Nihongo Filter: Help me find a short story/SUPER easy manga for my final project in 4th year literature, Plus advice on studying for N3 for JLPT
October 13, 2010 11:01 PM   Subscribe

Nihongo Filter: Help me find a short story/SUPER easy manga for my final project in 4th year literature, Plus advice on studying for N3 for JLPT

This is the first semester of my 4th year of Japanese. By this point we're mostly done with grammar points and this class is focusing on literature. At the end of the semester we need to give a 10 minute presentation on a piece of literature.
I got the first Conan the Great Detective manga but it's kind of difficult and I think it might be hard to talk about given all the out of the ordinary vocab. Plus it's long and, while I can present just a few chapters, I would like to present a story as a whole.

Do you know of any short stories I could find online (or books I could find on Amazon that contain short stories)? Ideally I'd like something that has like a little box of less common vocab on the bottom. The manga we're reading in class is designed like this.

Also I'll be taking the JLPT this December for N3. If you have any resources for studying that would also be greatly appreciated.
posted by ad4pt to Education (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Would you be interested in translating a children's story? I went to the International Manga Museum in Kyoto and saw a lot of short stories about Anpanman. I imagine the books are available on the internet as well. Even though he is beloved by children, the background story of how that character was made is so moving.
posted by pinetree at 11:10 PM on October 13, 2010

I'm translating Nichijou right now, which is pretty much entirely short stories. It's also guaranteed to make you the king of your classroom.

You could also read yonkoma, such as Sazae-san or Chibi Maruko-chan.

Ideally I'd like something that has like a little box of less common vocab on the bottom. The manga we're reading in class is designed like this.

This isn't typically done in Japan... the only place I've seen it is 漫画「日本の歴史」 and its sister series. In my literature/manga class the students simply prepared a handout with all the extra vocab. We were able to read Haruki Murakami that way.

Re JLPT, if you don't know Kanji Box I recommend it. If you hurry you can also make a quick $20 studying kanji.
posted by shii at 11:12 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've leafed through Read Real Japanese Fiction, it has several short stories and they are super easy. White Rabbit Press has other similar books.

Manga: I love Chi's Sweet Home, it's about a kitten that's adopted in a new house, so it talks mainly about domestic stuff. The only thing that tripped me off was that the kitten uses baby talk, so for example, instead of saying "びっくりした" she says "びっくいちた". It's a very cute manga, with lovely art in watercolor.

I found some unofficial preparation lists for the new JLPT tests here. You should also visit the official JLPT site, they have some book recommendations and sample questions for all levels.
posted by clearlydemon at 11:42 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would try Banana Yoshimoto. Her prose style is really simple, and I remember reading her Tsugumi back in 3rd year Japanese (I had returned to Canada after living in Japan for 3 years and this was my first - and only - university Japanese course), and while I was definitely struggling with the written language at that time, Tsugumi really grabbed me.

For actual manga, it really depend what you like, and what you have access to.

One of my absolute favourite mangas is Sanchome no Yuhi. If there is a Book Off near where you live (there's one in Vancouver on Hornby Street), they usually have it. The stories are simple and touching, and make me feel nostalgic for Japan's post-war Showa era, even though I never lived in Japan at that time.

Ningen Kosaten (Human Scramble) is another great manga, if you can get your hands on it. It features a blend of Raymond Carver and Raymond Chandler. Lots of human drama with plenty of social realism. Lots of sex and murder and existential epiphany.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:46 PM on October 13, 2010

For kanji, I've been using Read the Kanji, which is a pretty solid way of studying Kanji online. I studied a mix of the 2nd and 3rd level decks, and was about halfway through the 2nd level deck when I took the N3 in July. I think there was maybe one character I didn't know. The only issue is that it has become a paysite. For what it is, and it's expansion plans, I still think it's a good deal.

Definitely work on the grammar angle though. While I had no real issues with the kanji, I nearly failed due to grammar.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:48 PM on October 13, 2010

よつばと! (Yotsuba&!) is an easy yon-koma, which is available in English; 耳をすませば (the manga hasn't been translated, but you probably know the Ghibli adaptation that was eventually released in English as Whisper of the Heart). No box of vocab, though.
posted by wintersweet at 11:54 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

You need to read some short stories by 星新一. His short stories are kind of PK Dick-ian (weird twists but perhaps not quite as pessimistic), and not too tricky or weird-vocabulary-ful. The two books I have are ひとつの装置 and おーいでてこーい. I think you can also find them on play-asia or any of those import sites, and if you're interested I'd be willing to help find you copies! I used them as study materials after I finished my college Japanese studies. They're accessible and awesome and you should read them.

As for studying (I took/passed the old 2級), I just made a gigantic anki deck out of words, and used one of the various and sundry 完全マスター books for grammar points. I also got a study guide for listening with a CD. I never got the impression that I needed to bother to study kanji outside of the realm of actual vocabulary. I also gave myself a good year to study, but I had also given myself a good year to forget all the Japanese I learned in college.
posted by that girl at 12:03 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Lots of Murakami Haruki's short stories are VERY short, and most of them are pretty easy to understand and contain at most two or three items of new vocab from a learner's perspective (you know, it's the tale of a man and a woman in a bar, and then a gorilla wearing a pillbox hat turns up or something). Plus, many are available in English too if you need a cheat sheet.

Lately, the "manga essay" format is becoming more popular too, like My Darling is a Foreigner ダーリンは外国人, We are techies 理系の人々, etc. These are generally an easy read, but also contain enough ideas to work up a decent presentation on.
posted by No-sword at 2:00 AM on October 14, 2010

Best answer: Check out the JLPT section at Japan Shop -- they have collections of the previous years' tests, with answers and a listening CD. I found these (along with the 完全マスター series and the Unicom grammar book) to be the most helpful when studying for the old Level 2. The questions are pretty similar between years, and testing yourself at home the week before the test will help you measure your own readiness and get comfortable with the format. Be sure to time yourself! The fact that they've changed the levels will make studying a bit more difficult, but if you get the book with the old Level 2 tests and the book with the old Level 3 tests, I'm sure it'll help.

In terms of general JLPT strategy: you can pick up a lot of points if you have good listening comprehension skills, as the listening section is not too hard and counts for 1/3 of the grade: acing this section will give you 60 of the 95 points needed to pass! During the combined section (for N3 I think it's Grammar / Reading) you should do whatever you're strongest at first -- time management is critical for that section, as you can easily flunk if you get stuck on something and run out of time (I did the first time I took Level 2). Feel free to skip to the grammar part if you're faster at that, and then come back to the reading (or vice-versa). Note that the new test requires you to get at least 19 points (out of 60) on each section to pass, though, so you can't just ace the grammar and blow off the reading. Watch the clock, and set aside at least 30 minutes for each part. Then go back to the hardest part (or go over your answers if you've finished) during the remaining 10 minutes. This strategy served me well the second time I took Level 2, and I passed pretty easily.
posted by vorfeed at 9:43 AM on October 14, 2010

Response by poster: Awesome suggestions. I ended up getting Read Real Japanese and I'm loving it. It's the perfect level and includes grammar points and hard vocab on the side as well a glossary in the back. I'm reading the Banana Yoshimoto's ミイラ and so far so good. Thanks!
posted by ad4pt at 12:29 AM on October 18, 2010

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