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Currently reading: 『探偵倶楽部』by Keigo HIGASHINO

I still have three books to read this year to complete my 2018 reading challenge and 『探偵倶楽部』(たんていくらぶ) is one of them. It is a collection of five short stories, featuring the mysterious “Membership Detective Club”. I already read the first two short stories and I plan to read the third one in November.

The membership detective club is a detective agency composed of only two persons: an unnamed detective and his assistant. They work for wealthy and selected persons. The interesting feature of this book is that little is known about this detective, not even his name (as far as the first two short stories are concerned.) The stories seem to focus more on the staging of the murder and the events afterwards. As a reader, we follow the characters involved in it, but at the same time, we never quite know who did it, which makes things very exciting.

I read the first short story at the very beginning of the year, but I found it rather difficult at the time. The writing was not especially challenging, but there was a lot of characters introduced at the same time, and it was vital to understand their relationships and position inside the family. This I found daunting at the time and had to re-read the first pages at least three times.

Soon after, I started reading the second short story but eventually gave up, as you have to deal with 12 characters and again, remember their position in the family. I thought that this book was too complicated and put it back on my shelf. No wonder that I have pushed back the time to pick it up again!

But I did read the second short story this month (the one I had given up) and I found it quite easy to read. I cannot even understand what put me off last time. Yes, it is daunting to remember the name of 12 characters, but it only requires to go back to the critical pages from time to time to verify a name.

This proves that I have made some progress in reading this year! I think that, at the beginning of the year, everything was harder for me, and the many names added to the overall confusion. Now, I certainly feel more confident and I don’t need to struggle to understand the story (at least, when it comes to Keigo HIGASHINO) so I can put my effort into remembering the names.

It is very encouraging to have a tangible proof of my progress. I keep stumbling across novels that I still find too difficult for me, and this makes me feel that I don’t progress at all. But the truth is that I did get better and that, maybe as a direct result, I tend to pick more challenging books.

While I am not reading a lot lately, I think that I can manage to read another short story this month. In any case, I love this book, and I am confident that I will finish it before the end of the year.

Taking a break… but not completely!

I have already mentioned it on Friday, but I am not studying at the moment. This does not mean, however, that I am doing nothing in Japanese! I think it is necessary to stay in touch with your target language on a daily basis.

If you don’t want to or cannot study for a long period of time, try to define one or two short and easy activities that you will perform every day no matter what. It might take only 20 or even 10 minutes to do, but at least, you will have worked on your target language on a daily basis.

I try to always keep good feelings attached to my target language, and I don’t want to feel the burden of mandatory homework on it (this is why I prefer to learn on my own than in a classroom.) If I am more interested in other things than learning Japanese, and if I skip my study sessions to practice these other activities, I will inevitably feel guilty. As a result, Japanese will be associated with duty (things to do) and the other activities with fun (things that I want to do). This won’t make me want to come back to my textbooks!

To avoid this trap, I always do something for Japanese every day, so that I can move on to other activities with a light heart and without feeling guilty. I feel that I have fulfilled my study obligations for the day and can engage in other hobbies.

And of course, doing at least one little thing (like Anki) allows you to stay in touch with your target language, instead of making a long, complete break. Spending one or two weeks (or more!) without doing any Japanese is something that I want to avoid at all cost because it is harder to get back on tracks, and I would stop making progress too.

Defining one or two little things to do every day maintains the link with your target language, makes it easier to jump on the train again and guarantees that you are still progressing.

For now, I only do Anki every day, and I write a (very) short text in Japanese around five times per week (I generally skip the weekends.) Sometimes, I do pick up one of my books, but it feels more like a duty than real pleasure at the moment, so I don’t force myself and just stick to these two things. The good thing is that, even if I am not studying, I still hold on to some of my goals for November (writing in Japanese on a daily basis was one of them.)

To conclude: It’s okay to take a break, but don’t lose touch with your target language!

Japanese Immersion: November week 1

This post will be short because I have done nothing interesting this week to study or get immersed in Japanese. I have only studied Anki and I have written a short text in Japanese every day (a little more than the half of an A6 page).

I would like to say that I have been busy, but I haven’t. I just didn’t want to study Japanese this week, I was more into journaling, writing and drawing. The good thing is that I listened to some Japanse music while doing these activities, and here are some songs that I particularly like:

First of all, my favourite singer on this list: Alfred Beach Sandal. I like his album Unknown Moments, but my favourite song is “Horizon” from the EP ABS+STUTS:

I find that this is a song perfect to listen to while drawing, I can’t stop hitting the “repeat” button 🙂 If you like this style, you can check STUTS too (who worked with Alfred Beach Sandal on this song), but his work will be either instrumental or a collaboration with other artists that won’t all sing in Japanese. I personally like his album Eutopia.

I have also discovered Paris Match that I like a lot. This is a song from 2005, it’s called “Desert Moon” and is from the album PM2:

In spite of the desert theme, I found this song perfect to listen to on a rainy day like we had yesterday.

Let’s move to some more recent productions with Asako TOKI (土岐 麻子). I don’t like all her songs, but I do like her interpretation of jazz classics and I particularly enjoyed “Black Savanna” from the album Safari (released this year):

If you want to chill out with some good Japanese background, you can check Ohashi Trio (大橋トリオ). I think that in spite of the name, Ohashi Trio is not a band but a guy alone, Yoshinori OHASHI (大橋 好規). He made some interesting interpretations of American pop/rock songs. This is “Honey”, which I think appears in several albums. I chose this one because I like the video clip, but if you like it, you will certainly like his other songs as well:

Last but not least, one of my best discoveries this week: VIDEOTAPEMUSIC (except for collaborations, his work will be mostly instrumental). This is the song “Hong Kong Night View” from the album Souvenir. I think that this album was released in 2015 in Japan under the title “世界各国の夜” and this year outside Japan under the title “Souvenir” (but I may be mistaken). This song is featuring Sansuke YAMADA (山田参助):

This song reminds me of the film In the Mood for Love, that’s why I like it so much I guess!

(all these songs are available on iTunes)

And that’s it for today’s post. I spent the whole week unwilling to study Japanese. I haven’t read the news, I haven’t continued the drama I started, and I have barely opened my books (I haven’t read a lot and I am far behind my schedule for my reading goals of November). I guess it happens sometimes, and there are always some ways to stay in touch with the language that won’t feel like studying, music is a great example! Let’s hope I will be back to study next week!

Book Review: 『コンビニ人間』by Sayaka MURATA

I bought 『コンビニ人間』by Sayaka MURATA (村田沙耶香) on an impulse in October and finished it before having time to write about it in my Wednesday “currently reading” section. In the meanwhile, I read an excellent review of 『コンビニ人間』(Japanese version) by Kazen from Always Doing.

『コンビニ人間』 is a short novel of 160 pages that won its author the Akutagawa prize.

The book

“人間はさー、仕事か、家族か、どちらかで社会に所属するのが義務なんだよ。” (p66)

In a society that constantly throws this kind of reminder to your face, how are you supposed to find your place when, at 36, you have neither one nor the other? Through the story of its protagonist Keiko FURUKURA,『コンビニ人間』describes the struggles of those who are “not normal” and won’t fit in the society either because they cannot or they don’t want to.

“あ、私、異物になっている” (p.84)

At 36, Keiko is still doing the job she started 18 years ago, like many other students, in a convenience store. Sayaka MURATA describes perfectly well the unpleasant situations a woman will have to face if she cannot justify her existence either by her work or her family. When she meets a bitter, disagreeable man who likes to complain and who is in his way equally unfit for society, they will organise themselves to confront the social imperatives.

But Keiko is not unhappy in the convenience store where she works, on the contrary! Wearing the uniform erases people’s age, sex and nationality, it puts everybody on the same level. In the store, they are all employees, and every single task required through the day allows Keiko to exist in the society, to play her role.

We come now to another aspect of the book that made me love it so much: the convenience store itself. I read with avidity all the descriptions about it, the work that is required, the importance of greeting the clients with a loud “welcome”, the several little things employees have to keep in mind during the course of the day… all of this to increase the sales and for the comfort of the clients, two facets that go hand in hand in a fascinating way. (I later learnt that Sayaka MURATA herself works in a convenience store, no wonder the depiction of it is so vivid!)

My feelings

To me, the story was well worth reading only for the convenience store atmosphere it conveys. Next time I travel to Japan, I must watch around myself when I enter a convenience store, instead of just heading to the things I want to buy!

“この世界は異物を認めない” (p.89)

But of course, this is not the main focus of the book and what connected me the most to this story is how the author underlines the obligation to justify, to explain yourself as long as you don’t belong to any acceptable patterns.

On the one hand, I think that this is something any reader can relate to, even if you don’t live in Japan. Group pressure, social standards exist everywhere I guess, and societies tend to demand justification to those who step outside the pre-defined routes. On the other hand, this book is about Japanese society, and we learn its rules the hard way, that is, through Keiko’s eyes. It shows a world where one’s life goal is not the search for personal happiness and self-fulfilment but a marathon to complete the challenges the society forces on you (getting a good job, getting married, having children). Achieving it gives you the right to judge the ones who failed…

Conclusion

ダウンロード

『コンビニ人間』, 村田沙耶香, 文春文庫

Though it is very short (161 pages), 『コンビニ人間』is incredibly full of elements and gave me a lot to think about. I felt that, with its two very different protagonists, the story forces the readers to reflect upon their own criteria. While we are afraid of being judged by society, aren’t we also prompt to judge those who don’t fit our own definition of “normality”? This and other thoughts accompanied me long after I closed the book. It is without a doubt one of my favourite books of the year and I heartily recommend it!

How to start writing in Japanese

One of my goals for November is to write in Japanese every day for a month. I have been thinking about how to write in a foreign language if you don’t have a native to correct you, and I thought that I would write about it today.

If you are like me, writing is not as much difficult than discouraging. You take the grammar and the vocabulary you know, build your sentences, and while you don’t really struggle to write, you end up full of doubts and incertitudes: “what I wrote does not sound Japanese”, “it sounds like an example sentence, but I doubt whether a native would say that”, “is it even correct?”, “why do I keep using the same grammar over and over again?” and so on.

A method to write in English

To begin with, I would like to present a book I find truly inspiring. Originally, it is a book for Japanese who learn English and is called 『Q&A Diary 英語で3行日記』. This book was translated into Korean for Koreans who learn English and this is the version I have and will talk about. Sorry if it is confusing, but the version I have does not matter, as it is the method described in the book that interests me.

(Reference for the Korean version: 하루3줄 영어 일기, ALC 편집부 (지음), 정은희 (옮김), 한빛비즈.)

The purpose of this book is to help you write in English every day for a year. The book has 365 pages of prompts:

This is how the pages look like. The prompts are very varied from “describe how your room looks right now”, to “what is your favourite book?”, “what surprised you the most today” or “what do you hate being asked?”. All in all, I find them inspiring enough.

On the page, you have the prompt in the form of a question, a model in English with its translation in Korean, and some vocabulary related to the theme that you could use for your writing.

In the introduction, the author explains how to use this book depending on your level:

  • Beginners: just copy the text given as an example. Take the opportunity to note down the vocabulary you didn’t know if there is any.
  • Intermediate: use the structure given in the example and change some words and expressions.
  • Advanced: write your own text.

The first image shows how you can just copy the example. The second one highlights the words and expressions that have been changed. The third one shows a completely different text. (sorry for the quality of the pictures)

(Note: If you can find the Japanese version of the book, I guess you could use it to write in Japanese instead of English, using the translation of the example as a starting point? I don’t know if the Japanese translations sound natural in Japanese or if they stay too close to the English.)

How to use this method for Japanese

The first thing to do is to find a text in Japanese that would act as the example given in the book. You could use any material like a book or a textbook. I personally recommend using content that is updated regularly, like a blog written in Japanese. For example, if you follow someone who updates their blog twice a week, you could also decide to write in Japanese these same days. Also, I recommend choosing a blog or anything else that is about one of your passions or sphere of interest.

(I personally use two sources:

  • First, I use the column that Shigesato ITOI writes every day on his site ほぼ日刊イトイ新聞.
  • When I find the column too difficult or I don’t feel inspired by it, I head to the Hobonichi store and read the news written by the team working on the hobonichi techo (it is called “手帳チームNews”). These articles are usually very easy to read and always a source of inspiration to me!

I use these two related contents because I always enjoy reading Shigesato ITOI, I love stationery, I love the hobonichi techo, and I could write about it every day.

More recently, I have discovered the blog 猫な日本語 by author Yumi SHIMIZU. Her blog is updated three times a week, it is about daily life, cats and Japanese.)

The text you found will replace the prompts. The idea is to write about what the text is about.

Then, just apply the method. You can start by just writing down the text as it is. In this case, don’t just copy it word after word, but try to remember the whole sentence so that you can write it down entirely without having to check it halfway. It will help you remember the structures and grammar pattern. While doing this may sound too easy, it has more benefits than you think. You will get familiar with the way that different things are expressed in Japanese, you will gain confidence and you will practice your kanji!

The second step is to re-write the text replacing words by others, then replacing a whole expression, or even a whole sentence. This will bring you to the point where you will do the opposite: you will write your own text and use expressions and words from the original text in your writing.

Another similar method would be to summarise the text, especially if it is long. Here again, start by selecting the most important sentences of the text and write them down. When you gain confidence, you can start linking these key sentences differently, and ultimately, write your own summary of the text.

Things to keep in mind

In any case, try to use in your writing the words, expressions and grammar patterns you find in the original text. This will widen the range of expressions ready at hand, that you can use without even think about it. Even if you copy the text as it is, underline the expressions you find useful and would like to use by your own later.

As I said in the introduction, one of the most discouraging things to me is the feeling that I always use the same vocabulary and grammar, I always say the same things, it seems that I am trapped in a sphere of limited vocabulary and expressions. Finding inspiration in others’ writing is the best way to get out of my sphere and collect, little by little, new ways of expressing myself. It takes time, and it is not easy to measure the progress, but copying natives will increase the number of patterns and words you feel confident in using.

Conclusion

The method described in the book is so flexible that anyone can start writing in a foreign language. No matter what your level is, whether you can or cannot have a correction, nothing stops you from starting right now, by simply copying a text written in your target language!

Japanese Immersion: October week 5

As I mentioned on Monday, I have finished watching the 10 episodes drama 『シグナル 長期未解決事件捜査班』and I have started a new one this week! I also continued reading the political magazine Sapio.

Japanese drama

シグナル: final thoughts

I have watched maybe 4 or 5 Korean drama entirely in my life and started dozens of them without being able to make it through the first episode. Korean dramas are not for me, even though the story of most of them appeals to me, I just don’t like watching them.

The same happened for the drama “Signal” when I tried watching the Korean original version when it came out. I have watched I think 3 episodes, but I found most of the scenes too long and the main character irritating. These and other little things made me give up this highly acclaimed, suspenseful and remarkably well-written drama.

シグナル

Written by Kim Eun-hee. Starring Kentaro SAKAGUCHI, Michiko KICHISE and Kazuki KITAMURA

The Japanese remake is a condensed version of the Korean one. While the Korean version has 16 episodes of 1 hour (more or less), the Japanese remake has only 10 episodes of 45 minutes. I felt that the remake had kept the best of the drama (the story) and compressed everything else, especially the action scenes or the sentimental ones. I can understand that some people like the Korean version better because they like having such scenes in a drama. But to me, the Japanese remake was perfect. The main character, the profiler Saegusa, was also more modest or less arrogant than his Korean counterpart, another point that I appreciated.

I recommend the Japanese remake of “Signal”, most of all because it has a fantastic story. While a team is working on unsolved cases in 2018, a mysterious walkie talkie allows one of the team, the profiler Saegusa, to communicate with a police officer living at the time the murders occurred. Of course, changing anything in the past has repercussions in the present. I found that the intrications between past and present were extremely well thought, resulting in a suspenseful and original investigation drama.

Currently watching: 『ビブリア古書堂の事件手帖』

Biblia-Koshodou-No-Jiken-Techou.png

One of my November goals, which was to find a new drama to watch, is already achieved thanks to v0x (from polyphonic v0x) who recommended 『ビブリア古書堂の事件手帖』to me.

『ビブリア古書堂の事件手帖』is originally a series of light mystery novels by En MIKAMI (三上延). The drama is an adaptation of the first 4 volumes of this series, starring Ayame GORIKI (剛力 彩芽) as the owner of an impressive antiquarian bookshop.

When I heard that the drama was about solving mysteries resolving around literature and books, I immediately felt that this was a drama for me. I watched the first episode and loved it!

I liked the characters, the actors, the story, the mystery in it and the humour. But what really surprised me is how easy it was to understand. I am not saying that I understand everything the first time I hear it, but I can understand almost everything if I listen to it several times. That is because the characters speak so clearly. Particularly, Ayame GORIKI has a way of speaking that is a real pleasure to listen to. She speaks slowly enough, pronounces all the sounds clearly and has an agreeable voice too. I felt greatly encouraged when I watched the first episode and realised that I could understand most of it without subtitles.

I think that I will use this drama to study like I did with シグナル because I feel that doing it improved my listening a lot.

I am also curious about the light novels, maybe I will get one of them! Anyway, I am very grateful to v0x for the recommendation!

About Emperor Hirohito

I am still reading the issue 9.10 2018 of the magazine Sapio about the Emperor of Japan.

The article I read this week was written by historian Ikuhiko HATA and was about Emperor Hirohito. Ikuhito HATA is a renowned historian, but also a polemic one.  I don’t know much about him though, except that he minimises the extent of the massacre of Nanking and the comfort women issue by giving numbers of victims that are far below the ones usually cited. For example, he states that 30,000 persons were killed in Nanking, while Iris Chang, the author of The Rape of Nanking, gives the figure of 300,000. As for the comfort women issue, he protested with other historians against an American publisher who stated that there were 200,000 comfort women. Ikuhito HATA gives the figure of only 20,000. He also said incredible things like, “Prostitutes have existed at every time in human history, so I do not believe that comfort women are a special category“.

With this in mind, I read his article on Emperor Hirohito. If I understood it correctly, this article tends to show that Hirohito was powerless in front of the military and the cabinet. As a consequence, his attempts to favour diplomacy over military action were not taken into account, what the Emperor said was regarded as mere “感想” but didn’t have any political repercussion.

On September 6th, 1941, three months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the cabinet held a meeting in the presence of Hirohito to discuss the attitude to adopt against the American. During this meeting, Hirohito tried to seek a resolution via diplomacy (instead of military attack), but “明らかに天皇の意向が無視されている”:

Hata says, “しかしこの発言 (the Emperor’s) は政策決定にまったく影響を与えず単なる天皇の「ご感想」に終わってしまう” and two lines further, repeats “立憲君主制の主旨からすれば、たとえ天皇の発言があっても、決定に影響を与えない「感想」として扱われたのである。”

The whole article then shows that what the Emperor said was not always taken into account. One picture has the caption “軍部は天皇の意向にしたがわないことも多かった”. So even the army was not always following the intention of the Emperor.

Worse, the Emperor’s words are used by politicians as they please, following it when it goes in their direction and ignoring it when it does not. Hata says, “戦前のエリートたちは、天皇の言葉を都合よく使い分けていたのである。” and “石も左も、自分に都合のよい天皇の発言は利用し、気に入らない発言はなかったことにする。その点については、戦前も戦後もあまり変わっていない”

All citations are from Sapio magazine, issue of 9.10 2018, “武器は言葉のみ―昭和天皇は戦い続けた” by Ikuhiko HATA (秦郁彦)

This image of an Emperor preaching for diplomacy in vain, ignored by the cabinet and the army, is far from the Emperor Herbert P. Bix describes in his biography Hirohito, and the Making of Modern Japan, that I am currently reading. I haven’t reached WWII, not even the Sino-Japanese war, but Bix says in the introduction, “From late 1937 onward Hirohito gradually became a real war leader, influencing the planning, strategy, and conduct of operations in China and participating in the appointment and promotion of the highest generals and admirals. From late 1940, when more efficient decision-making machinery was in place, he made important contributions during each stage of policy review, culminating in the opening of hostilities against the United States and Great Britain in December 1941. (…) Slowly but surely he became caught up in the fever of territorial expansion and war.” (p. 12).

Hata follows what Hirohito himself said after the war, namely that he tried in vain to prevent war but could not succeed for constitutional reasons. Bix cites the Emperor’s words, “As a constitutional monarch under a constitutional government, I could not avoid approving the decision of the Tojo cabinet at the time of the opening of hostilities” (p.3). This echoes Hata’s statement cited above “立憲君主制の主旨からすれば、たとえ天皇の発言があっても、決定に影響を与えない「感想」として扱われたのである”. But Bix continues by saying “They (Hirohito and his aides) skillfully crafted a text designed to lead to the conclusion that he had always been a British-style constitutional monarch and a pacifist. Hirohito omitted mention of how he and his aides had helped the military to become an enormously powerful political force pushing for arms expansion (…). He was silent too about how he had encouraged the belligerency of his people by serving as an active ideological focus of a new emperor-centred nationalism that had grown up around him”(p.4)

I find it absolutely stimulating to compare what historians like Hata and Bix say about the emperor. I am glad to be able to read such articles in Japanese because I was curious to see how conservative historians in Japan presents the history of their country. I still have a lot of work to do to be able to read History books in Japanese, but I felt that this article was the first step!

This part ended up being much longer than planned 😅.

Thank you for reading, have a nice weekend!

Book Review: 『日本語びいき』by Yumi SHIMIZU

『日本語びいき』 is definitely one of my best books of the year! The author, Yumi SHIMIZU (清水由美), is teaching Japanese to foreign students and wrote this book for her fellow native Japanese speakers. Through 21 short chapters, she invites her reader to rediscover the Japanese language and let oneself be amazed by patterns that natives usually take for granted. Here is how she concludes her book:

“何か一つでも、日本語について「ほう!」と思っていただけましたなら、うれしいです。”

About 『日本語びいき』

日本語びいき

『日本語びいき』by 清水由美, ill. ヨシタケシンスケ, 中公文庫

First of all, I appreciated greatly the structure of the book. Each of the 21 chapters can be read independently and will not exceed 10 pages. I read them in order, but you could jump to the topics that appeal to you most (the author sometimes refers to previous chapters, but I still think that they can be read in any order). Being very short, the chapters are pleasant to read and I never felt overwhelmed with information or grammatical details. It also has funny illustrations by ヨシタケシンスケ.

The topics of the book are very wide, the author talks about grammatical particularities, pronunciation, hiragana as well as usages. For example, the chapter “らぬき、れたす、さいれ” is about the tendency to omit the ラ in the formation of the potential form of verbs 一段. Not omitting it would make the verb sound like the honorific form. However, it can lead to confusion, with over scrupulous people adding an unnecessary ラ to the potential form of 五段 verbs. I found this chapter to be one of the most interesting and instructive, but I read each chapter with great interest, often smiling to myself or nodding vigorously, haha!

If you are interested in the Japanese language for itself, and if you like talking about and discover curious facts like the strange transformation of “エロティック” and “グロテスク” into “エロ” and “グロ“… then this book is for you!

For Japanese learners?

I personally think that this book can benefit Japanese learners in many ways. The author wrote this book from her experience of teaching to foreign students. The particularity of the language she scrutinizes are often the ones that puzzled her students (for example, this: “ティッシュ持ってってってったでしょ” for “持って行ってと言ったでしょう”). More than once, she spoke of things that I myself had to struggle with, learning Japanese on my own.

Rather than saying that I learnt new grammatical forms thanks to her book, I would say that I understood better the ones I already knew. There are a lot of things that I wish I had known when I was studying basic grammar. For example, the chapter on the concept of ウチ vs ソト was very instructive.

The author also refers to English and shows how puzzling English can be for Japanese, as much as Japanese is for English-speakers. Somehow, through her examples, I ended up thinking that Japanese was not that difficult after all and that English can sometimes be much more puzzling!

I personally didn’t struggle too much to read the chapters of this book, but some were more difficult than others. The style of the author is pleasant and it is easy to follow her explanations. Although the book is written for Japanese, there are always ample explanations that allow a non-native to understand everything. It requires, however, to know well the basic grammar, as several topics are about the potential/causative form, the transitive vs intransitive verbs, and so on. To really enjoy reading the book, I think that having a good understanding of all these structures is necessary.

 I think that 『日本語びいき』is a book you can return to several times, picking a chapter you might not have understood well the first time and give it another try. This is what I will certainly do!

Differences with 『日本人の知らない日本語』

『日本語びいき』was first published under the title 『日本人の日本語知らず』which I think, was a better title. But certainly, it would have been too close to another great book on Japanese, namely 『日本人の知らない日本語』.

I have discovered 『日本人の知らない日本語』thanks to Kotobites (you will find a more complete description of the book here), and it has been one of my favourite manga at the time. I am thinking now that I should re-read it, as I have made progress since the time I first read it.

Being a manga, 『日本人の知らない日本語』is less intimidating and I would even say, easier to read. It is also funnier in the comical situations it presents. The book focuses on the Japanese teacher and the stressful, funny or puzzling situations her students put her in. These situations are the opportunity to stress particular aspects of the Japanese language that puzzle the students. It is also much about cultural differences, each student struggling with different things given their original country.

In『日本語びいき』, the author sometimes evokes similar situation with her students, but it is not the main topic of the book. The book focuses on the Japanese language itself and is much more focused on grammatical patterns than 『日本人の知らない日本語』. In such, it is a more challenging book, but nothing too difficult either.

The contents and the style of both books are very different, but I personally enjoyed reading both and heartily recommend them!

Conclusion

『日本語びいき』helped me to understand better some grammar points that I had merely memorised when I started learning Japanese. I liked how the author sometimes links linguistic particularities to the characteristics of the Japanese society or underlines the regularity of some grammatical patterns. While I don’t want to blame the grammar textbooks I have used to learn Japanese, I wish I had had a teacher like Yumi SHIMIZU!

Yumi SHIMIZU’s blog: 猫な日本語

Monthly Review: October 2018

October has been a month for discovering new paths: I have started studying Japanese history and I have watched my very first Japanese drama.

The two books I had ordered about Japanese History have finally arrived, but before that, I had started reading as many things as possible on the Internet. I am taking notes in a notebook too, which allows me to use the new three Pilot Iroshizuku inks I bought this month (namely, 深海 shin-kai、月夜 tsuki-yo and 松露 syo-ro).

I have finished watching the drama 『シグナル 長期未解決事件捜査班』(シグナル ちょうきみかいけつじけんそうさはん) and this is the first Japanese drama that I watch from start to finish. I am looking for other detective dramas now!

But most importantly, I have achieved my goals for the month, which were:

October goals 2018

It was not a difficult challenge, but it helped me to stay focused and make an effort to finish the books I had started before commencing new ones. I finished『流星の絆』at the beginning of the month, 『未来のミライ』two weeks ago and 『日本語びいき』this weekend (I will write my review on Wednesday).

I wanted to finish these three books because I have realised that I don’t have much time left to complete my 2018 reading challenge. My challenge was to read a book per month in Japanese and I had brought back 13 books from Japan for this purpose.

Now, my goal of reading one book a month is largely completed because I have read much more than 12 books this year, sometimes even reading several books in a single month. However, I still haven’t read all the 13 books of my initial list, and I want to read them all before the end of the year!

As I have given up reading one book of my list (『悪と仮面のルール』 by 中村文則), I still have 3 to read:

  • 『リカーシブル』 (Recursible) by 米澤穂信, a long novel of +500 pages
  • 『往復書簡』 by 湊かなえ, a collection of four short stories, I already read the first one
  • 『探偵倶楽部 (クラブ)』by 東野圭吾, a collection of five short stories, I already read the first one

If I want to finish them all in 2018, I need to start the novel right now and read at least one or two short stories in November, hence my goals for November:

November Goals 2018

I also added some other goals, though “study Japanese History” and “watch a drama” are not very challenging ones! As for writing on a daily basis, I don’t know if I will be able to do it, but I will try. I have been writing in Japanese every day for some months and I was quite positive that it had become a habit, but I have given up at some point. I want to renew with writing, and November seems perfect for it!

So that’s it! What are your goals for November? Only two months left in 2018, let’s make the best of them!