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Post-Tobira Immersion Materials 
8th-Mar-2017 12:04 pm
a dream

Hi again, still don't know if I'm going to be able to go on exchange but I've "finished" Genki and Tobira and have started on "An Intermediate Dictionary of Japanese Grammar". I've decided to start pure, or almost pure immersion in the summer so I was wondering if anyone has a good list of things for people at around N2 level that are actually REALLY easy to understand, meaning like 90-95% understandable whether through actual knowledge or context (without looking anything up).

I've tried Googling and people are either saying "read anything!" or listing stuff that isn't actually easy to understand. After Tobira you can still only understand like 60-70% of a news article and you know basically zero slang, for example.

Here's what I've found so far myself, I'll try to remember to update the list when I find more:

(last update: 2017.03.09)

Inuyasha, Pokemon (first season), Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid
Planet of the Beast King seems relatively easy

Manga: (1-3 unknown words per page on average)
Yotsuba, Doraemon
Slice-of-life doujinshi
(I actually have a lot of specific titles written down but they're all really boring, so I was hoping for something more interesting.)

.hack// (specifically, parody mode in the original 4 games; 1/2 voice acted)
Ni No Kuni (3DS, 1/2 voice acted, furigana)
Animal Crossing New Leaf (furigana)

Dramas (dialogue = exactly like in anime)
Horror movies (so long as they don't involve police investigation/legal talk)
Vlogs and Let's Plays (especially when done by teenagers)
Street interviews (when the interviewer is a foreigner with a bit bad Japanese so the Japanese people respond in a bit simpler way)

Books / Light Novels: (1-3 unknown words per sentence on average)
徒花の契り - free BL visual novel for android(?) set in the Edo era, no voice acting

Also, if you have anything you think I should really read before a potential study abroad to Sendai, whether in English or Japanese, grammar book or fact book, please let me know!
9th-Mar-2017 01:02 am (UTC)
I think instead of finding some reading materials which suit your level, you can aim a bit higher? N2 is quite sufficient to read a novel. Maybe find a novel you're interested in the story and go through them without using a dictionary, unless you really have no idea what's going on in the story.

I was at maybe level 3 (yearssss back when JLPT had only 4 levels) and tried to read a few novels. After a few months, I find myself more familiar with the structure and I could understand more complicated stuff. Which is the reason when people ask how did I get so good at Japanese when I didn't have someone to talk to, I often think that it might be just really "read anything". Sorry if this didn't help much. All the best to you! Japanese is a language that the further you advance, the more confused you'll be! :D

Edited at 2017-03-09 01:05 am (UTC)
9th-Mar-2017 03:08 pm (UTC)
Well, growing up in the USA they always said that a book fits your reading level if there's 5 words you don't know on any given page. For Japanese I'm moving the limit up to around 3 unknown words per sentence or so. I know I can technically immerse myself when only understanding 70% (I've done it with Faroese and stuff) and I've also immersed myself while knowing 10% (Swedish) but 90-95% understanding makes it go a looot easier... by immersion I meant I'll stop using textbooks/grammar books and never (or almost never) use a dictionary, I guess I should've noted that haha.

I have absolutely no fear about the grammar or reading novels in general, we're already reading Osamu Dazai stuff in class for example (3rd semester studies, which I'm in now, officially starts "Aozora Bunko stories" and "reading manga"), it's just that if there's too many unknown words I'll understand so little that I'll find it boring.
10th-Mar-2017 05:16 am (UTC)
Oh I see. Hope others at the stage as you would give more useful suggestions then, as I did it in a random way (maybe that's why took me years when others take shorter to master the language...)
10th-Mar-2017 11:01 am (UTC)
Hmm, I think "mastering" it fast really requires a strong understanding of how the language works from the beginning. For example, "samukatta" is made up of samu (cold), k (arguably "koto"), atta (from aru), to mean something like "(the fact/event of) coldness existed" —> it was cold.

Or, let's say something like 長い首をした動物 (just learned this recently so maybe I'm even doing it wrong lol). How does した magically transform to mean "has"? Obviously we're missing a word here, 首を(所有)した動物 or something like that. Or textbooks don't even teach word order ("what comes in front describes what comes after"). Certain people automatically notice these connections or use textbooks that teach them...
9th-Mar-2017 06:57 am (UTC)
I found an iPhone app called webu that is really great for looking up words as you read on the web and quickly making flash cards out of them. It's not great for production (speaking and writing) but it's definitely helping me increase my vocab.

If you don't have an Apple device, you could try getting a kindle. But I like webu better. It's faster.

The app sabu by the same developer also looks awesome. It's for watching videos, and lets you look up words and make flash cards quickly too.

The app HiNative is great for asking questions like "how do I say x?" The related website Lang-8 is great for practicing writing.

The website All Japanese All The Time has a lot of interesting advice and links to resources.

Try googling "learn Japanese from dramas" too. I personally don't like too many Japanese dramas, but a lot of people do. I prefer watching kid's shows, talk shows, news, etc. because they have text on the screen to help you figure out what's going on, and you learn more actual info (instead of fiction).

Yotsuba is awesome--the first manga I was able to read on my own. I've never found anything quite as good for people who are starting to read Japanese. Maybe chi's sweet home?

Spongebob Squarepants and Southpark in Japanese are pretty awesome.

For grammar, Tae Kim's grammar guide really clarified the foundational structures for me.
9th-Mar-2017 03:17 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Since I'll be moving on to immersion I'll do my best to throw out all the "teaching" apps and stuff, but I can use them until summer ;D

That's right!!! Chi's Sweet Home's a good idea!! I've been trying out lots of random series but keep discovering over and over again that just because it's for kids that doesn't mean it's easy, just because it's for adults that doesn't mean it's difficult...
9th-Mar-2017 05:45 pm (UTC)
I find I have to keep going back and forth between learning mode and immersion mode. It would probably be different if I had better hearing...and knowledge of Chinese...and if I were living in Japan again...

Yeah kids' shows are awesome! I've watched some that even teach you old Japanese sayings with weird grammar and deep meanings and stuff, which is much more advanced in a way than a lot of adult programming...but it had tons of visual support, repetition, and catchy music, so it really supports your learning.

That reminds me...I think the most efficient way for me to find interesting, authentic, understandable materials here in Canada is to pay for the Japanese channel (Japan TV) on my cable box. It's expensive ($15 a month for one channel) but I can tape a bunch of stuff on my TVR and cancel the next month if I want. When I did that I saved a bunch of time looking for good material, and it was just easier to turn on the TV (and exercise while watching!) than to load up my computer.

Oh, and that reminds me again...Keyhole TV is a computer application that lets you stream japanese TV. I haven't tried it for years and don't know if it still works though.
9th-Mar-2017 06:14 pm (UTC)
Aww, is your hearing bad? My eyesight's really bad (I'm almost blind) so if it weren't for smartphone cameras and magnifying glasses and OCR/scanned, zoomable book pages and stuff, reading most things would feel too difficult haha. Especially because Japan seems to love tiny fonts!!

I don't own a TV, I know I can find streaming stuff online somewhere (now I've been listening to streaming JP radio when I study) but I haven't seriously been trying to watch TV every day yet, thanks for the reminder! I feel like I learn (really, properly learn) so much more via immersion but it's never anything the class is teaching ;_;
9th-Mar-2017 06:16 pm (UTC)
Also, where in Japan were you? How was your Japanese level when you first moved compared to when you left? I still haven't even visited Japan yet (too poor) but now I'm getting a student loan so if I get accepted to study abroad I can pay for it...
10th-Mar-2017 07:17 am (UTC)
My hearing is actually okay! Just not especially good. My little brother has good hearing so he can learn quite a lot Japanese just by listening. He only took one semester of Japanese but he can understand a lot of anime without even looking at the screen. He kind of drives me crazy. He's really good at music/rhythm games too even though he never learned to play an instrument, while I took piano lessons for 10 years and I suck. -_-

I'm glad technology is making things easier for you! I've heard older Japanese folks complain about the tiny fonts...you think the printing companies would be more considerate!

I was in a small town in Fukushima for a couple years, from 2006 to 2008. I was an assistant teacher on the JET Programme, mainly at a junior high. I also was the main teacher for English lessons at a couple kindergartens, which is where I learned most of my early Japanese. I went over there with almost zero language skills--I didnt even know what が was, only は. I studied more when i came back to Canada, and I passed N1 about three years ago...barely! I got 51%. I might retake the test this year and try to get a better score.
10th-Mar-2017 10:49 am (UTC)
Hmm, I think that kind of "listening" is a skill you can train, but... how... (my wife's like your brother ;_;)

I've found that in SMALLER countries they can be more considerate, like the population's so small and making the standard font size in books bigger from the beginnig is the simplest/cheapest solution, but.... yeah. I assume Japan might start doing something once the old people REALLY outnumber the young ones.

Oh that's good! I wanted to do JET after my degree's done with as an easy way "in" but it turns out you HAVE to apply from the country you have citizenship in, then travel to that country 2, maybe 3 times AND depart from there to go to Japan. I live in Sweden and have American citizenship (there's no JET for Swedes) so I'd have to, instead of just taking a boat and going to Finland where there's JET, or flying a couple hours to England where there's JET in America's language, have to fly to the USA (10, 11 hours to Seattle? $1,000 a ticket?) for the interview, fly back and wait for a decision, fly to the USA again for training and fly 8 or so hours from there to Japan... Paying for hotels and everything too of course... Crazy. So I'm just gonna apply for jobs in Japan directly after I have my degree, I'm majoring in Japanese so something should work out!

N1 is really good!
11th-Mar-2017 02:52 am (UTC)
I wonder if it might help to just listen a lot without trying to understand? Just trying to parse the sounds? *shrugs* I think maybe once you get too old it might be possible because your ears deteriorate...

Yeah, the JET programme is a pain in the butt to apply to! I didn't know they make it so hard for people living outside their country of citizenship though. Yeesh! Anyway, there are advantages to going through a private company instead of JET. For one thing you can choose directly which town/city you want to live in. If you want to force yourself to work on your Japanese I suggest you live in a smaller town! But if you want to avoid cabin fever, make sure you also have access to a decent-sized city! A lot of JETs I know who lived in tiny villages ended up going home earlier than others.
13th-Mar-2017 01:01 am (UTC)
A-about the tiny village thing... even Sweden's largest "city" is like "town" to an American (Uppsala! Sweden's fourth largest "city"! Has goats in the middle of town in the summer!), and I already live in the countryside here so sadly I think I can handle it ;_; My wife's grandma lives in the kind of place where there's only one shop and 20 houses...

In general I've met enough "fellow foreigners" to know I want to avoid hanging out with them as much as I can. Usually you end up never really assimilating (since you have your friends group) or those guys are always just making fools of themselves so you look bad by association, or they're focusing on only the bad parts of the country, etc. Like, I know one American who's been in Japan for like 8 years now, they even studied Japanese for a few years before they moved there, and they're still not fluent, still just complain all the time, are always eating at American restaurant chains and watching American movies etc. And I see this repeated like, everywhere, in all different countries. I really don't want to be that kind of person!! And when these guys talk to me they somehow think I'm exactly like them (ex. keeping up with the news and diet fads from the "motherland", or agreeing with them in general). And they all seem to end up in the same few places (Tokyo, Yokohama, Oosaka...)

Yeah I've started trying to listen more, my wife keeps telling me "don't forget! the spoken language is the REAL language, the written is like an appendage!" etc but it's really hard to just "sit and listen"! I'm going to try and find drama CDs and see if that'll help. My house is just really loud all the time though so I think that's most of the problem.

Edited at 2017-03-13 01:02 am (UTC)
13th-Mar-2017 01:29 am (UTC)
You will probably find Japan overall very urban then! My town had ~13,000 people at the time, and that's considered pretty small.

I understand why people go through that "Agh I hate everything about this country phase!" since I went through it during parts of my first year in Japan-- but I didn't want to end up like those who stayed angry forever, so I studied like crazy. I think most North Americans aren't used to dealing with language barriers...except maybe in the parts of Canada with a lot of French speakers, where I am not. And if you grow up in an Anglophone environment, you kind of start expecting everyone to accommodate you. Plus in Japan they hold up English on a pedestal (esp. British and North American English) so you can easily end up getting an even bigger head.

I feel like the reading/writing crutch isn't the worst thing in the world for the sake of efficiency? Japanese is so different from English (and from most languages) that I don't think it's easy to figure things out from just listening/context. And because the written language is so hard, it's important to get plenty of practice on it. My opinion anyway! I'm an average speed learner, so maybe your wife is right.
13th-Mar-2017 01:32 am (UTC)
Ahh, my wife's point is, when you're trying to have a conversation you can't stop it and ask everyone to write down what they're saying so you can understand. But when you're writing, you can write exactly like how people talk (even in... gasp... only hiragana) and you'll still be understood.
13th-Mar-2017 01:42 am (UTC)
I suppose so! But as someone who completely avoided learning kanji for as long as I possibly could, I think it's also possible to over-rely on the spoken language. I think it's all about striking the right balance, and at the right stages in your learning.
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