Sunday, 23 June 2013

What this blog is for

For the last five years or so, I´ve been trying to teach myself Japanese, chiefly by reading Japanese books. I thought a blog might be a good place to keep notes on the books I'd read and resources I might find. If anyone else can get anything from it, that would be fine too.

The best advice I could give anyone thinking of teaching themselves Japanese is :"Don't do it." It took a year of learning the kanji (the Chinese symbols mostly used for nouns, verbs and adjectives in Japanese) before I even felt ready to read a novel; and even now it takes a week or more to get through a book. Take some classes if you want to learn.  But reading is still useful for building up familiarity with vocabulary and with the kanji.

The books I'll be writing about are not (on the whole) going to be great works of literature. A friend once told me the advice a professor gave her for learning any language.  He would read Agatha Christie books in translation. With a detective story, you want to find out who did it, so you keep reading to the end. I haven't read much detective fiction in the decades since I was a student. Probably because I had read everything I could find that I wanted to read by that point. In fact I did adapt that advice to read a few books by John Dickson Carr, Fredric Brown and others in European languages.  But Japan has a very strong tradition of classical detective stories; so it would be a pity not to get to know these, especially since few have been translated into a European language.

Another piece of learning by reading advice comes in Arthur Ransome's autobiography.  He would learn a foreign language by reading childrens' books of increasing complexity, advancing in the language as a child would.

So Japanese childrens' books and Japanese detective stories are going to be the main material here. (Or perhaps there'll just be this introductory post. We'll see how it goes.)

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