I’ll be able to have more luck with those in a few months. Haha

And it’s amazing how so many authors (even the major ones) have so many works that have been unpublished in English. There seems to be an increased effort in more recent times to help fix that though. Due to my major, I’ve had to read stuff in both English and Japanese, and I’ve run into a few works that had a translation copyright of somewhere within the past 4 years or so.

And yeah, I get you. You have no idea how long it took me to figure out what a クリアファイル was. And that was a word that I found used all of the time. None of the online dictionaries seemed to have a translation for it either. Turns out just doing a quick google image search or maybe looking up the word on Japanese Amazon can be more effective for those types of words for one reason or another.

Speaking personally, I started with the Level 2 graded readers - I thought these were the best of the series and read pretty easily. I still have some level 4 readers I haven’t tackled yet - these are on the high end of my level at the moment.

I think for someone with very limited vocab, the graded readers are a good choice. I also have some of the Magic Tree House books my kids had, but the vocab is surprisingly broad for essentially 5-6th grade reading. The grammar structures used are on the easier side.

Honestly, I think よつばと can be challenging if you don’t know a lot of colloquial Japanese. Textbook Japanese won’t help a whole lot there. I have the whole series, but there honestly not really my favorite material (48 year old men really weren’t their target audience :slight_smile: ). I’m not a huge fan of manga since it is a relatively light amount of material for the volume of the book. They were really a gift for my daughter (two years ago) but they were really too easy for her. This year for Christmas she got some LNs I ordered from Amazon JP (キノの旅), but I haven’t looked at them yet.

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Can you change the SRS intervals? Are they the same as WK ones? I only used it for a little bit a few months ago and that was the impression I got.

Yeah you can. I have mine set up to the WK intervals personally, but you can make them whatever you want. When you add in a new item, you can also set it to whatever level you want.

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At least クリアファイル more or less makes sense. However, I do enjoy the Schadenfreude of Japanese people coming to the US and they realize what they thought was an English word, no one here knows.

I haven’t read much Edo era stuff, and anything earlier I’ve read is poetry, such as the Hyakunin Isshu, but I have been trying to read 猫の妙術 which is a 談義本, but I have a modern translation for it.