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Tonda Gossa!

… Yeah, sorry, I’ve been playing too much Mother 3, and the only reason I’m not playing it now is that I’m scared of Tanetane Island. Games count for the tadoku contest but not for my weekly word count, meaning that I’m only up to 284,926 words this Friday. That’s just 14,900 words more than last week, meaning I fell well short of my mark. (I also wrote up that blog post about 心の絵本, and I’ve been writing another post about extensive reading and vocabulary acquisition that hasn’t yet reached manifesto length but is threatening to. So I haven’t been slacking too much.) Well, that’s OK, I’m on hiatus next week, and you can probably guess what that means…

I do have one mildly interesting tadoku-related experience to relate. One of the books I read was an adaptation of 若草物語, or Little Women. It was level 4 by my system, 141 pages and about 6,000 words. And I decided, after I read it, that a book like that sort of falls into the Uncanny Valley of literature. Halfway through, I remembered that I had a short, level 3, 900-word picture book adaptation of 若草物語 that I had never read, and I pulled it out and read it halfway through my progress with the longer one. I enjoyed that shorter one so much more, because it didn’t pretend to be anything but a very basic introduction to what the book might be like in Japanese. The longer one, however, felt like it was trying to be a proper book, and because I know what that proper book actually feels like, it was so tedious. (All the more so because nothing interesting actually happens in Little Women — all of the fun stuff is in “Good Wives.”) So yeah, beware of adaptations, if you’re at the point where just being able to finish a book isn’t a huge motivator in and of itself anymore!

By the way, one of my notes is titled “Kanji that look like Space Invaders” and I don’t think I’m ever going to make a proper post out of it, so…

龠 龠 龠 龠 龠 龠 龠 龠 龠 龠 龠
鼎 鼎 鼎 鼎 鼎 鼎 鼎 鼎 鼎 鼎 鼎
鼎 鼎 鼎 鼎 鼎 鼎 鼎 鼎 鼎 鼎 鼎
黌 黌 黌 黌 黌 黌 黌 黌 黌 黌 黌
黌 黌 黌 黌 黌 黌 黌 黌 黌 黌 黌

       亅
  鬥      鬥      鬥      鬥
       凸

Other possible invaders: 黹, 鬻, 鬧… any more? And any suggestions for the UFO?

 

My personal goal with regards to the first week of the Read More Or Die tadoku contest was to double the average number of words I’ve read per week since I started writing the weekly updates – from 15,000 to 30,000. I’m now at 270,026 total words, meaning that I read 38,800 words this week — comfortably over my goal! (Not counting the time I’ve logged with Mother 3 — which has been plentiful. What a game.) So I’ll shoot for 40,000 words this week. I’m working more, but I should still be able to read more than I did this past week – after all, I did spend a considerable amount of time doing non-essential, non-reading activities.

Incidentally, this week put me over 25% of my overall goal, which was the next big milestone I was looking forward to after 100,00 words. As I’ve read, for the longest time, I’ve often automatically translated inside my head to English (not in a structured way, and not on purpose – just like as an unwanted, unconscious running commentary). According to my notes, I felt like I wasn’t doing this as often around week 9, and by now, provided I’m reading a book well within my fluent reading level, I feel like I only do it when I run into a sentence with a meaning that isn’t immediately apparent to me. I also think that – again, provided I’m reading at the right level – I’m starting to read faster than I could read out loud. I’ve always felt hampered not just by the little unwanted English translator in my head but also by the little Japanese narrator taking up space in there too, but I figured that enough exposure to words and patterns would get rid of them. The next milestone will be 500,000 words — and if I can meet my goals for this month, it won’t take me long to get there!

 

Whee, it’s tadoku contest time! I usually do these updates on Saturday, but today is the first day of Read More Or Die, and I haven’t really started reading for that yet so it’s a good time to write down where I am right now.

Since I started keeping track of the books I’ve read, I’ve read 231,226 words (that is, 23% of my goal) and 158 books (156 on 読書メーター because I couldn’t add two of them). To break that down further, I’ve read 20 level 1 books, 45 level 2 books, 67 level 3 books, 18 level 4 books, 3 level 5 books, 0 level 6 books and 5 sets of graded readers. Since I started writing the weekly updates, I’ve read an average of 15,000 words per week, and my goal this week is to double that number. I’ve certainly got enough material and time to make it happen… The picture is of all the books I got from Nikkei Bunko today. That might be pushing the limits of their hospitality…

Good luck, tadokists, and happy reading!

 

I’m posting a day late since I was out of town, but as of Saturday I was at 220,526 words. Didn’t read quite as much as I wanted to during the week, but made up for it on the weekend. Haven’t updated my book lists or sidebar either…. Well, that can wait.

I’m excited that this blog has been getting some attention recently! I think the most logical way to promote extensive reading among Japanese learners would be to try to reach Japanese teachers, since they’re in a better position to create libraries available to multiple students and those of us studying on our own have to fend for ourselves. Still, I get the sense that many of the people who have found this blog through Twitter should do even better with extensive reading than I have, provided they can find enough of the right kind of material. I wish I had discovered extensive reading earlier and spent less time puzzling out texts above my level, but that did mean I was exposed to a lot of words, and although most of them didn’t sink too deeply into my mind at the time, many of them were then later reinforced by extensive reading. My impression is that many other people studying on their own have also immersed themselves into listening, reading and so on, and I bet they have their own stores of latent vocabulary that will be brought to the forefront and strengthened through extensive reading.

I hope I’m doing a good job explaining what exactly I’m getting at… I was mostly writing this blog for my own reference, and it shows, so I should do more to make it useful to other people. I was rather enjoying having a blog that no one read, though. My paperdoll page gets about fifty times the traffic this one does… Not that I am complaining!

Update (June 28): Hey, they’re starting to confirm my theory! ^^ Check out Operation Subarashii: Read More and Extensive Reading meet Incremental Reading, or How to (多読)tadoku without a 日本語 library.

 

I hit 200,636 words last night! I’ve been getting fairly bored of level 3 books, so I brought home books with a wider range of difficulties from yesterday’s trip to Nikkei Bunko. I feel like I’ve been writing about extensive reading more and reading less this last week, so I will probably be fairly quiet this week.

The Read More Or Die Tadoku Contest registration is open, and the contest will start on June 1. The idea is to keep track of how many pages you read by sending the totals to a Twitter bot. I ran across the contest before I even started this blog, but I’m not very competitive so I didn’t even consider joining in. Now that I’ve met some of the people involved in it like LordSilent and Lan’dorien through Twitter, it sounded kind of fun, and I’m in for this round!

Emmie has started a bilingual extensive reading community on Goodreads. If you’re interested in extensive reading, join the group to discuss recommendations and meet other tadoku addicts. I added some topics asking for recommendations of Japanese books, so those may be good to keep an eye on. Take some time to think about all the books, comics, movies and so on that you loved as a kid and add those to the other recommendation threads!

I decided to try to start an extensive reading group through the Tacoma Japanese Language and Culture meetup group. Two people came to the first one, and they were both beginning readers, so luckily the level 0 graded readers I had ordered had arrived by then, and both of the people who came really enjoyed them. Since then, the other levels (which I bought used from Lan’dorien) have also arrived, and I plan to review them for the blog soon.

 

So I met Emmie through the tadoku.org boards, which was a tremendously lucky thing for me in many ways! We’ve become friends and she’s great fun to chat with on Twitter, and also she offered to send me some of her children’s books that she didn’t need anymore if I paid for shipping. Well, they just arrived this week! (I asked her to send them through the cheapest method, surface mail; this is because I am a cheapskate who now measures things like dinners out and new skirts in terms of how many Japanese books they could buy.)

There’s some books right at my current reading level, some above it and some picture books, which I’m glad for because I’m going to try to start some extensive reading groups in this area and nicely-done picture books are always good to have around! It was fantastic, and it really made me feel lucky not just to have found out about extensive reading, but to have met so many wonderful people in the process!

If this wasn’t enough evidence of Emmie’s kindness, she’s also allowing me to use her address, so I can buy used books online and have them sent to her, then she’ll send them over to me and I’ll pay her back for shipping. I will write more about this process, exactly what the costs are and so on. In the meantime, I’ve ordered fifteen books, and am looking forward to seeing them arrive at my door!

In other news, I wrote a little more about extensive reading. I had this exchange with my husband while writing it:

“What are you doing?”
“I’m writing a long blog post about extensive reading.”
“I was prepared to make a joke about how that was compared to all your very short blog posts about extensive reading, but I think I’ll refrain.”

As for my actual reading progress, I’m up to 176,441 words, and I’m starting to think I may get bored of level 3 books before I hit 200,000.

 

I’m up to 154,786 words, which is around 25,000 more words than I had last week, and it’s all thanks to Nikkei Bunko providing me with a healthy supply of level 3/4 books. At the moment the books I like best are books written for first and second graders, level 3 books by my system, that have between 1,000 and 3,000 words; I predict that by the time I reach 250,000 – 300,000 words, I’ll stop looking specifically for those kinds of books.

I’ve started tutoring a friend of mine in Japanese; aside from some words she’s picked up from anime, she’s a complete beginner. I want to try extensive reading as part of what she’s learning right from the start, in some capacity or another, so I expect I’ll have a lot to say about that in the upcoming months.

Also, my tadoku friend Emmie has agreed to do the most wonderful thing for me! She’ll let me order books online and have them sent to her, then when they reach a certain amount, pack them up and ship them to me, after which I’ll pay her back for shipping. There are a lot of used books online that are so cheap that even after shipping, the total price still isn’t bad at all! I’m so excited about this it’s ridiculous.

 

As I’ve noted on my paper doll blog, no matter how hard I try to moderate myself, I really just have two settings when it comes to hobbies and projects: white-hot intensity and complete indifference. I can try to say “I’ll spend two hours drawing, two hours studying Japanese and one hour reading this book in English” and I can keep that up for, oh, five days. Actually, I get better at balancing things as I get older — it is not too often anymore that the housework completely goes to hell while I work on something — but the fact is that I’m just happier if I’m totally obsessing over one thing.

I write all this in hopes of explaining why I haven’t read a new Japanese book, or indeed an English one, in well over a week. There’s a video game series which I adore called Metal Max; I actually translated the SNES remake of the first one, Metal Max Returns, for Aeon Genesis a while back, and Metal Max 2, well on its way to being translated but in need of a lot of work, has been hovering in my consciousness recently. I bought Metal Max 3 when it came out for the DS in the summer of 2010 and played a good forty hours in, so when I wanted to play it again I decided to just restart. The difference between what I understand now and what I understood then is pretty astounding, and I credit it to extensive reading because that’s the only thing that’s changed between then and now. Besides just general improvement in reading speed and comprehension, the big difference I’ve noticed is that I’m much more able to pick out the important parts of something I don’t understand very well, instead of just getting frustrated and skipping everything.

In any case, that’s what I’ve been doing instead of reading my normal fare. The ReadMOD players have a mechanism for counting games in their extensive reading tallies, but I don’t have the first idea how many screens I’ve looked at, and in any case Metal Max 3 is really well above my fluent reading level; there are many words I don’t know, both in terms of technical jargon and rough language. (I can understand that someone wants to kill me, and I can understand the context in which they wish to kill me, but the actual words they use to deliver their message are often a little incomprehensible to someone who still spends her time reading books about friendly bears baking cakes.)

This nearly magical improvement is very encouraging to me: if these are the kind of results I see at 100,000 words, I can only imagine how it’ll be at 250,000 words, 500,000 words, a full million. Of course, for that to ever happen I have to stop screwing around with video games that are way above my level and get back to business.

Happily, I found a resource which will make the process of getting back to business much easier! I am still feeling like I would prefer level 3 and 4 books to level 5 books, but in my experience with the three libraries where I find Japanese books, those level 3 and 4 books are rare little beasties compared to the amount of level 2 and level 5/6 books. Even at the central Seattle library I’m finding fewer and fewer of those 3/4 books, and I wind up bringing home level 5 books or level 2 books that are a little more advanced than most picture books. I had just started thinking about buying more books or scouting out the other libraries in the Seattle system when I learned about Nikkei Bunko, a Japanese-language library that’s part of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington. I went on a field trip the very next day and seriously. oh. my. God. There’s easily five times more kids’ books there than there are at the central Seattle library, and it looks like there are enough level 3/4 books to keep me happy for some time. You’re limited in the number of books you can check out; the sign-up sheet says “five” but the guy there said “Oh, you can check out more” and I picked out another five — not wishing to push my luck just yet. I really like the idea of finding one book you like that’s at the right level then reading others in that same series, but most of the time when I get books out of the library I only find that they’re part of a series when I look them up later, meaning I have a great lead on what I might want to buy at some point but that I can’t just skip from book to book. However, this place has a lot of collections of children’s literature, illustrated reference books, series of books fairy tales and so on; it looks like it was put together with an eye toward being educational for the kids who take Japanese language classes at the JCCCW, but it also has the side effect of making it easier for extensive readers to pick out new books.

So if you are at all close to Seattle, I highly recommend that you make some time to visit Nikkei Bunko! I’m going to add the books I’ve read since my last update, then get started reading some of my new treasures.

 

I’m up to 128,486 words, but I haven’t had time to update all the books I’ve read, so I haven’t formally posted the new total yet. I usually try to update everything on Saturday, but I’ve been busy lately — so busy, actually, that I haven’t read very much at all this week. I did, however, make it to 100 books! (I must admit, the last three or four were all level 2 books — I wanted to hit the milestone soon.)

I signed up for 読書メーター after noticing it on lordsilent’s Twitter feed. Here I am, feel free to add me as a friend. It’s a cool service! I’ll write more about it later.

 

So at a certain point, I ran out of level 3 and 4 books from the Tacoma library; there were a lot of level 2 books left, but I thought “I am so sick of picture books that I could just pick them all up and throw them clear across the room.” That’s when I got my Seattle library card and read about two dozen level 3 and 4 books. After that, I felt like I could go back to the picture books — I did vow to read every last one, after all, and I thought I’d just like to get them out of the way. (You’ll note I’m not vowing to read all the children’s books in the Seattle library.)

When I started reading in Tacoma and keeping track of the words, reading one in a day every couple of days was a good pace, and my total word count increased by two hundred here and three hundred there. Now, it takes less time to read a level 2 book than it does to make the Amazon link and think of something to write about it. The surprising thing is that I don’t know exactly what changed. Level 2 books used to be harder to read, but not that much harder; they had more unknown words, but not that many. It feels more like my eyes are changing than anything else. I keep thinking of something one of my friends who does extensive reading once said: that language comprehension is just pattern recognition. At that time, I was trying out extensive reading, but just couldn’t put down the blankety-blank dictionary and trust myself to actually read. But now, the easier patterns are starting to settle in place.

Now, I’m picking up books and thinking “This looks interesting and within my fluent reading level,” then running them by my classification system and thinking “Hm… Long… Lots of words… Not many pictures… Less furigana… Wow, this is a level 5 book!” The one I just finished, “Suzu and Rin’s Secret Recipe!” was perhaps just at the border of my ability, but still within my fluent reading level. I even took a stab at a level 6 book, and although I put it back down after a little bit, I was able to glean some very interesting facts about お歯黒. This fascinates me: it’s not as if I’ve been working on grammar (I know, I meant to, but I was right in predicting that it would be the first thing I’d jettison if I got in the least distracted by any other shiny thing), and the only other Japanese-related activity I’ve been doing since I started extensive reading back in Ann Arbor has been writing diaries on lang-8; I know my experiences with that helped me read much faster than I did when I started writing diaries in October, as comments and messages that once took me all day to decode became much more manageable after about four months of frequent writing — but even still, when I started extensive reading I had already been using lang-8 for several months, and I still found level 3 books extremely intimidating. I mostly stuck to level 2, relying a lot on the pictures to be sure I understood what I was reading, and I had to really train myself to stop using the dictionary all the time. And now here I am, with a new attitude of “Level 5? Sure, that’s doable!”

I really do think my rather rapid progression has a lot to do with the many vocabulary words that passed through my mind as I played dozens of video games; I went through this cycle with every game where I first looked up all the words that I didn’t know and made dutiful little vocabulary lists out of them, then got impatient and skimmed all the text, then got hopelessly lost and annoyed at having missed too much detail and started over with another game. It was a fun method of vocabulary building, but in terms of actual results it was slipshod and frustrating; I can’t recommend it. Still, I think that many of these words are already in my head somewhere, they just didn’t get reinforced until now. As I read, many of these half-remembered words came back to me, and that in turn made me better able to fill in a lot of the blanks left over by completely unknown words, as well as makes it easier to remember the word the next time it comes up. That’s just my own perception of my situation, though.

It makes me wonder, maybe I should do some extensive reading in French next? I’m often surprised by how much French I retain — it is really unfair that even now French is still easier for me to skim than Japanese, although I understand Japanese much better. (Reading Japanese feels like switching to another mode; written French looks so similar to English, in contrast, that it doesn’t cause the same feeling.) In practice, my French is so rusty and muddled up with Japanese that I can’t claim to know the language, but it’s still in my head somewhere. I bet I’d do pretty well if I spent an hour a day reading French… Well, it’s a thought, anyways. (As much of a thought as studying Japanese grammar is.)

By the way, I hit 100,000 words! The book that put me over the top was, coincindentally, the picture book I dislike the most because the illustrations are so creepy. Now I’m at 117,746 words, and I suppose the next meaningful number will be 250,000 words, or 25% of my goal. I also got my patio all set up; we moved in at the end of summer and haven’t had anything out there except for a bird feeder all this time, but now I have a little herb garden, hanging flowers and a pair of comfortable chairs. This is where I sit and read now, wrapped up in a blanket usually (because it’s still a little cold here). Having a nice spot like this does wonders for my concentration!