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Language learning journal: October-November

There is only one month left before the JLPT of December, but I am not really studying for the JLPT…. The only thing I did in October that is more or less JLPT-related is to subscribe to the unlimited plan on audiobook.jp. Thanks to it, I have listened to a lot of Japanese!

In today’s post you will find:

  • 聴き放題 on audiobook.jp: I have tried the first free month!
  • Playing Fantasy Life in Japanese… new playthrough.
  • Currently Reading

Trying the plan 聴き放題 on audiobook.jp!

Audiobook.jp is a website where you can buy audiobooks in Japanese. It looks like their catalogue is constantly growing, and they do have interesting titles, but if you go there with a title in mind, chances are that you will not find it. If you are not picky however and just want to download an audiobook to listen to Japanese, you will find what you need there. It is also worth noting that they have a lot of self-improvement and business books, but their selection for fiction is much more limited.

On this website, you can buy audiobooks, but you can also subscribe to a plan called 聴き放題. The first month is free, so I have tried it!

This subscription works with the application called オーディオブック. It costs 750 yen per month and allows you to listen to a wide selection of audiobooks. Be aware that you will not have access to the whole catalogue, only a selection of audiobooks is available with this subscription.

The payment is made as an in-app purchase which I find very convenient. It is also easy to stop the subscription in your phone settings.

The pros

If your aim is to listen to as much Japanese as you can, then you will be happy with this subscription: they have a lot of titles available. As I said before, they tend to focus on self-improvement and business books, but you can also find some fiction. There are also several audiobooks of fairy tales.

To me, the greatest advantage is that you can listen to books that you didn’t know existed or that you would not have purchased overwise. I have listened to a lot of audiobooks since I have the plan, and most of them are titles that I would not have bought. For the majority of them, I was only half interested in the content of the book, and I listened to it to improve my comprehension in Japanese. But I also found some gems like『ニュースの大問題!』by Akira IKEGAMI ( 池上彰 ). It is by far the most interesting book I have listened to, and I am almost tempted to buy the physical copy because I cannot understand everything by just listening to it. Another example is 『14歳からのお金の話』by the same author. It is certainly not a book that I would have bought, but I enjoy listening to it. It is also easy to understand and makes a good listening practice.

In the app, it is possible to browse the audiobooks available in the 聴き放題 plan. Go in the search bar but don’t enter any keyword. Select the option 聴き放題のみ and the app will show you all the titles available in the plan:

On the app, you can also have access to selections of interesting titles on the home page. There is also a ranking of the audiobooks available in the plan. I found several interesting titles in there, and the quality (sound, narration…) was always good.

You can download all the audiobooks that you want to listen to in your library:

The player is also very easy to use, there is nothing to complain about. It will automatically start where you last stopped for all the audiobooks of your library, even if you close the app in between.

Lastly, if you have bought audiobooks on the website, they will appear in your library, with the ones of the plan. It is very convenient to be able to listen to all your audiobooks in one place.

The cons

You do have access to a lot of audiobooks, but you can be sure that the hot titles won’t be in there. Bestsellers like 『嫌われる勇気』, 『九十歳。何がめでたい』, 『君たちはどう生きるか』 or 『君の膵臓をたべたい』 are not included in the plan. You might sometimes feel like you are stuck in a second-class catalogue.

Getting this plan does not give any advantage to buy audiobooks. If you wanted to buy an audiobook that is not available through the 聴き放題 plan, you will have to pay the whole price. (They have another subscription plan that gives you advantages when you purchase audiobooks.)

There are podcasts available on the website, but you will have to pay to subscribe to on-going podcasts. You do have access to some free podcasts through the plan but most of them seem to be discontinued.

Is it worth it?

Well it is definitely worth trying the first free month! The best thing is to try for yourself and listen to as much content as you can during this one month to see if it is worth paying 750 yen for it or not. You can also use it during a one-month period when you want to work on your listening skills (this is what I do, to prepare for the JLPT of December).

My conclusion would be that this plan is great if your goal is to listen to Japanese to improve your listening skills. If you are not too picky about what you hear, you will have easy access to hours and hours of spoken Japanese on your phone. If you have a good listening level and are more interested in the content of the books, I recommend downloading the app and browse through the available titles first.

But in any case, it does not hurt to try the free month! My free month ends in the middle of November, and I still don’t know whether I will continue or not. On the one hand, I think that I could save this money to buy audiobooks that I really want to listen to, but on the other hand, this plan allows me to discover and listen to interesting books that I would not have purchased overwise.

Playing Fantasy Life: new playthrough

I have played Fantasy Life in Japanese on my Nintendo 3DS some time ago now, and at the time, it was very tough to understand everything.

What I hate the most in games are the characters who speak only in katakana…

The dialogues were okay most of the time, I could understand what characters said and follow the story, though reading all the dialogues in Japanese was very tiring.

What was overwhelming was to understand and remember the name of items and monsters as much as going through lists of quests that were not all explicit from the title. Games like Fantasy Life also tend to avoid kanji as much as possible and a lot of words appear in hiragana, which makes it even more difficult to read for me.

If you are not familiar with Fantasy Life, it is a super cute RPG where you can choose between 12 different jobs to live your life in the world of Reveria. You are not limited to one speciality though, you are free to pursue all 12 jobs if you want to. You will have to level up in rank in each of these lives by achieving a list or requests.

When I first played Fantasy Life, my Japanese was not very good. As I said, I could understand most of the dialogues, but going through a list of achievements written in Japanese was overwhelming. That was a shame because those who wrote the texts really gave their best to add humour everywhere. Let’s take an example with things that you have to achieve as fisher:

These are things you want to achieve as a fisher, they all refer to fish you have to fish.
  • ご馳走 釣りタイ!: they use the word “sea bream” (タイ) to make a play of words with 釣りたい
  • めでたい宴の立役者: same here with めでたい. The sea bream is the leader of the banquet!
  • 海賊のエンブレム: The “Emblem of the Pirates” happens to be the carp (こい). Is it a pun for “love”?
  • 海で最弱の魚: the weakest fish of the sea is the sardine (イワシ). The kanji for イワシ is 鰯 which contains the component 弱・じゃく that means “weak”.
  • ザコと呼ばないで!: ザコ (雑魚) means small fish that you end up fishing anyway when fishing other bigger fish and that sell for a low price. It can also be used as an insult (meaning a person of low value), which is how it is used in our list.

As you can see, there is a lot going on here! The first time I played, all of this was way beyond me. I would just select each entry and read the description to see what fish (or item or monster) they were referring to. I am not saying that I understand everything today. I didn’t know the word ザコ and I didn’t know the kanji for sardine before writing this post! But it is easier to identify what I don’t understand and look up words if necessary.

What I still find difficult is to absorb a lot of new words at the same time, especially if they are only written in hiragana and katakana. Let’s take a look at this requirement for the tailor.

What I understand is that I have to make 4 pieces of clothing, including a hat, but that’s about it.

  • しおさい (kanji: 潮騒) means “the roar of the sea” or “the sound of the sea waves”. The pieces of clothing are called like that because they are traditional clothes of a coastal city and made with seashells.
  • こしぎぬ (kanji: 腰衣) refers to piece of clothing worn by monks and nuns on the waist. In the game, this item is described as traditional trousers of this coastal city that senior citizens are simply calling こしぎぬ.
  • フレアハット: a flare hat. This might seem obvious to you, but I didn’t know the English word “flare” (to become wider towards the bottom) so…
  • つっかけ (kanji: 突っ掛け): slip-on sandals.

As you can see, playing games in Japanese is a good way to improve your vocabulary!

Currently Reading

I have just finished two books by the same author Yugo AOSAKI 青崎有吾. Both are light, mystery fiction. I liked both, especially 『ノッキンオン・ロックドドア』. The other one, 『図書館の殺人』is the fourth book in the series Tenma URAZOME 裏染天馬, and while it is not necessary to understand the story, I wish I had started with the first book instead of the fourth!

I will probably publish both book reviews on the same day.

I am now reading two books at the same time. 『コンビニ・ララバイ』is the second book I read by You IKENAGA 池永陽 this year. the first one was 『下町やぶさか診療所』 (read my review here). Both books are very similar in structure, and while the stories are different, some patterns are the same.

I also started 『首折り男のための協奏曲』by Kotaro ISAKA 伊坂幸太郎. I thought that I would just start to evaluate the level of difficulty, and I ended up reading 80 pages in a row! It is definitely a page turner!

All these 4 books belong to my Reading Challenge for 2019. We are near the end of the year, and I already know that I will not be able to complete this challenge. I have given up some titles (too difficult), but I hope that I can read at least four more books of the list this year. I will certainly talk more about it in my next post (in this category).

Conclusion

I haven’t studied a lot in October, I spent most of my free time playing Fantasy Life and listening to audiobooks (and most of the time, I did both at the same time). It will certainly go on like that in November, at least as long as I have the subscription for audiobooks.

As for the JLPT, I will just continue to study Anki, but I am not sure if I will add a lot of new words. Same with grammar: I will review the flashcards I made throughout the year, but I won’t be doing anything else (like drills for example). The only thing I must do is to take practice tests. I hope that I can take two before the test!

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