Review of よむよむ文庫 レベル別日本語多読ライブラリー レベル ３ (Reading Collection: Graded Japanese Extensive Reading Library Level 3)
Total: 149 pages, 7,200 words (est.)
Level 3, 初中級 (Lower intermediate level): For these, an 800-word vocabulary is required, even more grammar structures come into play and the number of characters per reader goes from 2,500-5,000 (1,200-2,000 words). They’re suitable for people studying for the old JLPT level 3 (probably equivalent to new levels 4 and 3). There are three volumes of these, with five stories each.
There are five stories in this volume (so again, each one works out to about $7.40,assuming you get them from White Rabbit Press; see my introduction for more) with 29-31 pages each, and they go from about 1,200 words to about 2,000 words each for a total of about 7,200 words, meaning that this volume has more than twice the content as Level 2, Volume 1. Although the stories are still simplified, heavily supported by pictures and make a point of defining words that readers might not know, they start to feel like real material around this point; there’s no question that the short stories are abridged, but the version of かぐやひめ (Kaguya-hime) at this level is not so very different from an authentic, low level 3 version of the same story that I own. The real one has many compound verbs (that is, words like だきかかえる (to carry something in one’s arms), a combination of だく(to hold in one’s arms or to embrace) and かかえる(to hold or carry under one’s arm)), as well as slightly more varied vocabulary, natural dialogue and complex sentences, but otherwise it feels about the same.
My guess is that if you had been developing your confidence, reading speed and ability to figure words out from context with the material at this level, possibly supported by the previous levels, you should be able to start reading authentic picture books at this point without too much trouble. It would probably feel like a huge comedown in terms of complexity and content, but that would be balanced by the thrill of reading real Japanese books, and ideally the experience you’d gained through the graded readers would help you progress to more difficult, interesting material more quickly than if you had started with whatever random picture books you had at hand.
One thing I particularly like about this set is that there are a couple of abridged stories by famous Japanese authors: 注文の多い料理店 (The Restaurant of Many Orders) by Kenji Miyazawa and two short stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, 鼻 (The Nose) and 蜘蛛の糸 (The Spider’s Thread). I bet there’s a lot of overlap between people interested in the Japanese language and people interested in the literature, but it can be frustrating to study and study, then realize that you won’t actually be reading that literature for a long time — or that you can do it if you’re willing to look up every third word and spend an hour trying to understand the meaning of a single sentence. So even though these stories are abridged, I think that being able to read them at this level is motivating. (It does remind me of the Gatsby graded reader debate, but that’s a post for another day.)
This is also where 一生懸命 (to do something with all your effort) starts to show up, which shows that the creators really did their homework: it’s the single most common 四字熟語 (four-character idiom) in authentic books at this level, so I was glad to see it reinforced not just once or twice, but as part of every story.
As before, there are one-page samples from four of the stories online, as well as a CD that comes with each volume. There are three level 3 volumes available: Level 3, Volume 1, Level 3, Volume 2 and Level 3, Volume 3. (I’m not associated with White Rabbit Press; they just have the cheapest price for these graded readers at the moment.)
As I first encountered these as an intermediate learner after doing extensive reading for a few months, I don’t have any personal experience as to what it would be like to use them as a beginner or without experience with extensive reading, although I can make an educated guess based on my own experiences with learning the language and extensive reading and on watching other people read some of them. So if you’ve used them, please leave a comment! I’d love to hear about your experience – did you think they were useful? worth the money? fun? about the right difficulty level?
- Extensive reading is known as 多読, or tadoku in Japanese. To try it, start with very easy books (ones with no more than two or three unknown words per page), and follow these principles:
1. Don’t look up words in the dictionary while reading.
2. Skip over parts you don’t understand.
3. If you aren’t enjoying one book, toss it aside and get another.
Find something to read!
Hundreds of free books and stories online
Local bookstores and libraries
Buying new and used books online
For more information, read "What Is Extensive Reading?" and "Classification System."
To learn more about Kunihide Sakai, who developed the three principles of tadoku and has worked to popularize it in Japan for years, read this interview with him.
Finally, for more than you ever wanted to know about why I believe extensive reading is worth your time, read my tadoku manifesto.
Superfluous StatsBooks read: 303
Word count (since starting the blog): 380,500
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