New Experiment: Extensive Reading

Don’t be fooled by the title.  I’ve been using extensive reading in my studies for a while now.  But I’d like to try some new things, mostly inspired by another extensive reader I recently came across online, Liana.  I really recommend you check out her blog.  This post in particular is very useful for Japanese learning extensive readers.

In the beginning of my Japanese studies, I avoided children’s books because I was simply not interested in them.  I tried a few and found them extremely boring.  For some reason, that has changed recently.  I don’t really know what happened, but I tried reading one and I really enjoyed it.  I also found that I read it pretty darn quickly.  It was around this time that I stumbled upon Liana’s blog, probably through a Twitter link, though I don’t really remember.  That’s when I read this post about how and why she uses extensive reading.

At first I was very worried about the high possibility of less kanji in my daily reading.

“If I read simple stories, what will happen to my kanji knowledge?”

The issue of kanji is raised in her post and it pretty much eliminated all of my worries.  Here is an excerpt from the original post:

[Reading is] the simultaneous application of several skills, of which kanji knowledge is just one. Not to downplay the importance of kanji, because it really is the largest barrier to full literacy in Japanese, but you also have to be able to understand complex sentences without having to stop and think about them, sort out and make use of unknown information, read long strings of hiragana, read words without depending on the kanji (as sometimes authors choose to not use kanji for stylistic reasons, or play around with differences between the expected reading and the given one), predict upcoming content, supplement the text with the cultural information you already know and summon your entire stock of vocabulary.

Now that I think about it, there have been several times where I’ve read a sentence, understood every word and kanji reading, and still could not figure out what the heck it was saying.  So maybe this reading simple story method could be useful.

I don’t plan on changing everything I do.  I will still listen pretty much 24/7.  I will still read manga and interesting blogs.  I will still play games (including SRS reps).  However, I think throwing simpler stories into my daily routine will be a powerful addition that will show results in everything else I do in Japanese.

This new experiment, as with any, is just for fun.  Since fun has taken me this far in Japanese, I might as well see how far I can continue.

Author: Koyami

I'm Koyami. I am a freelance Japanese-English Translator and I enjoy learning new skills and reading in my spare time. Current pursuits include juggling, piano, and collecting all of the 十二国記 books. Follow me on Twitter and Google+ for blog updates, my Japanese word of the day, and more!

  • Oh, this is so exciting ^^ You know, I myself am a pretty lazy language learner (I promise myself that I’ll do just one paltry hour of non-reading study per day — and out come the Anki decks and the grammar reviews for all of three days) and the impression I get of this method of extensive reading is that it appeals to people who are good and fed up with mainstream English studying. So I’ve wondered how it would go with someone who incorporated it into their more dedicated language learning routines as well, and I’m curious as to what your experience will be. I hope you find it worth your time!

    I’ve had that exact same experience with knowing every single word and kanji and grammatical structure in a sentence, and yet just not somehow -getting- the darn thing ^^;; Extensive reading has helped me with that, and I think it’s just the familiar progression of simple to complex: as you read you get a sense of the patterns, and as time goes on those patterns get folded into larger or more imaginative sentences. This is also part of why I like the entire lack of quizzes and follow-up activities: if you have experience with reading within your fluent level, you come to a point where you know what it feels like just to read something and understand it immediately or almost immediately, and questions like “How old was the dog?” and “True/False: John gave the book to Mary” feel downright condescending.

    What have you found in the way of reading material? Library books, online resources, etc.? That was my most significant barrier, so I’m really interested in how other solo extensive readers solve the problem.

    • Thanks for the comment, Liana!

      I have a really good feeling about this new experiment. It fits very well with my “No English at all costs (except for reading certain blogs)” mindset. Really the only serious study I do is extracting things from textbooks and doing SRS reviews. I’m actually going through a textbook right now, and I’m surprised by how much I already recognize. I plan on writing a post about how I go through textbooks in order to learn certain phrases and such, but I want to work on my method a little bit. I think reading a lot of more simple stories will help tie everything together on a more basic level. I’m only a few stories in, but I feel like this will be very helpful.

      And yes, those reading comprehension questions are why textbooks have become strictly an extraction source for me. I actually stopped using a textbook a quarter of the way through the class this past year. Condescending indeed.

      As for sources, I have no books or graded readers, but I’m using a few sites from your post about Online Extensive Reading Sources. The majority of books in my campus library are more advanced, so I’ll search for some books later in July after I go back home.