Japanese Novel Review: 妊娠カレンダー The Pregnancy Diary by Ogawa Youko (小川洋子)

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.

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Japanese Novel Review: 天国はまだ遠く Heaven is Still Far Away by Seo Maiko (瀬尾 まいこ)

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.

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My current Japanese vocabulary study style(i.e. Why I’m slowly quitting SRS)

My relationship with SRS

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.

Future Plans

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.

Recap

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.

How many Japanese novels do I read at one time?

Reading Multiple Books at a time

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?

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Reading Practice on Youtube: 助産師HISAKOの子育て学校

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).

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Reading practice on Youtube: デフサポちゃんねる

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.

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Japanese Novel Review: ハリー・ポッターとアズカバンの囚人 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling

This is a review for the Japanese translation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban(ハリー・ポッターとアズカバンの囚人) by J. K. Rowling.

Harry Potter, as I am sure you know, is an extremely famous book series that has ingrained itself into American culture despite being a book from England.  I think most people have heard of the series and basically everyone I know has at least a basic idea of the story and have seen a movie or two.  Growing up many of my friends were reading the book series as it came out.

Due to people’s familiarity with the story line, many people seem to turn to this book as a first choice when trying to start out reading novels in a new language.  I too purchased random Harry Potter books that I found at Book Off while living in Japan.  Anytime I saw one for 100yen, I purchased it until I had the full collection.  While I started this book many times my first year living in Japan, I never really got past the first chapter because it is a fairly difficult novel.  I do not recommend this book for beginners and I will get more into my reasons below in this book review.

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Japanese Novel Review: キッチン Kitchen by Yoshimoto Banana(吉本ばなな)

I had a hard time deciding whether to review this novel or not. Yoshimoto’s Kitchen is famous in both Japanese and English. It is often recommended for beginners and is the go to recommendation for those who are looking to get into the world of Japanese novels. I reread the book, took some notes, and really thought about whether or not I would be able to add anything of value to the discussion on this book. Then it hit me, while I love this novel, I do not think that this is a good book for beginners. I will get more into why I think so in my review below as well as offer some alternative suggestions for those looking for a good first book.

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My favorite free online Japanese dictionaries

Since I have gotten my electronic dictionary, I have not been using free online resources as much as I used to. While I love my denshi jisho, I know that they can be an investment and that many beginning to intermediate to even advanced students can thrive using free material online. I have spent a lot of time researching the meanings of words online and have decided to introduce the 3 sources that I have used most often.

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Japanese Novel Review: 西の魔女が死んだ The Witch of the West is Dead by Kaho Nashiki(梨木香歩)

This is a review of the novel The Witch of the West is Dead(西の魔女が死んだ) by Kaho Nashiki(梨木香歩).  This is a young adult novel that really high lights that fact that juvenile fiction isn’t always easier then regular novels from the language learners perceptive.  I do not recommend that this be any language learners first book.

I bought this book while I was visiting my partner’s parents in Osaka at Book-Off.  I have seen the book a few times and the very easy to read title and cute cover stuck out to me.  It was only 100yen so I decided just to pick it up and opened it up for the first time this year. I was inspired to read this story due to the fact that a Japanese blogger I watch often mentioned it as being one of her favorite books.

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