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 4 (Reading Collection: Graded Japanese Extensive Reading Library Level 4)
Total: 189 pages, 13,300 words (est.)
Total: 191 pages, 12,900 words (est.)

Click here for my introduction to the よむよむ文庫 series and information about graded readers.

Level 4, 中級 (Intermediate level): These go up to a 1300-word vocabulary, with the most complex grammar structures out of all the readers, and there’s 5,000-10,000 characters per reader (2,000 – 3,500 words). They’re suitable for people studying for the old JLPT levels 3 and 2 (probably equivalent to new levels 3 and 2). There are two volumes of these, with five stories each.

As with most of the other volumes, there are five stories in each volume (so, again, about $7.40, assuming you get them from White Rabbit Press; see my introduction for more) with 35-39 pages each, but the text is dense enough that 2,000-3,000 words are packed into each one. There’s still quite a few pictures, though. These level 4 graded readers have as many words as many books that are level 4 by my system and make use of more kanji, but because they’re thin (35-39 pages each) and have small text, they feel cheap (as in price, not quality) compared to a hard-cover authentic book at the same level. I wish there were more pamphlet-style books like these, instead of so many books with big old hard covers — they’d be so much cheaper to ship!

In terms of how complex their sentences are and the kinds of words they use, they feel very much like real level 3 and 4 books that I’ve read, so if you can read those, you should definitely be able to read authentic books at that level. Compared to the other levels, they’re much more serious and adult, and I felt, while I was reading, almost as if it was like a dream compared to reading real books. Because the vocabulary here is still controlled at 1,300 words, it is absolutely not the same as reading a real novel intended for adults or older children, who have full control over thousands of words; if you started your tadoku journey here as an intermediate student, then expected to go on to authentic books that used similar amounts of kanji and small text and read those just as quickly and easily, you might be in for a rude awakening. It’s more likely that to be able to read at the same speed and level of understanding you would have to go down in terms of content; still, if you can read these graded readers fairly easily, you should definitely be able to read authentic level 3 and 4 books without much problem. All the same, these do give you a taste of what it would be like to know enough vocabulary and kanji to be able to quickly read real, high-level material, and it feels great. It’s an artificial construct, but a fun one.

Incidentally, if you read the story in 世界のどこかで 日本のどこかで 〜本当にあった話〜 (Somewhere In The World, Somewhere In Japan: True Stories) about the 三億円事件 (300 million yen incident), be sure to join one of Sakai-sensei’s Skype chats and ask him about it sometime!

As before, there are one-page samples from two of the stories online, as well as a CD that comes with each volume. There are two volumes of Level 4 graded readers available: Level 4, Volume 1 and Level 4, Volume 2. (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?

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