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Japanese Tales for Language Learners

As a language learner and teacher, probably the most widespread items of recommendation I give to others is: learn in your goal language! Doing so exposes your mind to your goal language and lets you see vocabulary you have realized beforehand in context. Your thoughts then creates connections, and phrases and grammar factors start to develop into acquainted to you.

Throughout my years of intermediate Japanese studying, I attempted my hardest to seek out studying assets for my stage to assist expose myself to actual Japanese. I stumbled upon in style books like Breaking into Japanese Literature and Quick Tales in Japanese: The New Penguin Parallel Textual content. Whereas they had been good, I personally discovered them boring, missing interplay, and even containing errors in English translation. Then I discovered the Japanese Tales for Language Learners ebook. Not one of the different Japanese readers I’ve tried actually had the attention-grabbing tales or the entire helpful options — digestible English translations, vocabulary lists, translator notes, and studying comprehension questions — like this one did. The tales on this ebook stand out to me in that they start with quick and simplified variations of conventional folktale retellings and transition to the unique texts of recent literary staples.

So in case you’re genuinely all in favour of bettering your Japanese literacy at an intermediate-advanced stage whereas having fun with genuine tales from Japan, carry on readin’! On this article, I’ll break down the Japanese Tales for Language Learners ebook and illustrate the way it can enhance your studying comprehension abilities via enjoyable tales and fascinating options designed for learners.

What’s “Japanese Tales for Language Learners”?

Not like different Japanese readers I’ve used earlier than, the tales on this ebook make the most of trendy kanji together with comparatively widespread vocabulary.

Japanese Tales for Language Learners was created by a teacher-student staff at a college program for Japanese and translation research. As its title implies, this ebook is solely a set of Japanese tales with options aimed toward Japanese language learners. In response to its introduction, the ebook appears to be primarily meant for intermediate and superior learners of Japanese.

There are 5 tales in complete, every of which is listed later on this article. All of the tales are based mostly on the content material from Aozora Bunko, which is an internet library of Japanese copyright-free content material obtainable at no cost to the general public. The primary two tales are conventional Japanese folktales and use simplified variations of their supply texts. They’re simpler than the remainder of the ebook so intermediate and superior learners can use them as a warm-up, and upper-beginners would in all probability be capable of get pleasure from them as effectively. The remainder of the tales are comparatively newer, with the newest printed in 1934. They’re quick tales that symbolize Japanese trendy literature from the 1910s to Nineteen Thirties. These later tales are given within the authentic textual content, so readers who begin with the better folktales can transition to tougher supplies as they work via the ebook. Not like different Japanese readers I’ve used earlier than, resembling Breaking into Japanese Literature, the tales on this ebook make the most of trendy kanji together with comparatively widespread vocabulary. Total, these alternatives are formatted effectively, filled with genuine Japanese writings, and open up many alternatives to study new vocabulary and grammar buildings.

After the story concludes, yow will discover a variety of options within the following order: translation notes, a vocabulary and expression record, grammar workouts, and dialogue questions.

And whereas we’re discussing the tales themselves, I might additionally like to say how each is organized together with their options. Every story opens up with a brief blurb both in regards to the story’s writer or historic context. Then, the story is offered in each English and Japanese in a parallel vogue. The English translation seems on the left whereas its Japanese counterpart seems on the fitting. Because the authors are from a Japanese and translation research program, the translations are glorious and fantastically finished. After the story concludes, yow will discover a variety of options within the following order: translation notes, a vocabulary and expression record, grammar workouts, and dialogue questions. Additionally, you will be delighted by easy illustrations dotted all through the ebook that function visible cues for every story. Nice additions as they’re, they don’t distract the reader from truly specializing in studying the content material.

Page of Japanese Stories for Language Learners

The Tales

And for these of you questioning in regards to the tales themselves, permit me to supply a brief description of every together with its web page size in Japanese and variety of sections. Hopefully you will get a good suggestion of what lies throughout the pages of this ebook and choose whether or not or not it is going to be helpful as literature or studying apply.

Title Web page Size Description
Urashima Taro 3 pages A folktale a couple of younger man who saves a child turtle. This story finally illustrates the outdated adage “time flies whenever you’re having enjoyable.” It is a very well-known folktale in Japan and it is value realizing the storyline.
Snow Girl (Yuki Onna) 3 pages A Japanese ghost story about an unlucky assembly with a chilling lady. The rendition right here was written by Koizumi Yakumo (initially, Lafcadio Hearn), a Western compiler and translator of Japanese folklore and tales.
The Spider’s Thread 5 pages in 4 components A narrative a couple of legal named Kandata who makes an attempt to flee Buddhist hell utilizing a spider’s thread. The writer is legendary Japanese author Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, whom the Akutagawa Prize, probably the most famend Japanese literature awards right this moment, is called after.
The Siblings Who Virtually Drowned 11 pages in 8 components A story about three kids going into the ocean which is full of massive, harmful waves. Considered one of them nearly drowns. It was written by Arishima Takeo, a novelist who’s identified for A Sure Girl.
Gauche the Cellist 21 pages in 10 components A nasty cellist is visited by a number of animals who ask favors from him every night time. This story was written by Miyazawa Kenji, who’s broadly generally known as a poet and writer of kids’s literature.

As you may see, the ebook begins out with comparatively shorter tales and finally builds you as much as a twenty-one web page choice. Though the ebook appears to be meant primarily for intermediate and superior learners, I can see how the primary two folktales (which, in truth, are “graded readers”) could possibly be nice materials for newcomers. Though the opposite three tales are extra superior as they’re the unique textual content, and a few intermediate and superior learners may discover them a bit difficult, you may make the most of the options like parallel translations, which can help your studying and studying expertise.


Accompanying every story are a variety of options that basically make this ebook stand out from the remainder. Right here I’ll record, describe, and supply some concrete examples from the textual content so you already know precisely what to anticipate and whether or not or not this sort of examine type is best for you.

Genuine Japanese Tales

Though the primary two tales are simplified variations, the opposite three tales use the real literary textual content.

Arguably the most effective a part of this complete textual content is the truth that it introduces readers to genuine Japanese tales. These are in style tales and trendy literature classics which can be broadly identified in Japan. Though the primary two tales, “Urashima Taro” and “Snow Girl,” are simplified variations (comprehensible as the bottom content material makes use of archaic phrases and expressions), the opposite three tales, regardless of being tougher, use the real literary textual content.

One other essential level to say right here is the literary type employed. Some Japanese novels are written in a extra formal writing type that newbie college students of Japanese might not be used to. です turns into である or simply だ, for instance. The alternatives on this ebook, nonetheless, principally use the です / ます kind, which is usually used within the spoken Japanese that many newbie college students are accustomed to. After all, there are additionally cases the place the extra formal writing type is utilized. And if you’re ever confused by a sure phrase or grammar construction, simply have a look at the Vocabulary and Expressions part on the finish of every story for definitions and explanations.

Because the latter three tales use the unique textual content, you may even see some quirks, particularly in kanji utilization. Some phrases are written in another way than they’d usually be written right this moment. Take, for example, the phrase beneath:

kono kumo no ito wa ore no mono da zo.

On the English web page, that is translated as “This spider’s thread is mine!” However the phrase ore 己 (which means “I, me”) is generally written utilizing the kanji as of late. Little issues like which may be complicated for learners, however it’s best to embrace it as part of an genuine studying expertise! These sorts of curve balls are inevitable, particularly in older studying supplies. For unusual kanji usages like this, the Vocabulary and Expressions notes on the finish of every story will inform you which kanji is extra generally used.

Full English Translations

Once more, since this was created by a staff from a college translation program, the English translations are very effectively finished. Whereas they respect the which means of the unique textual content, the tales learn very naturally. That is a lot appreciated since I’ve seen awkward translations in books of this kind earlier than.

Whereas it’s simple to check the unique textual content and its English translation, additionally it is very simple to look on the translations earlier than making a lot effort to grasp the unique by yourself.

As for the format, the Japanese tales offered on the fitting web page, whereas the left web page of every unfold comprises an English translation. I’ve seen some on-line opinions complaining in regards to the parallel translation not at all times being completely aligned (one sentence in Japanese could have its English translation on the earlier unfold and vice versa), however for me personally, this isn’t a lot of a giant deal.

Whereas this design makes it simple to check the unique textual content and its English translation, additionally it is very simple to look on the translations earlier than making a lot effort to grasp the unique by yourself. So, if you’re utilizing this ebook to apply comprehending Japanese textual content, take heed to the way you learn. The parallel translation is ideal to verify your understanding of what you simply learn, and it lets you observe the sentence construction and determine unfamiliar phrases or expressions by evaluating. Undoubtedly make the most of it, however accomplish that properly!

However there’s multiple strategy to learn this ebook. Though the authors advocate Japanese learners learn the unique textual content first, once I learn via the ebook I truly learn your complete story in English beforehand so I might get an thought of what I used to be going to learn in Japanese. Then, I might go on to learn the Japanese alone. If I encountered a phrase or sentence I simply couldn’t perceive, I might search for the English on the left facet.

The editors write that they created this ebook hoping even non-Japanese learners might get pleasure from studying the tales in translation. So relying in your desire or studying targets, the ebook has that form of flexibility by way of how you need to use it. No matter you might be on the lookout for, it is essential to be aware of your objective and the way you utilize this ebook to get probably the most out of it.

Translator’s Notes

One characteristic that I actually appreciated was the inclusion of notes from the translators. These did a superb job of explaining why sure translations had been written the best way they had been. Cultural references are sometimes onerous to translate, and making an attempt to give you an equal may end in a lack of accuracy or cultural element. One of many notes for the story “Urashima Taro,” for example, explains the particular phrase tamatebako 玉手箱, which is left untranslated and described within the notes as “a magical merchandise that takes the form of a treasure field.” It additionally offers us further info, stating {that a} proverb was created from this phrase: あけてびっくり玉手箱, a phrase used to specific nice shock.

Page from Japanese Stories for Language Learners

Vocabulary and Expressions Lists

After the translator notes, you will notice a protracted record of just about each main phrase and phrase used within the story. Phrases are offered with kanji and furigana, a bolded romaji transcription, and the English which means or clarification. For sure grammar constructions, the ebook may also sometimes present an instance utilization. The Vocabulary and Expressions part for “Gauche the Cellist,” for example, offers an instance utilization of the 〜出す development, which it interprets as “to begin to do … abruptly.” The instance is given as follows:

imōto wa naki dashimashita.

The authors translate this as “My little sister burst into tears.”

Bolded romaji readings can draw the attention, doubtlessly inflicting the reader to make use of them as a crutch.

One criticism I’ve seen in regards to the Vocabulary and Expressions part is that romaji readings are included in any respect. What’s extra, the truth that they’re bolded attracts the reader’s eye to them, doubtlessly inflicting the reader to make use of the romaji as a crutch. And I’ve to agree with this. For a ebook aimed toward intermediate to superior readers, it would not make a lot sense to me to incorporate romaji. As a way to correctly learn the Japanese textual content on this ebook, it’s best to already be capable of learn hiragana, katakana, and a few kanji. The authors truly clarify that they embrace romaji within the hope that non-learners can “immediately expertise the language utilized in a literary context.” Though I perceive their intention to make these tales obtainable to anybody no matter Japanese capacity, the dearth of focus appears to have resulted in a drawback for his or her important viewers: intermediate and superior learners.

Workout routines

After the Vocabulary and Expressions part, the ebook presents some easy questions in Japanese that check the reader’s data of vocabulary utilization and grammar buildings. Though content material from the story is used as a base for every query, the questions should not in regards to the story itself. For these in search of to move standardized assessments just like the JLPT, these questions are a should. Under is an train that assessments the reader’s grammar data and comes from “The Siblings Who Virtually Drowned.”


The query beneath, from “Gauche the Cellist,” assessments your vocabulary data. Which mimetic phrase is correct?


We’ll go away the solutions as much as you. You probably have the ebook, all solutions are offered within the very again.

Dialogue Questions

Whereas train questions are nice, they don’t actually relate to the corresponding story content material. That is the place the dialogue questions are available! These questions, in English, urge the reader to consider what they’ve learn and in addition present alternatives to increase the studying expertise past merely understanding the storyline. Listed here are a pair questions from “Snow Girl”:

Why do you assume the Snow Girl left her kids behind?

Have you ever ever heard of or learn some other scary tales associated to snow?

These questions can simply be utilized by a self-learner and even in a classroom or bookclub setting to deepen understanding of the work as a bit of literature. Japanese tutors also can make the most of them to assist course of the data simply learn. As an teacher, I believe these questions look like an ideal strategy to lengthen the studying past the pages of the ebook and to foster communication between college students as effectively.

Free audio to go with Japanese Stories for Language Learners

Free Audio

Each choice is made freely obtainable in audio format on each a CD and on the ebook writer’s web site. They’re nice for listening and shadowing apply, or checking pitch accents and intonations for phrases and sentences.

Personally, I discover the audio high quality simply high-quality. Each line is spoken clearly and slowly sufficient for intermediate learners to catch. In reality, the audio would make an excellent listening apply useful resource for learners trying to up their listening comprehension abilities.

Some have criticized the audio for being of low high quality. Whereas I admit that the individuals who recorded the audio appear to not be utilizing knowledgeable microphone, the audio continues to be clear sufficient to grasp and observe together with the corresponding textual content. In my ebook, the audio is a professional and never an total con.

How Effectively Does It Stack Up?

This textual content comprises genuine tales from Japan and has a plethora of helpful options that I imagine would profit your Japanese examine. This textual content could be simply used as a textbook in a Japanese literature course and even at house for self-study.

If the authors hadn’t thought-about non-Japanese learners, they may have minimize out pointless romaji and furigana over probably the most fundamental kanji.

One factor that I needed could possibly be completely different about this ebook as a Japanese studying useful resource is its lack of focus. The title clearly means that it’s for “language learners,” and the introduction mentions that it could possibly be used for intermediate and superior learners. Whereas it is true that such learners might use it, the educational expertise might’ve been improved if it was better-focused on intermediate and superior ranges. If the authors hadn’t thought-about non-Japanese learners, for instance, they may have minimize out pointless romaji and furigana over probably the most fundamental kanji. Intermediate and superior learners could also be dissatisfied if they arrive to this ebook anticipating one thing tailor-made to their stage.

Criticisms apart, nonetheless, that is total a superb Japanese studying useful resource that I can confidently advocate to anybody of the next:

  • These all in favour of genuine Japanese tales, together with Japanese folklore and trendy literature classics
  • Learners hoping to enhance their Japanese literacy via studying
  • Individuals trying to sentence-mine for brand spanking new phrases and grammar factors
  • People trying to break into genuine Japanese literature

? If you cannot resolve, the preview is on the market on its web page, so take a peek. Completely satisfied studying!

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David’s Overview