This is a book review for the novel We are Alive(生きる僕ら) by Harada Maha(原田マハ). I purchased this novel from Amazon.jp for 759 yen as a part of a bulk order late last year. Harada Maha is a very popular author in Japan and out of all of the books that she has written, this book stood out to me the most. I am obsessed with stories of people moving to the country side so I knew immediately that I had to buy this book.
I decided to read this novel after reading 君の膵臓をたべたい(review can be found here) as this story seemed to play a large role in story line especially at the end when Haruki is reading over Sakura’s diary. I have been looking into find more light reading as I found found many of the novels I have purchased recently to be enjoyable but heavy. I found 星の王子様 on Aozora Bunko as a free illustrated e-book. While this is my first time using Aozora, I have heard of it before as anything free tends to become popular in the language learning community.
I purchased this novel from Chicago’s Kinokuniya store location for 11.99. I now have a car again and am super happy that I am able to go to Kinokuniya more often. I’m just more excited about books when I can pick them out in person and it makes me happy to randomly spot a book that has been on my mind for a while. I was on the look out for some light reading and decided to pick up some books by Sumino Yoru as it seems like his books are popular in the language learning community. I have heard of I want to eat your Pancreas(君の膵臓をたべたい) but I was surprised to find that this book was a runner up for the 2016 Booksellers Award. That really peaked my interested and helped me to make the purchase. I also picked up a copy of Sumino’s Blue, Painful and Brittle(青くて痛くて脆い). Sumino’s novels tend to turn into many other forms of media such as movies, anime, and manga which can make these novels great language learning tools.
In 1990, Ogawa won a biannual literary award called the Akutagawa Prize (芥川龍之介賞) for this novel. The Akutagawa Prize is considered one of Japanese’s most prestigious and sought after literary awards. When picking this novel, I was a little bit intimated due to its award winning status. Usually when I pick books based off of awards, I tend to stick to the Bookseller’s award as it seems more accessible. It is true to some extent and this book will be a vocabulary tester as words are used in surreal ways to describe normal situations.
Recently Seo Maiko(瀬尾 まいこ)’s words have really made their way into my heart and she has become my favorite author. Heaven is Still Far Away(天国はまだ遠く) is the first novel’s of hers that I have read. I purchased it off of Kinokuniya’s USA online site for $9.99.
I LOVE anki. It really helped me when I was a student to get perfect grades and succeed academically. It also does greatly increase the progress that I am able to make in learning Japanese. But this isn’t something that I want to do for the rest of my life. My ultimate Japanese goal is to stop studying and I have decided to start working towards it. Due to the fact that SRS is such a powerful tool, it has taken a lot of experimentation and time to figure out what the best balance for me is.
Failed Attempt at quitting SRS
Since I graduated from university, I have put a lot of time into my Japanese to make up for lost time. My major area of study was unrelated to Japanese and I was really academically motivated to do well in school. So I quit Japanese all together or 2 years, only using it to hang out with friends and my partner. After graduating, I started studying Japanese again and really heavily used SRS along with JLPT textbooks. I was able to get back to my previous Japanese level with in a few months and have been trying to work out how to quit studying ever sense.
Late last year I tried to quit anki and just rely on reading novels and watching Japanese TV. It did not work out because I was not reading nearly enough to make up for the loss of anki. While TV helps to reinforce words that I have learned, I found that I do not pick up any new words unless its from an educational youtube channels. I ended up not progressing much in my language ability and decided to get back on anki. I started over. Got rid of my previous homemade decks and just re-downloaded a N2 vocab deck that I was using previously and cram reviewed it. I started making a new J-J vocabulary deck and used anki as much as I could. This was too much tho and while it did help me for a little bit, I still needed to make more changes to really help my Japanese.
My current style
I was inspired by the advice of Stephen Krashen to ditch traditional vocabulary exercises and try to invest my time more into extensive reading. I am finally reading enough to make this a viable path for me. I do still watch JLPT based educational videos on youtube as I am generally interested in grammar and all of the explanations are in Japanese.
I have stopped using pre-made decks. While they are easy to use and really help me get the reading for different words down, its takes too much of a time investment to use anki to teach me the meaning of each word. This makes sense as anki is a review tool and not really a teaching tool. Now I just pick a few words at a time from native media. I try to make as few cards as I can. But sometimes a word will stick out to me where the meaning of the word is very clear, and I just need some sort of reminder to make sure I retain the meaning that I already learned. It seems like an obvious way to use anki, but as I was using anki to cram information for tests in school previous, this is a complete new style for me.
I watch Japanese media and read novels on my days off from work(3-4 days a week). Since I have really increased the amount of pages I am reading, I am finding that I do not need to use anki as much anymore.
If I come across a new word, I just look up the reading, reflect on the meaning, and move one. If I stick to reading one novel at a time, there is a good chance that the new words will pop up again at some point.
Once I feel that I have reached N1 level, then I will start actively studying for the JLPT and then the professional exam I need in order to continue with my career once I move back to Japan. I know that it will take a lot of work and time. I am working hard at my current job too so that I can learn as much as possible and have a good knowledge base to work from when taking the exam in Japanese.
I hope that in the future, I will be able to read books to the extent where I do not even need light use of anki. I think I should be able to get to that level in a year or so. But then I will have to start using anki again if I do indeed end up taking that professional exam in the future.
Do you really need SRS?
If you are not actively reading Japanese novels on a regular basis and want to make good progress with your Japanese, then I recommend using SRS. For me personally, the level that I need to increase my vocabulary consistently without heavy use of SRS is one book a week.
But learning a language is not a race. You should examine your goals and make daily habits that lead to success with whatever your individual time line is. Reading novels is a great way to increase vocabulary.
SRS is an extremely powerful tool for language learners and I recommend it to pretty much everyone. But at someone, studying forever doesn’t seem like a great idea and you might get tired of SRS while still wanting to make good progress with life long learning. It takes a great amount of daily input to make progress without SRS. But it is up to you to decide how you want to design your daily life and how to continue with Japanese as the years go on.
If you are at the point of reading Japanese novels on a regular basis, I think it is worth examining how you spend you time and how much of your life you want to invest in SRS.
If your goal is just picking up a book and reading, then I think reading from random books based off of your mood will help to to reach that goal. But maybe try to think about what is tempting you to read multiple books at the same time.
What makes you want to take a break from a book?
Are you bored of the story? Is the vocabulary too hard for you? Too many cultural references that you are unfamiliar with? Are you just not into the writing style? Just looking to switch things up? Do you have more fun reading this way?
Today I would like to introduce a source of reading practice outside of novels, youtube channels with subtitles! The channel I would like to introduce in this post is Midwife Hisako’s Child Raising School(助産師HISAKOの子育て学校).
Hey guys, its been a few weeks since I have updated this blog and just wanted to check in and say it will be a few weeks more before I am able to get back to writing again. I am a healthcare worker and my life and workload is greatly impacted by COVID. I just do not have the energy to do what I love outside of work anymore due to changes in patient population, stress, and increased work hours.
Today I would like to introduce a source of reading practice outside of novels, youtube channels with subtitles! The channel I would like to introduce today is デフサポちゃんねる.
Subtitles can be a great way to practice reading while reinforcing pronunciation and listening practice at the same time! I often look for good quality Japanese subtitles when I am searching for Japanese media to watch online.