I suppose it’s a little too similar to my previous post, but registration for the 2013 Tadoku Contest round 4 is open! Milo is gradually switching to taking one nap a day, instead of two naps a day, but I should still have time to get some reading in.
EhonNavi now has over 1,000 Japanese picture books available for free! If you are new to tadoku, whatever your ability level is, it’s probably one of the best ways to start. I find that word count is, with a few exceptions, the best way to judge a book’s difficulty level, and so I’ve been reading through them and sorting them by estimated word count. So if you’re a beginning learner, pick out a book from the list! If it turns out to be too hard, find one with fewer words, and if it’s too easy, find one with more words. If you’re advanced enough not to need this kind of guidance, Ehon Navi split the available books by age and that’s probably the best way to find ones within your level. Either way, don’t forget Sakai-sensei’s tadoku guidelines: don’t look up words while reading, skip parts you don’t understand, and if you’re not enjoying the book, get another one.
To access all these free books, you’ll have to register. For help with this, please see my registration walkthrough. And don’t forget that the site is finicky; they want you to be using Windows and Firefox and it might not work otherwise, you have 15 minutes to load the story, and you can only read a story once. For more information on how to successfully use the page, please refer to the EhonNavi entry in my list of reading material.
So I went into the tadoku contest having read 231,226 words, and I ended it with 352,166 words. That is, I read 120,940 words this month, or a full 12% of my million word goal. I read 8 level 1 books, 7 level 2 books, 52 level 3 books, 3 level 4 books, 1 level 5 book and one graded reader volume, for a total of 72 books. I had hoped to read more level 4 books this month, but I kept opening them up and feeling frustrated, so in the end I stuck to level 3 books after all.
As far as the actual contest goes, I came in 14th overall and 8th among Japanese language learners, with 3511.45 pages, 3040 of which were from books and 471.45 of which were from videogames, mostly Mother 3. I finished Mother 3, and I just loved being able to play through it in Japanese, but I felt that I couldn’t help but remember my English experience of the game, which meant I didn’t have to rely on my own skill to understand everything. So I think the next game I play will have to be something I’ve never played before.
I first read about the tadoku contest when I was researching extensive reading, and I thought, meh, not really my thing — but then months later, after I started my blog, I connected with other people who were doing it and because I liked them I decided that I may as well try it as well. I’m really glad I did! I know that not everyone goes by (or knows about?) Sakai-san’s three golden tadoku rules like I do, but still it was exciting to be part of a group of people all focused on my particular obsession at the moment. I was really happy to watch all my friends just read and read and read, and I hope everyone got something out of it and keeps going! It also made me more aware of how much time I waste doing inconsequential things like reading Metafilter out of habit; I’m going to try to use my time a little more consciously in the future and to stop doing things that are amusing, but don’t help me learn or do something interesting or useful. There are two months until the next round, so if I practice picking up a book or watching something in Japanese online every time I want to load up a non-essential English website, I should have broken the habit by then.
What I want to do now:
1) Keep on reading, of course – but probably dip back down into level 2 books for a little while. Nikkei Bunko has a ton of picture books, and I haven’t even started looking at them. Plus, after writing that vocabulary post, I feel like I ought to take my own advice – in my experience, I generally feel like I get more out of level 3 books because they’re more complex and rich in information, but I learn more basic vocabulary from lower-level books because of the pictures and the lower level of words. So I will see how that little experiment goes.
2) Listen to more Japanese in general. To my surprise, I’ve found that my completely neglected listening ability has improved since I’ve been reading: the words that I’ve seen often enough to recognize them without conscious thought also seem to be easier to understand through my ears, and since I know more words now I can hear them. I’m not trying to say “Do tadoku and your listening ability will improve too!” My guess is that it’s reasonable to think that massive visual input could be linked to the ability to recognize spoken words, especially for a visual learner like me, but the fact is, my listening skill has always been absurdly bad, and although I’ve spent so much time reading and writing, I’ve spent so little time trying to improve my speaking and listening skills that it makes sense that any sort of exposure to Japanese is bound to have some effect.
3) Practice writing more. There was a point in my life where I wrote constantly, about my life, my thoughts, my memories… I can’t seem to do that right now, so what I might try to do instead, at least for now, is practice writing structures that give me trouble. I’m always forgetting how to produce the most basic things — how to ask people for things, how to say I have to do something, anything to do with passive or causative construction. Plus, I want to review some intermediate grammar structures that I only have the most tenuous hold on, and I think framing grammar practice as writing practice is the only way I’m going to actually do it these days. We hates the textbook, yes we do, especially when there are so many pretty books stacked up all over the apartment… I’ll be doing this at my Japanese blog, most likely.
I usually write short reviews of the books I read, too, and I completely neglected that this month! So I’ll have to catch up on that too.
- 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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