Language Limbo
June 10, 2007 8:51 AM   Subscribe

JapaneseLanguageFilter: I am looking for good practice reading materials that are a happy medium.

It's summer break after 2 semesters of intermediate Japanese, and I need to PRACTICE! I don't have access to a good Japanese bookstore, and manga doesn't interest me as much as it used to. I find newspapers to still be a little too hard (although I've been trying to read them with the assistance of Am looking for suggestions regarding good intermediate reading material, preferable online, but I'm willing to order books at this point. So much of the stuff out there seems to be too easy or too hard for me.
posted by ikahime to Education (9 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Jim Breen's Japanese Page has links to literature and educational resources
posted by obedo at 9:40 AM on June 10, 2007

There are what are known as "light novels" which might fill your bill.

The Crest/Banner of the Stars series is supposed to be very good. (I certainly loved the anime based on them.) That's science fiction, but it's really GOOD science fiction.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:25 AM on June 10, 2007

Depending on where you are, a colleague of mine seeks a Japanese speaker to meet once a week or more to speak. You could seekout a native Japanese speaker who needs help with English. She found her language partner on craigslist. Other than that, it'd be spending money to learn.
posted by icollectpurses at 1:09 PM on June 10, 2007

This is a cute book of short stories I picked up in Japan at one time. They are relatively simple, kanji is all furigana-ed for easy looking up, and the stories, although kid-y, seemed interesting enough to keep a non-kid entertained. They tend to be the kind of stories with a curious twist at the end.

I would happily recommend it. And its sequel.

Actually, I happen to mysteriously have lost my copy of the first book, while acquiring a second copy of the sequel. If you would like to work out something to get it from me if you're interested, I would be happy to get it to you somewhat cheaply (probably shipping + a little extra).
posted by that girl at 1:43 PM on June 10, 2007

Maybe you can find something at the University of Virginia Library - Japanese Text Initiative. Or maybe a children's version of the news. I really don't know what level 2 semesters of intermediate Japanese maps to.

I always put in a plug for TheJapanesePage.Com, a few people there might be able to make good recommendations. We also have chatrooms studying for the JLPT level 4/3 tests if IM is your thing.
posted by zengargoyle at 2:14 PM on June 10, 2007

I won't try to recommend books etc. without knowing more about your levels or tastes, but working the "free and online" angle, have you tried finding blogs on topics that interest you? Sturgeon obviously applies, but the non-crap is out there... Also blogs tend to be written in a casual, chatty style that might be easier than newspapers etc., depending on what kind of classes you're taken. Blog posts are also usually quite short. And of course they're completely free.

How to find them: Say you're interested in cooking. Google things like "料理 ブログ", "料理", etc. Just working from the first page of results and going through their blogrolls could keep you busy for days.

Also: There are approximately five trillion public domain texts available at 青空文庫, including Dazai Osamu, Natsume Soseki, etc. They have essays and short stories as well as novels, so you don't have to commit to reading a 200-page work. But if you have trouble with newspapers, you might also have trouble with Aozora texts. They are all at least 50 years old, after all.
posted by No-sword at 4:12 PM on June 10, 2007

I find modern, contemporary literature for general audiences to be hit-or-miss around an intermediate level. I think light novels are good if that's the kind of thing you're into; you may want to avoid anything historical (too much archaic language and too much history) and science fiction (too much technobabble). If you're aiming for something a little less teenage, I suggest:

Murakami Haruki, "Norwegian Wood" and "After Dark" (a lot of his other novels are too weird for my brain to process in Japanese).
Yoshimoto Banana, "Kitchen"
Wataya Risa, "Keritai Senaka"

Among the texts on the Aozora site above, I find Miyazawa Kenji to be easier to read than most of the other authors represented there.

I also want to suggest a book called "Read Real Japanese," which has interesting essays by contemporary writers, with a gloss provided.
posted by Jeanne at 6:19 PM on June 10, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far. Off to the library today to grab me any of those I can find. For further clarification on what "intermediate" means: at the end of this semester, we were just starting to get into honorifics and passive voice verbs. We had covered hearsay, cause and effect, intervals of action, indirect commands, etc. Textbook was Japanese For College Students Vol. 3. Kanji level probably around 600 characters, speaking still a little hesitant, but nailing pronuncation (helps to have lived in inaka Gifu-ken for 2 years - your ear gets trained FAST). Thanks all for the help.
posted by ikahime at 7:48 AM on June 11, 2007

I used to read the Yahoo Japan's news site for kids. Has varying levels of furigana and help.
posted by m3thod4 at 1:18 AM on June 12, 2007

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