Extensive reading day two observation


Hey just wanted to post another update.

As i’ve said before, I ran into a few blogs that talk about “Extensive reading” and I liked it. Because I’ve written on this blog before that tackling easier stories is a good idea, mostly because it allows you to feel “successful” with your Japanese, and gives you frequent, regular exposure to common words. Today I read the following three stories:

金太郎、一寸法師、and 花咲か爺

Which are… the Golden Boy, Tom Thumb (the dwarf) and The man who made Cherry Trees Blossom.

So things of note: Number one.. I’m seeing a lot of words over and over. Particularly “escape”, “handsome”,” grandmother” “grandfather”, “next door”, “troll/demon”, “fight”, “submit”, “famous” and a few others. Since most fairytales have trolls, people fighting, and old men and women that live in caves (or near them), many words repeat. I am finding that reading through the stories isn’t terribly difficult, and a lot of grammar patterns are repeating. Even though I am not a grammar beast, when I am reading the stories, I can seriously understand what is going on. For example, in the story of 一寸法師 (ichisunboushi) I could follow the action. He was a dwarf that was very smart, and one day he asked the grandmother and grandfather for a needle and something else, moved to the forest, had a good ol’ time with a bear, a monkey and a bird (these seems to be common animals in Japanese stories thus far) then he fights an Ogre (鬼)and as usual kicks its butt because it was trying to eat a young lady,  then finds some kind of treasure which makes him grow tall and handsome then he proceeds to marry said girl (of course) and become a beastly samurai who exterminates ogres and gets god-like status. I’m embellishing a bit. But the point is, if I couldn’t get basic grammar along with the words, then I wouldn’t know what it going on.

What i’m finding quite curious is that, I am understanding a lot of the grammar patterns without knowing the structure.  For example below, copied from the website:


I could read everything up to what is highlighted in bold, which I figured must be “prayer” because the first sentences says something to the effect of “they both didn’t have any kids, so every day they prayed  to god for a child.” I found this observation pretty cool, because I didn’t remember the Heisig meaning for “pray” (inoru) right away and I didn’t use Rikaichan to give me the meaning. I also figured that ”神様” was God because I knew the readings and then remembered the Japanese afterwards. It was a very pleasant feeling to figure out the meaning without much effort in that instance.

The other stories I read followed similar lines with interesting new Kanji that I learned, including a way to say “mother” and “father” in Samurai-speak. 父上 and 母上 respectively. Also learned the word for Samurai 武士 and a few other terms. So these stories are all basically Japanese folklore tales and as most folklore tales will go, they will have very common themes and by extension very common words. So this is confirming a thought I had about something called “layering” which basically is your input that you use AFTER doing your daily study/SRS revisions.

Of course, I’m not perfect at reading these stories, but the point as I’ve said before (and i’m realizing is key) is to not sweat it. There are literally hundreds of these kids stories out there, and I’ve only read six in two days. Maybe after reading fifty I will have a completely different idea about the idea of reading in general and my vocab might be beastily solidified. However I don’t want to be premature, but i’m noticing good progress because there are words from the Core2000 that i’ve learned so far that I easily could read which made me go through quite a few sentences without stopping. I still need to get my grammar up, but a lot of the grammar i’m finding you can figure out based on context ( so far). I will keep reading easy stuff and figure out a way to regularly tackle harder grammar later, but i’m guessing if I keep reading I will just learn it while reading anyways.




About marcusbird

Writer, Designer, Filmmaker
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4 Responses to Extensive reading day two observation

  1. Liana says:

    Hah ^^ You’ve already made my previous comment obsolete! I look forward to seeing how you approach extensive reading and what your thoughts are about it ^^

  2. marcusbird says:

    Think i’m going to set weekly and monthly targets for light reading. I’m guessing for now about
    20 kids stories per week, 1-3 manga comics on top of my regular routine of learning new vocab and stuff.

    then i’m thinking when I feel strong enough I’ll up the manga count and see if I can tackle one kid’s novel each month. I am not sure how many months it will take for me to be able to read a novel, but i’m guessing my mixture of doing Core2000 with its dense words and then hopefully finishing say…. maybe Genki II and fiddling with a more complex grammar book by the time I reach “short novel status” will give me the gears to drive down that road.

    Do you have recommendations for grammar stuff after Genki II? Just curious since you are 多読先生 and all : p

  3. Liana says:

    The textbook we used in third year Japanese was An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese: http://www.amazon.com/Integrated-Approach-Intermediate-Japanese/dp/4789007413
    I have mixed feelings about it, though; many of the grammar points we learned in Genki II showed up in that book as if they were new, and I felt like a lot of the vocabulary they wanted you to learn was basically useless at that point because it was too rare – just there to give the teachers something to test, almost! If I was going to start concentrating on grammar today and I did not already have that book to use as a reference, I might get something like this reference book for basic Japanese grammar: http://www.amazon.com/Dictionary-Basic-Japanese-Grammar/dp/4789004546/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1313076476&sr=8-1 (and I think there’s another more advanced one), and I’ve heard good things about Basic Connections: Making Your Japanese Flow (http://www.amazon.com/Basic-Connections-Japanese-Kodanshas-Childrens/dp/4770028601/ref=pd_sim_b_4). However, I’ve never read either of those, so I can’t wholeheartedly recommend them. I love tadoku, and I feel like I’ve had enough experience and success with it to recommend it to other people and write about my experience, but grammar is definitely not my strong point, so ^^;;

    I was a very by-the-book kind of student, and I think, after I finished my second year of Japanese, I would have been better served to try to learn words, listen to and read a lot of Japanese and just generally get more comfortable with the language before I tried to deal with any more advanced grammar. (Instead, I tried to keep going with textbooks, got frustrated and ended up only studying sporadically after I had graduated from college for many years. I didn’t really pick up Japanese again until late 2009.) One thing I did do which helped me a lot was to sign up for lang-8 (lang-8.com) and start writing, because native speakers correct your writing and it was good to know what kind of mistakes I was making all the time and what didn’t sound natural.

    • marcusbird says:

      I hear you.

      i’m not a textbook person really (especially since I saw how i was learning Japanese from “the void” if you want to call it that ). What I find tricky about textbooks are generally the nature of their example systems, and how that relates to real life. I mean all language books follow a logical order that seems to involve a train station, a house, a hospital etc. This makes sense logically but what i’ve found with people who are pretty good at any language is that they usually speak WAY more than the average person. From this they are constantly hit with situations to use grammar, simple or complex to explain their thoughts. I think this is the missing link for many people learning Japanese without regular speaking contact. If you can’t say “my friends made you drink way too much last night”, you can’t use stuff like sasereru and so on. But what I do know is that when I learn a grammar point from a real world situation, and then I look it up, its a lot more solid. But again, I only faced regular grammar-based challenges when i was living in Japan (when I wasn’t really studying Japanese).

      I find that writing is probably the best way to mirror this, and i’m thinking that trying to write basic thoughts of mine each day in a 日記 is a huge step forward. Because from what i’ve noticed in just study systems in general, there are none that focus on writing as a blasting point for grammar. When I first moved to Japan and I spoke zero Japanese (and pre culture shock) I gleefully went out each night, chatting up a storm building on phrases I had learned from “Making out in Japanese”. As funny as it sounds, I used several gateway expressions to be able to hold simple conversations pretty quickly. I would ALWAYS know when I hit my grammar/vocab limit, which was frustrating, but I each time i hit a snag i’d have to learn some grammar or a new word to keep going.

      anyhoo i’m rambling. but I iwll checkout Genki II as a base, but I think my priority will be try to speak/write as often as possible more than focusing on “studying”.

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