One thing I worry about, as the tadoku contest becomes more popular, is that beginners will take a look at who’s participating and what many of the top scorers are reading, and conclude that tadoku is for people who are reading at a high level already. I think the format implicitly supports this, even though it’s just trying to make things fair, because if you say that a screen of game text or a page of manga is worth so many fractions of a book page, then it follows that a worthy book page is a book page with a lot of text on it. So if you read books with pictures and not a lot of text per page, it might even feel like you’re not being fair to people who are reading more difficult stuff.
Ideally, I think a tadoku contest based on word count, not pages, would be the most accurate and inclusive (and BlackDragonHunt would still whip us all!) but using pages makes a lot of sense because they’re so easy to keep track of. But please, if you want to try tadoku and participate in the fun, don’t hold back because you think the books you could read aren’t impressive enough, and don’t push yourself to read a book you can’t read fluently.
The way I think about it is, if you’re just starting out and you read 100 pages of picture books with 5 words per page, that’s every bit as awesome as an intermediate reader like me reading 100 pages of a book with 50 words per page. I’m not working ten times as hard as someone who’s just starting to learn Japanese — heck, that beginner is probably working ten times harder than me! I remember what it’s like to start putting everything together and reading native-level material, and it’s not easy. You’ve got to remember all the words you learned in all those Anki sessions, figure out what new words mean without constantly running for the dictionary, understand what the sentences mean without having a translation to check, and, if it’s really early on in the process, go from decoding one hiragana at a time to reading words, then phrases at a time. You couldn’t pay me enough to go through that again. (Those of you who continue on to Chinese or Korean after learning Japanese, I salute you.)
I’m reminded of the parable of the widow’s mite, where the tiny amount of money the poor woman donated was worth more in God’s eyes than the huge amounts of money offered by rich men, because for her it was a true sacrifice. Someone who’s already read a lot is used to a lot of sentence patterns, can read hiragana and a lot of kanji automatically, commands a decent amount of vocabulary and should be good at figuring out the meanings of unknown words without even consciously thinking about it. So readers like me are coasting along on our metaphorical riches, while the beginning reader is just starting to jingle a few coins together. But the reading that beginners are doing is proportionally as challenging for them as a more advanced book is for an intermediate learner, and it deserves respect.
So even if you’re just reading ぐりとぐら*, as long as you feel like you’re getting something out of it, you’re challenging yourself and, most importantly, you’re enjoying it, then I believe that you’re doing wonderfully and you ought to be proud of yourself. We all learn to read by reading, so whatever level you’re at, getting used to reading fluently can only be a benefit for you. The contest aspect of the tadoku challenge is fun and all, but in the end we’re all in it not to prove something to each other, but to improve ourselves.
Tadoku is for everyone.
Don’t wait until you’ve finished learning every kanji.
Don’t spend an hour trying to piece together one page of one book.
Don’t be embarrassed to practice by reading easy books.
Just get on Twitter, type @TadokuBot #reg, then find something fun on Ehon Navi.
Let’s start 2014 off right with some reading!
Looking for some suggestions?
あるひ こねこね (One Day, *knead knead*, 45 words)
I really think everyone ought to read this one, because who doesn’t love stories about aliens making funny noises? But at 45 words, it’s suited for beginners.
あかにんじゃ (The Red Ninja, 200 words)
This surreal story of a shape-changing ninja is a step or two more difficult at 200 words.
かもとりごんべえ (Gonbe the Duck Hunter, 450 words)
This whole dang book is an excuse to set up an atrocious pun.
* ぐりとぐら (Guri and Gura) is the story of two little mice who do some cooking. It’s a picture book that’s probably as familiar to most Japanese people as “Goodnight Moon” is to Americans.
I read over 1200 pages for the tadoku contest this last month! Not bad for the mama of an 18-month old, especially considering I just started a new job. It’s thanks to the hundreds of hours my husband and I put in establishing the concept of “bedtime” and “naptime” by rocking the baby to sleep. At 18 months, he goes to bed at 7 and wakes up at 7, and he usually has a nap in the morning and a nap, or at least a quiet play time, in the afternoon. This gives me time to read, do housework, work or do nothing much at all. (It may be hard for those of you who haven’t gone through feeding a baby every two-three hours for months to understand how mind-blowingly awesome this is.)
I started translating for Cookpad at the beginning of this month! Cookpad is the largest Japanese recipe site, and they just started an English version. In practice, I proofread and edit other people’s translated recipes more than I translate myself, both because I think that I do a good job with that, and because I’m a slow translator. (Well, it’s not so much that; it’s more that I get caught up on maybe one or two things that confuse me or get distracted by something interesting in the recipe. Since I’m paid by the recipe, these side trips are costly.) So that, of course, has affected my tadoku time, but it’s also made me excited about improving my Japanese.
The tadoku summary:
1) I read the new articles on NHK’s News Web Easy every weekday morning while I had breakfast. I had started doing this shortly before tadoku started up, actually. I’m at the point where they’re well within my fluent reading level, and they’ve been awesome for reinforcing vocabulary I only encounter a little bit in books. I’d like to branch out, but the other news sites for kids I’ve seen seem more like regular news with furigana added, and I’m not quite there yet.
2) I watched a lot of drama. I use an app called J-Drama Master to download Japanese drama to my iPad, and then I watch it while I’m at the gym. Not all of the offerings have subtitles, but plenty of them do. I’m pretty lousy at understanding spoken Japanese without subtitles, but during Tadoku time I can pretend it’s reading practice! I ended up watching a lot of different shows, but I’m particularly taken with ごちそうさん.
3) I took a tentative step into the world of manga. I’m actually kind of intimidated by manga, because there’s so many to choose from that I don’t know which I’d actually like (I’m pretty picky), the ones I do want to read are still too hard, I have a hard time figuring out who’s talking sometimes, I can’t deal with the teeny tiny handwritten notes and all the sound effects, and I often feel like I’m missing something, like when sentences are left unfinished, people are being vague and so on. Ciao, a manga magazine for young girls, has the first chapter of its stories available on its webpage, so I did a sort of… manga boot camp? My findings are that the ultimate Ciao manga setup involves dogs, a heroine with a cute name, handsome boys, super-elite schools and transfer students. Mix those five things together and you’ve got a hit! Anyways, I read 29 of the first chapters available on the Ciao homepage. I can’t say I liked any particular one of them enough to actually go buy the collected books, but I enjoyed the feel of reading a phonebook manga, if that makes any sense. It’s annoying reading them on the computer, though, the characters are too small and I can’t read the furigana half the time.
4) I read a bunch of books. I actually have a big backlog of books from when I was studying and ordering books, before I got pregnant, so I read through a fair amount of those. I’m amazed at how some books that were pretty hard for me when I started tadoku have become much easier to read. I haven’t been the most diligent learner — now that’s an understatement, considering I completely abandoned Japanese studying when I got pregnant — and I sure haven’t done much to study besides read.
5) I played one game, a GBA game called “Sparkling Nurse Story” ピカピカナース物語 which was kind of like a simulation game, where you take care of patients, do mini-games and make choices in how you interact with people. I got the worst ending because I wasn’t able to raise one stat, and when I went online to look for a walkthrough or something, the first hit was a blog post basically saying “It’s impossible to raise that stat!” After some digging, I found a post saying that you have to force the minigames to appear more often by getting the patients almost well, then leaving and coming back another day. I didn’t have the patience to try again, but hey, maybe someone else will play this sometime!
Before the next round of tadoku in January, I want to get my Japanese books sorted out. Once upon a time, I had all of our books in some semblance of order, and it was great, but then we moved, then we moved, then we moved, then we moved cross-country, then we moved to our current house and now I’ve got Japanese books upstairs, in the living room, in the bedroom, in my study… My goal is to get them all together, read the ones that have become easy for me and then, by tadoku time, challenge myself with some books I’ve wanted to read for a while. See you all then, tadokists :)
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.
The Tadoku contest 2013 round 2 has started! All month long, we’ll be reading and reporting the total pages read on Twitter, thanks to TadokuBot. Last week, Milo started taking naps without me having to rock him for hours, which means every day I have an extra bit of time for myself! So I’m totally in this month. I’m starting with なぜ？どうして？社会のお話. The first chapter is all about money, so I’ve been reading about how ATMs work, how shares in a company work and so on. Happy reading, everyone! I always look forwards to everyone’s summaries of what they read and how they feel about it, even when I wasn’t participating myself.
- 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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