Read What is Appropriate to your Interests and Level

It is easy to get into the mentality that when you are in the early levels of Japanese you should choose books based on your level.  If you are a beginner, start reading books for babies.  As your level rises, work your way up to reading books for children, junior high school students, high school students, and then whatever you want.

Read What is Appropriate to your Interests and Level

This is a bad idea, unless you really find pleasure in reading books made for children.  There is a reason why adults don’t read these books.  They are boring and don’t appeal to the adult mind.  The only time you should ever read a baby book is if you have a baby.

Don’t read what you wouldn’t in your native language.

I used to often make the mistake of not following this, and ended up frequently disposing of a lot of Japanese material.  By now you know what you like to read.  Why should you throw away this knowledge you’ve attained just because you are learning Japanese.

An additional problem is that with baby, children, and young adult books, there is often very little kanji.  You may be thinking that this makes things less painful, but you will eventually come to realize that kanji makes reading Japanese easier.  Assuming you have went through all the kanji using Anki, reading in only hiragana and katakana will be a huge hindrance to you.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t adjust your reading material to your level.  You definitely should.  However, you should adjust it based on difficulty level, not on age level.  Different genres for adults have different difficulty levels.  If you are only around level 20, don’t read a book on politics, read a book that involves a time traveling high school girl.  If you are level 30, don’t read a book on the inner workings of the Edo era during the 1800s, read a mystery book about 3 people hired to trap a man in an elevator in an attempt to mend his cheating ways.

I also recommend books that are written at a young adult level but have large appeal to adults.  This would include Harry Potter or books by Roald Dahl.

Reading in Japanese should be pleasurable.  Base it on your interests, not your level.

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Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.


Read What is Appropriate to your Interests and Level — 10 Comments

  1. I certainly ran into the kanji issue playing Pokémon games. I thought playing a game with kana only would make it easier, but playing the more recent Pokémon Black/White that has a kanji option helped me understand WAY more of the dialogue.

  2. There is something to this, but I find it very difficult to judge the level of books in the main section of the bookshop. Not to mention whether they would be something I would enjoy reading.

    I recommend having a look at books packaged for children (rather than written for children). There are a lot of classics (Akutagawa, Soseki etc.) packaged as pocket books with suggested reading age written on the back. Some biographies of famous Japanese people I’ve read in pocket book versions have been very good too.

    Of course, it all depends on what you like to read. But with series like ポプラポケット文庫 or 岩波少年文庫 I feel there’s more chance of picking something that’s both good and appropriate for my level.

    • Thanks for the information about the pocket book versions! I actually don’t know much about them, but they sound like they could be a very helpful reading source to a lot of Japanese learners.

  3. I personally recommend a lot of the comics that are separated from the usual “comic” section of most bookstores (believe they’re usually in the “literature” section). ダーリンは外国人 and 日本人が知らない日本語 are a couple good ones that have a lot of kanji (with a lot of furigana, too).

  4. If you’re visiting or living in Japan, go to a manga kissa. As well as being a great place to just hang out and enjoy a variety of free drinks etc. you can look through as many different comics, magazines etc. as you like and form an idea of what you prefer to read without buying something that you then have to recycle once you’ve read or discarded it. They’re also a cheap option to stay at if you miss last train. They’re usually about 500yen an hour around here, so much the same as buying a coffee at Starbucks and sitting reading there for an hour, except the walls are lined with comic books. The longer you stay, or depending on the time of day, the price can be cheaper.

  5. I’m learning Chinese but this would probably apply to learning Japanese too. Sometimes, I like reading non-fiction books targeted at children, because they tend to be on interesting topics and you can learn something from them, while the language level isn’t too hard (although there sometimes is topic-specific vocabulary).

  6. If you can get the Japanese Graded Readers for cheap(ish), then that’s a great way to go! If in the UK, CDJapan works out cheaper for me if you buy them in bulk. You could also resell them after use.

  7. I think it’s different in your case. Since Chinese is all based on characters, anything you read helps to improve your knowledge of the language. On the other hand, Japanese book for children is mainly written in hiragana and katakana. Therefore, it’s cheesy and difficult reading.

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