I’ve been reading my collection of very easy Japanese graded readers in recent weeks, and was very pleased to successfully order all the level 0 books from ask-books.com. This gives me a collection of 18 books in addition to the 3 level 0 books I had from NPO. I’m currently making my way through them.
My knowledge of Japanese is quite limited really: I learnt a bit from the Let’s Learn Japanese TV series, then from the first book of the Kimono Japanese language school text book, a short course based on the Japanese for Busy People textbook prior to a one-week visit to Japan, and then pretty much just doing extensive reading and occasionally revising my hiragana and katakana (and another short trip to Japan). So some of the level 0 books (and some level 1 which is the same vocabulary base) are roughly the right level for me. The others are perhaps a little difficult, however, the design of the books is such that you can follow the story via the pictures and pick up vocabulary by deduction a lot of the time.
While I try to avoid looking up words (well, actually I’m pretty lazy anyway), I allow myself to look up one or two words after I’ve read through a book to either confirm my guess at its meaning, or to make the meaning clearer where there were too many words I didn’t know to follow the story. I will sometimes reread the story after having done so – I’m only reading very short stories so this doesn’t take long.
Via the Japanese Level Up site I discovered another blog with information about extensive reading, together with reviews of Japanese graded readers, and also how to access an on-line library of Japanese picture books. Given that the tadoku competition favours new books over rereading, I’ll probably hit the picture books once I run out of my readers.
I’ve been taking part in the Tadoku competition again this month, in French, Japanese and German.
My Japanese is pretty basic, so I’m reading beginner readers that have only a couple of sentences on each page at most, with the majority of them being repetitious in order to give practice at certain phrases. Only a few of these are particularly enjoyable in terms of text content: The Shinkansen series previously published by Heinemann are good. The DEE Publications readers are good practice and have nice illustrations, but can’t be classed as particularly entertaining. The interesting part of those books are actually the cultural notes at the end in English. Some Japanese little books for very young children that I acquired in Japan are amusing, partly for their innovative layout (Inai inai baa!).
In French I’ve been reading books at the 700-1000 word vocabulary level, plus a few other books of a similar level of difficulty. After reading quite a few books for adolescents about adventures and mysteries etc, I seem to have hit saturation point with the genre. I’m still enjoying crime mysteries and some classic stories (though not all), but my new interest is stories from Africa. There is a series of African stories published by Heinemann in 5 levels of difficulty. I stumbled across these when visiting a Dutch shopping site, and ordered a couple at Niveau 3 to try. They are a refreshing change from the fodder I’ve been reading recently. They don’t pull any punches though. I’ve read La Valise Ensorcelée, which has an element of magic to it, as well as a moral. I’ve also read “L’usine de la Mort”. This book shocked me a little, but I’m glad I read it. I don’t think it’s great literature by any stretch, but certainly interesting, moving, and sufficiently different for the jaded easy reader reader. As a result I’ve bought more books from the series.
While searching for books that are simple enough for me to read in Japanese, I’ve been musing about the attributes that make these suitable for language learners.
If starting from scratch you need repetitious text with obviously illustrated nouns. This describes some of the books I purchased. The downside of the simplest books is that they become an illustrated list of nouns (or adjectives like colours), and therefore have no narrative.
In Japanese you have the added complication of the writing system. Beginner books use hiragana only. Then there are some that have katakana with hiragana transliterations. Then there are a few that use both the alphabets without guides. At the next level kanji are included with hiragana guides. The level of support for kanji varies.