Tadoku – reading your way to Japanese fluency?

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As someone who is an avid reader, I was immediately drawn to the concept of tadoku (多読) when I happened across it some months ago. Developed in Japan as a way of improving English skills for non-native speakers, tadoku focuses on reading as much material as possible without getting hung up on unfamiliar words and phrases – if you get stuck on something, you simply move on. After a while, the context of the text you are reading helps to fill in the meaning of the words you would have wanted to look up in a dictionary. You also get a feel for what words and phrases appear more naturally in everyday language, or in a specialist field depending on the subject matter. Most importantly though, tadoku centres around fun because you only read texts that you are motivated to finish.

Initially I was sceptical of the idea of not needing to look up every words I did not know, but I decided to choose materials that were easy enough for me to follow but also things that I was genuinely interested in reading. That shift in thinking was enough for me to want to give tadoku a try. Armed with a couple of really useful reading apps, I started looking for things to read.

Finding reading materials

My first thought was to look for reading materials where I already knew the story. Many people favour translations of stories they are familiar with in English. I picked up translations of ‘Little Women’ and ‘The Great Gatsby’ from Aozora Bunko. I do recommend Aozora Bunko if you are looking for stories in Japanese to read for free – I hope to do a follow up post on this on how to make the most of this amazing resource.

However what has been most effective for me is to read books relating to films/ dramas I have watched; examples of texts I am reading include Nodame Cantabile, 1 Litre of Tears and A Silent Voice. In terms of physical books, I normally look out for books on eBay or Amazon where possible. If you do not mind bulk orders, I hear that both Amazon.jp and honto.jp ship internationally. If you prefer digital books, you have two book reading websites with companion apps at your disposal: ebookJapan and Bookwalker. I personally use both and can vouch for the convenience of being able to buy digital books and manga from outside Japan. You can pay with international cards and navigate both the website and the app in English.

The best thing about these two websites above are that you can try before you buy; you can assess the registers and the style of language used and see if it is appropriate for your language level. Doing this has also led to me picking up some new material to read. Keep an eye out for my Manga Monday posts which may give you ideas of what you might like to read.

Tracking your reading

If you are using an ebook reader, you will already be able to check your stats on how much you have read. However if you are reading physical books, you may find using a website like Bookmeter helpful. This is similar to Goodreads where you can put together lists of books you are reading or would like to read, post reviews and get recommendations on books based on what you have already read and enjoyed. The website is all in Japanese so I would recommend this website more for intermediate to advanced learners.

There are tadoku contests if you are planning on trying to read intensively and would like to compete against others.

How have I been getting on so far?

At first, my focus was to try and read as far as I could get on my 30 minute train journey to work. At first it was quite difficult, having started a new book that was not one that I was familiar with (死神の制度 by Isaka Kotaro, which is a really enjoyable book and accessible for JLPT N3 and above) and progress was slow. After a few days I had sped up considerably and was enjoying the book for its content rather than stressing about reading a book in a foreign language.

For me, the best thing about trying this method has been to remind me of how far I’ve come with my language learning and how to enjoy native language materials without getting bogged down in the finer details of the language – after all, that’s why I started studying Japanese in the first place! My main goal in the short term is to not lose my understanding of the language and this will certainly go a long way towards making this possible.

Have you tried the tadoku technique? Are there any texts or resources you have found particularly useful for boosting your reading skills? Let me know in the comments.

Learn Japanese with Netflix?

I’ve recently joined Netflix and it is turning out to be a pretty good resource for practicing Japanese, even though I am in the UK. It turns out that there are a few Japanese dramas available on Netflix UK, in addition to quite a few anime series and a handful of films. The best ones to watch are the Netflix originals as you have often have a choice of English or Japanese subtitles (or no subtitles at all). Depending on your language level you could watch a series that you already have watched in English and then rewatch with the Japanese subtitles to focus on how the Japanese. Using Japanese subtitles also allows you to more accurately identify what aspects of the language you need to focus on (ie. is it vocabulary that is hindering your comprehension or is it grammar?). Finally you can then move on to not using any subtitles to really test your listening comprehension skills.

What I find most useful about Netflix is that some videos can now be downloaded for offline viewing on the app which now makes it much easier to study on the go. The main downside with Netflix at the moment however is that there is not much in the way of variety: rom com and food lovers in particular are likely to find something to enjoy here, but others may struggle. I hope moving forward more and more Japanese language content is to be added, and this certainly seems to be the case – Netflix will notify you when content that relates to your interests is added. Another thing I’ve noticed which I hope will get fixed is that the subtitles are in white, which can be a bit tricky to see depending on the scene.

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I’ve compiled a list of Japanese language content that I’ve found on Netflix UK below (those that have options for Japanese/English or no language subtitles are given in brackets). NB: this does not include content that has been dubbed into English (eg. Pokemon X & Y, Yugi-oh!) or Manzai

Dramas & TV

Atelier (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Good Morning Call (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Hibana: Spark (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Japanese Style Originator (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

My Little Lover (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Samurai Gourmet (Japanese/ Japanese audio description/ English subs)

Playful Kiss Season 1 (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Playful Kiss Season 2 (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Terrace House: Boys and Girls in the City (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Terrace House: Aloha State (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

 

Anime

009 RE: Cyborg (English/ no subs)

Ajin: Demi Human (English/ no subs)

Aldnoah Zero (English/ no subs)

Attack on Titan (English/ no subs)

Black Lagoon (English/ no subs)

Blood Lad (English/ no subs)

Blue Exorcist (English/ no subs)

Case Closed (English/ no subs)

Code Geass : Lelouch of the Rebellion (English/ no subs)

Cowboy Bebop (English/ no subs)

Cyborg 009: Call of Justice (Japanese audio description/ English/ no subs)

Cyborg 009 vs Devil Man (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Death Note (English/ no subs)

Durarara!! (English/ no subs)

Elfen Lied (English subs)

Fate/ Stay Night unlimited Blade Works (English/ no subs)

Gunslinger Girl (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Gunslinger Girl –Il teatrino- (English/ no subs)

Gurren Lagann (English/ no subs)

Hunter X Hunter (English/ no subs)

Kill la Kill (English/no subs)

Knights of Sidonia (English/ no subs)

Kuromukuro (Japanese/English/ no subs)

Magi Adventure of Sinbad (Japanese/English/ no subs)

Mushi-shi (English/ no subs)

Rurouni Kenshin (English/no subs)

Samurai Flamenco (English/ no subs)

Terror in Resonance (English/ no subs)

The Seven Deadly Sins (English/ no subs)

Tokyo Ghoul (English/ no subs)

Trigun (English/ no subs)

Vampire Knight (2 seasons – English/ no subs)

Your Lie in April (English/ no subs)

Yuki Yuna is a Hero (English/ no subs)

 

Films

Battle Royale (English/ no subs)

BLAME! (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Departures (English/ no subs)

Gantz: 0 (Japanese/English/ no subs)

Harlock Space Pirate (English/ no subs)

Little Witch Academia (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Persona 3 the Movie: #2 Midsummer Knights Dream (English/ no subs)

The Birth of Sake (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

The Eternal Zero (English/ no subs)

 

At this stage there is not quite enough content for me to recommend subscribing purely for learning Japanese (there appears to be a good selection of Korean and Taiwanese dramas for example), but if you already have a subscription I definitely recommend checking the Japanese language stuff out. Of the content I’ve watched, some of my favourites from the above list are Midnight Diner, My Little Lover and Rurouni Kenshin. However my favourite, especially in terms of learning about Japanese language and culture is Japanese Style Orignator as each episode focuses on traditional Japanese culture. There are 54 epsiodes, some of which are up to 2 hours long so there is plenty to get your teeth stuck into!

What would be your recommendation for something to watch on Netflix? Have I missed anything from the above list? Let me know in the comments!