Half-Baked Japanese Reading

Recently I’ve been reading a Japanese book, Mangagaku Nyuumon, or Introduction to Manga Studies by Natsume Fusanosuke and Takeuchi Osamu. I won’t get into the details of what I’ve been learning from the book though, as the reason I’m mentioning this is that I find it to be a pretty good sign that my Japanese is getting better, at least in terms of literacy (speaking is another matter).

Prior to this, the only entirely Japanese book I’ve tried to read is the Genshiken novel, so my experience with non-manga texts is sparse and unreliable. This being an academic/informational text, I knew I was going to be in way over my head with a lot of kanji and terminology (and my Level 2 JLPT says I only know 1000 or so kanji out of the roughly 2000 that comprises official “literacy”), so I decided to just use a pencil to jot down on the pages themselves any words I didn’t know. If I already wrote down the meaning and pronunciation of a word previously but cannot remember it when the word appears again, then I write it down again. If I only know partial information, such as how a word is pronounced but not its meaning or vice versa, I only write down that which I do not know. If it’s a word I can only remember partially from having found its definition previously, then just the same I record only what I’ve forgotten. After that, I try and read through the whole chapter again, using my notes as reference.

The first chapter took me about 3 or 4 days to jot down all of the notes for untranslated words. Then it took me another day to read through it. Slowly but surely though, I found myself going through the chapters more quickly, and now I can “translate” and re-read through a chapter in less than a day, though it may take longer if there are more terms I don’t know. It feels good to see actual improvement in myself, and though I know that if you erased all of my notes I’d still be in a bit of trouble, I know that this progress I can take to the bank.

Let’s see if I can keep this up!