I’ve had a lot of time to read lately, since this month I’m only scheduled to work starting next week. I was getting discouraged by the dearth of appropriate books in the Tacoma library; at the moment my fluent reading level is around 3 or 4, and most of the remaining books are either level 2 (which I am so, so bored of) or level 5 and 6. I can feel that higher-level books are starting to be within my reach, but I’d prefer not to rush it and feel frustrated. As I wrote before, that’s what prompted my Seattle library trip, and now the situation has changed completely.

I brought home 26 books all at about my reading level, and I’ve been reading one or two of them every day. I find, too, that such abundance makes me feel less compulsion to use the dictionary: I made a deal with myself to only look up words after I’ve finished a book, and I find that the more books I have available the less I want to look up words — I would rather just move on to the next book! Such abundance also makes me feel less urgency about updating the blog. I’m actually up to 65,000 words, and have written down little starter bits of information about every book I’ve read, but I haven’t quite gotten around to fleshing them out and posting them. It takes time, and reading the next book instead is always just such a tempting idea!

I am also understanding better the importance of weaning myself off the dictionary; even with unknown words, as long as the book is at an appropriate level I really have started to read much faster than I could when I started. I even find myself gradually moving to the headspace I find myself in when I’m engrossed in an English book: I hardly notice the individual words, I just want to get to the next idea. Of course, then when I run into a word I can’t figure out for the life of me, that happy flow comes crashing down…

I wonder about my progress with vocabulary: I feel like I’m absorbing some words, but others, even when I kind of intuit the meaning from context, seem to go in one ear and out the other (in one eye and out the other? Oh dear). The fact is, for me, looking up a word, attaching kanji to it, storing it in a tidy little vocabulary list and, ideally, writing it down a couple of times is really what begins the process of anchoring it in my mind; the word is then reinforced by seeing or hearing it in a few different contexts, then eventually I can draw upon it when writing. Skipping those first steps makes me feel like I’m missing a lot, and I wonder if I’ll actually be able to actually expand my vocabulary, or if this is more like reinforcing the piles of words I already have somewhere in my head but don’t really know well yet. If a book constantly uses a word that’s new to me then it has a good chance of staying in my head, but if a new word shows up just once in a book with a thousand or two thousand words, then there’s not much chance of it making an impression. Between that worry and my determination to take the JLPT later this year, I decided to start a course of self-study, following the textbook I used in my third year of formal study — for another thing, there is a lot of grammar I’m embarrassingly shaky on. I’ve got enough time for it at the moment, so I don’t feel like I’m cheating myself out of reading opportunities. (But who am I kidding, if I get short on time the grammar will be the first thing to go.)

Incidentally, grammar studies go better when I alternate reading and textbook exercises. I almost have to, because I can’t just concentrate on grammar anymore when there is a book at hand!


2 Responses to Weekly progress report: Three cheers for the SPL!

  1. Tsubasa says:

    Hi, Liana^^

    I understand well what you say about the progress with
    vocabulary, because I was almost the same with you
    when I started Tadoku. However, I have completely forgotten about it recently. It seems like that all what I want is to find good books for and my students and me, and how much we are enjoying them.

    Now, I’m reading ” Bradbury The Martlan Chronicles”, your husband recommended. And I am sure that I couldn’t have been able to read the book before I started Tadoku. ( Too difficult for me in those days^^;)

    As I notice such a difference, I always feel that my English ability has been certainly getting better^^ and it makes me feel happy^^. Repeating this process for several years, I truly think I have been expanding my world. Not only about
    reading English books but also enjoying writing, chatting and
    talking with people over the world! Internet and Tadoku opened the thick and heavy door which I had thought that I would never
    be able to go through. What an adventure^^!

    And I’m soooo happy to find a new friend with who I can share
    this feeling^^!

    By the way, the other day, I remembered a very good book series which I loved when I was a young girl!


    I am very ashamed that I don’t remember most of the contents but I just remember that this series was full of nice and heartwarming stories. Hope you check up this book.

    And I’m very looking forward to talking to you how I recalled this series. I am sure you’ll laugh at it^^!

  2. Liana says:

    Hi Tsubasa ^^
    Even though I haven’t been doing extensive reading for too long (I started in Ann Arbor, but didn’t really start concentrating on it until I moved here, I think), I feel already like my reading skill has already improved — so I’m not too terribly worried about the vocabulary part ^^ And I know what you mean about expanding your world through tadoku… I’ve had so much fun reading the stories themselves, but also from writing this blog and meeting other extensive readers ^^

    It looks like Kinokuniya has ふしぎなかぎばあさん, so I’ll add that to the list of books I want to buy someday. It’s becoming a pretty large list though ^^;; But thank you for the recommendation!