Taking the world less travelled


Why books for 10 year olds are easier than books for 5 year olds

Posted by on Mar 1, 2010 in Language | 20 comments

Previously I’ve posted about Japanese children’s stories and also websites intended for Japanese children. At the time I was experimenting with children’s books but the experience ultimately left me a bit frustrated. The vocabulary (both content and the fact it was mostly hiragana) was difficult and the content was a bit juvenile (while stories about shrinking and flying on the back of a bug through a forest may sound interesting, for me I want to read more in depth stories where I get to know characters). And of course the fact that these stories are for five to seven year olds is a bit disheartening – they can read it but I can’t?? type feelings.

But don’t worry. There is something better out there! And easier. Yes, easier. Even though the books are intended for older children, I have found stories aimed at around 10 year olds (guessing from the age of the main characters being around 9 to 13 years old) are actually easier.

Why are they easier?

  • More kanji, less hiragana. While you may not know many kanji, it is still ten times easier to read a book with kanji than without. The good thing is that all kanji in books for 10 year olds have furigana – the only kanji I’ve seen without furigana are numbers, and if you don’t know your numbers you probably can’t read the book anyway.
  • Longer and more complex stories. How is this easier for you? Well, they take more time developing the characters and setting the scene. This is good because if you can only understand the book at a surface level it is easier to follow the story along. I found my books for younger children dove right into the “action”, things happened, and then it was over. Where are books for older children, you get more of an idea of setting, there is more dialogue (which I find easier than prose having been exposed to a lot of dramas) and the story is more enticing.
  • More enjoyable. This goes with longer and more complex stories. I have never been one to enjoy short stories, with few exceptions, and I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that the same is true for Japanese stories.

Another great point is the start seems exceptionally easy because it deals with introductions. While the stories for younger children went right into the action, longer stories seem to start of with a self introduction of the main character, and then early on the character meets new characters which means more introductions. I don’t know about you, but self introductions was one of the first things I learnt in Japanese, and now I’m a pro at it. A self introduction scene in a drama is a scene I understand. Same with books. It is very encouraging opening up a book and understanding it at the start. It is better for your moral for something to start easy, giving you confidence to tackle the harder stuff.

Reading improved my English. I am a big reader and I know that I have a better grasp of grammar and punctuation than most (those who don’t read) even if I leave little evidence of that on my blog! I think that lots of reading will improve my Japanese. It’s harder to get into than dramas because with drams you have so much visual guide to help you. However, the advantages over books is you can go slower, look up unknown words and thus actually understand more than you do of the quick spoken dialogues in dramas. I am excited to finally be able to read REAL Japanese and hopefully soon I’ll be able to move up the age groups and into books without furigana, eventually onto books for adults.

Look out on my blog soon for tips and techniques to get into reading real novels so you can get into it faster than what I have. Learn from my mistakes (or at least, be able to evaluate what I went through and get some ideas on how you can adapt them for yourself!)

If you are interested in my other reading adventures, check out my manga reading adventures, and more specifically reading Hana Kimi

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Don’t Review Sentences in Your SRS

Posted by on Feb 24, 2010 in Language | 14 comments

After a brief love affair with smart.fm (who look like they have actually improved a lot since I last used them – good to know for if/when I go back!), I’ve been back with anki a little while now.

One thing I haven’t done in a gazillion years is reviewing sentences. I think perhaps reviewing sentences has its merits but it has never worked for me. I am too focused on trying to remember unfamiliar vocabulary than the really pay attention to how the sentence is put together. In other words, I may remember the vocab and know how to read the sentence, but it doesn’t help me much with remembering/noticing what particle was used, for instance, or how to put the sentence together as a whole.

What it does do is take a lot of time.

OK, so it has never been promised that reviewing sentences in Anki passively would help with actively producing sentences (where I would need to know what particle goes there etc). However, reading and understanding sentences – I can do that by reading books. I can do that by reading manga. I can do that by reading websites, etc. I can even do that by reading textbooks. In other words, where was the source of the sentence? That’s where I can read it…

What is stopping me from reading it there? For me it is a lack of vocabulary. So, I need to work on vocab. Therefore, I review single words.

What are the advantages from reviewing sentences? Is it to check that you can understand a whole sentence, with each individual word in context? Sure. But… you can check that while you are reading the original source. If you don’t understand a sentence… why? Is it vocab? Is it grammar? Is it something else? That something is what you need to study, not all the extra information as well.

Simple Is Easy

Supermemo’s guide to formulating knowledge in learning is a great resource to look over when you are building your SRS deck. One point is that simple is easy. You learn faster with simple things because you only have to focus on one thing.

Another thing to think about is why Remembering the Kanji is such a popular method. It’s because it breaks learning the kanji down into baby steps. You learn how to write the kanji (with a simple idea of meaning) and nothing else. You then learn how to read and pronounce the kanji using other methods. By breaking down the process into small steps it is easier to climb the big mountain that is Japanese.

This is why I review vocab in my SRS.


What do you review in your SRS?

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Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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Japanese Children’s Songs and Stories – Online

Posted by on Dec 17, 2009 in Language | 23 comments


In a previous post, Books for Japanese Children, I talked about some of the books I have been (attempting to) read! In this article want to share some links to websites I have found and bookmarked. To be honest I haven’t used these to their full potential, but I really hope I get to them because they look like fantastic resources, which is why I wanted to share them!

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Going Gung-ho – November 2009

Posted by on Nov 29, 2009 in Language | 14 comments

Progress Where did the time go? It’s been over a month since I last posted, and I’ll tell you where I’ve been. Right here on the computer! Since the 19th of October 2009, I’ve spent 89 hours studying Japanese.

Some of you may know nanowrimo – an event which takes part in November where you attempt to write 50,000 words in a month. My goal of November was something similar, I wanted to see if I could attempt to study for 100 hours during November. The outcome is I’ll probably just be a little short of 70 hours, but I’m pretty happy with that! Next month I’m aiming for 80 hours – it might be a bit harder because it’s the holiday season but we’ll see how I go!

What follows is a long breakdown of what I’ve been up to during November!

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Carlie’s Japanese Progress – March 2009

Posted by on Apr 1, 2009 in Language | 7 comments

March was an OK month in regards to my Japanese progress. Some of the activities I did include:

  • An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese
  • I have gone through chapter three of this but still need to do more review.

  • Reading Manga
  • I have read through two and a half volumes of manga. I finished the first four chapters of Hana Kimi and decided that was a “book” when it wasn’t the extended version :) From there I read a story called (from memory, it is packed now, more on that later…) “Love, Love..” I think I’m about 5 pages from finishing it but had to put it down. I was a bit over the main girl character crying all the time. Now I’m a chapter and a bit into “pichi pichi pitch” subtitled “Mermaid Melody”. Very cute, for a young audience so it is fairly easy to read.


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Japanese With Ease with Assimil

Posted by on Mar 4, 2009 in Language | 6 comments

assimil Rate this book: 1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (3 votes, average: 4.67 out of 5)
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Assimil is different from other texts in that the bulk of it is dialogues which you listen along to with the provided CDs. While it does have explanations, called “まとめ - Revision and Notes”, a grammar enthusiast will be wanting more. The idea is to learn through assimilation. While it doesn’t really provide a totally authentic immersion environment, I am impressed at how much is covered in this beginner’s text.

Assimil has a pretty lengthy introduction which is quite good at introducing Japanese to someone who has only just come to the Japanese language. From pronunciation, how verbs and adjectives work, the writing systems… Then it says:

Ugh! Don’t panic. You don’t have to worry about about all of this right away.

Assimil works in two stages, passive and active. I only have the first book, so can only really comment on the passive stage. This is where you don’t really worry about trying to learn kana, kanji, What you do is just go through the lessons, reading along to the tapes. The idea is learning through assimilation. With enough exposure it will all sink in.


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