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Studying 絵本 (Ehon) – Japanese Image Books as a Japanese Learner

Once I lived in Tokyo, my pal and I might typically take lengthy meandering walks adventuring across the metropolis and infrequently ended up in bookstores. Whereas he tended to gravitate towards the academic textbooks, I one way or the other all the time ended up within the youngsters’s part. One thing in regards to the cabinets stuffed with image books simply appeared so inviting to me.

I do not care what number of kanji you realize, it may be formidable to try to learn even a novella in Japanese. If there are no illustrations, it is simply you and the textual content — there are not any different contextual cues to depend on. However with youngsters’s books, I did not really feel like studying them can be an awesome problem from the beginning, and I felt achieved studying a complete guide (regardless of how brief or what number of photos).

Nonetheless, simply because youngsters’s books are for kids doesn’t suggest they’re essentially simple to learn for these learning Japanese as a overseas language. On this article, I will talk about why youngsters’s books is usually a nice useful resource for Japanese-language learners, in addition to a few of the inherent challenges to be careful for. I will additionally suggest some genres of books that grownup learners of Japanese may get pleasure from and recommend the place to search out your individual books.

絵本 (Ehon): Japanese Image Books

Once you hear “youngsters’s books,” the very first thing which may come to thoughts is the basic image guide. However there are additionally simple readers, chapter books, center grade, younger grownup, and a ton of different associated classes of books aimed towards early readers. For instance, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Harry Potter are each youngsters’s books, however they’re fairly totally different when it comes to stage, size, and the quantity of images.

Ehon are illustrated tales for kids through which the textual content and pictures are built-in, and usually work collectively to inform a narrative.

For this text, nevertheless, the main target can be narrowed to image books, or 絵本 (ehon). So what precisely will be thought-about ehon? To place it merely, ehon are illustrated tales for kids through which the textual content and pictures are built-in, and usually work collectively to inform a narrative. It may appear apparent, however to contemplate the earlier examples, The Very Hungry Caterpillar is an image guide however Harry Potter just isn’t. I do know, I do know, however what in regards to the illustrated model of Harry Potter? No, nonetheless not an image guide, as a result of the narrative doesn’t depend on photos on each web page to assist additional the story and have interaction the reader — who, within the case of an image guide, is usually being learn to, not studying the guide themselves. However for the sake of the sources I’ll introduce on this article, any guide that’s heavily-illustrated, from youngsters’s tales to encyclopedia-type specialty books referred to as 図鑑 (zukan) can be known as a “image guide.”

Why Learn Japanese Image Books?

There is a purpose I gravitated in the direction of the image books in Japanese bookstores — it was just like the sweet aisle within the grocery retailer. Amongst lengthy rows of research guides and harried college students, administration tomes and surly salarymen, and “simple” cookbooks and the heavy mantle of my very own failures, the kids’s part beckoned like a heat hug. It was a microcosm of shiny colours, cozied with charmingly tiny tables and chairs, the cabinets filled with titles I may truly learn — or a minimum of roughly work out from the duvet artwork.

Past the welcoming ambiance of the kids’s part, as a Japanese language learner I additionally get pleasure from studying youngsters’s books as a result of they really feel extra approachable. In the event you’re nonetheless not satisfied, listed below are a number of extra causes to attempt them out.

Footage Present Context Clues

Particularly for these at a decrease stage who’re nonetheless studying to learn in Japanese, photos is usually a recreation changer.

For one, you possibly can’t take it without any consideration that they visually make it extra interesting and approachable. In comparison with one thing that is text-only, photos actually decrease the emotional hurdle of choosing up a guide and beginning to learn. Studying youngsters’s books would not really feel like learning, even.

Studying new phrases from image books may also help you acquire a greater understanding of their nuance, and supply concrete examples of how and once they’re sometimes utilized in context.

Footage may present context to not solely provide help to learn, however learn between the traces as nicely. The truth is, analysis has proven that the mixture of textual content with graphics like photos or diagrams facilitates studying comprehension. Photographs may also help you perceive phrases it’s possible you’ll not know, and offer you further details about methods to interpret the textual content. Which means photos may provide help to study new phrases and phrases with out translations. Studying via photos is a extra direct and intuitive method than, say books with parallel translations. Whereas studying new phrases via translation is a standard method for language learners (like flashcards), studying new phrases from image books may also help you acquire a greater understanding of their nuance, and supply concrete examples of how and once they’re sometimes utilized in context, which is one thing direct translations cannot all the time archieve.

Not like Manga, It is Not All Dialogue

However why all this speak about image books when you might simply go and decide up some manga? Based mostly on this standards, they need to be good studying materials, proper? Full of images, maybe a bit of longish however not too text-heavy, Japanese tradition savvy, and naturally tremendous enjoyable!

Dialogue tries to duplicate how folks truly discuss, and will be very casual and infrequently colloquial.

Do not get me incorrect, I like manga. However manga will be troublesome for a number of causes, and a few of the large ones are associated to the truth that the tales are primarily instructed via dialogue. After all, this dialogue tries to duplicate how folks truly discuss, and will be very casual and infrequently colloquial. On prime of that, spoken Japanese can require you to select up on lots of subtext, since issues like topics are sometimes omitted. All of this collectively signifies that manga can typically be troublesome for newbie and even intermediate learners to grasp.

You will discover a few of these challenges additionally apply to image books, however as a result of the tales are typically instructed via narrative textual content as a substitute of almost solely via dialogue, I discover they are often simpler to digest. Whereas the tales in manga may get actually sophisticated actually quick, the tales you discover in image books are shorter and never overly-complex — in spite of everything, they’re geared towards youngsters.

You Can Set Small However Achievable Objectives

You’ll be able to learn — and end — them quicker.

As a second-language learner, I typically discover that making an attempt to sort out an extended guide or a novel to be daunting, and the stress to complete will be deinsentivising. That is why I’m an enormous proponent of setting smaller, extra achievable objectives to remain motivated to learn. As a result of image books are on the shorter facet, you possibly can learn — and end — them quicker. I all the time really feel a heat sense of accomplishment once I’ve completed studying a guide in Japanese, and it would not actually matter if it is a novel, a chapter guide, or a thirty-page image guide.

Study About Japanese Tradition

Interested by Japanese tradition in a broader sense, many Japanese youngsters’s books, both explicitly or implicitly, clarify or educate youngsters about Japanese tradition and methods to be part of Japanese society.

You should use image books to study what Japanese youngsters study that turns into a part of the collective frequent data.

Take into consideration all of the tales you hear and concepts you decide up as a youngsters that go into your understanding of your tradition and methods to be part of it: fairy tales and songs, tales about well-known folks and occasions, characters which are a part of a shared cultural reminiscence, what you possibly can count on to see and do in other places, expectations about how it is best to act. You should use image books to study what Japanese youngsters study that turns into a part of the collective frequent data — as an illustration, the tune Donguri Korokoro, who Kaguyahime and Urashima Tarō are, what you may do within the springtime, and methods to work along with a gaggle.

Image books may also help you study not just some foundational elements of Japanese tradition, however will also be a type of backdoor to understanding a Japanese perspective!

And… They’re Merely So A lot Enjoyable!

Maybe the perfect a part of studying Japanese image books is that they’re enjoyable. And cute, and shiny, and charming, and simply plain pretty.

Even in case you have been by no means an enormous fan of studying to start with, or in case you’ve developed an emotional allergy over time of making an attempt to learn in Japanese, identical to Harry Potter impressed non-readers to search out the enjoyment in studying, making an attempt out Japanese image books is likely to be simply what you might want to jumpstart your journey into studying Japanese (once more). So if it appears like a enjoyable thought, give it a attempt! It is likely to be simply what you might want to encourage you to sort out one thing with much less, and even no photos, finally.

Inherent Challenges of Studying Japanese Image Books

Like I discussed earlier than, the kids’s guide part beckons just like the sweet aisle of the bookstore. Nonetheless, sadly not each Japanese image guide affords an easy jaunt via sweet land. So, let’s shortly speak about a few of the challenges so you are not stunned by a bitter gummy worm while you’re wolfing down on some candy, candy gummy bears.

As a second language learner, there are going to be some inherent challenges that include studying books written for native audio system, even when these native audio system are youngsters.

Baby-Centric Vocabulary

Whereas the overwhelming majority of Japanese image books are written for kids who’re native audio system of Japanese, in case you’ve spent a lot time round youngsters you will know that they’ve a vocabulary that is probably not utilized in lots of contexts for adults or second-language learners.

They’ve a vocabulary that is probably not utilized in lots of contexts for adults or second-language learners.

For instance, some of the well-known English youngsters’s tales is Pat the Bunny, however I could not inform you the final time I used the phrase “pat” or learn it in a sentence that wasn’t in Pat the Bunny. It is such a easy phrase, simply three letters, nevertheless it’s not even within the prime 5000 phrases really helpful for superior learners of English by Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries.

The identical goes for Japanese image books. For instance, they typically use onomatopoeia and different fun-sounding expressions that add good rhythm to the tales. ごっつんこ gottsunko, as an illustration, is a phrase used for when one thing bumps to one thing else. This can be a pretty frequent expression for Japanese youngsters, and whereas it might even be utilized by native-speaking adults, just isn’t essentially as well-known to second language learners. Studying these kinds of phrases is usually a pleasure, however will also be a stumbling block, identical to the comparatively superior grammar which may pop up.

Grammar the Textbooks Do not Train You

Once more, with youngsters’s books, the belief is that the reader is a local speaker. And native audio system study language in a totally totally different method in comparison with second language learners — textbooks don’t have anything on that spongy child mind!

You may see extra superior grammatical expressions and verb tenses simply casually thrown round.

So, because of this you may see extra superior grammatical expressions and verb tenses simply casually thrown round, just like the pleasant trio causative, passive, and causative-passive. Oftentimes, even when there’s some grammar you do not perceive you possibly can nonetheless get sufficient of the context to determine roughly what a sentence means (that is precisely how I learn a textual content written in classical Japanese), so do not get too discouraged!

You may also come throughout contractions, like 〜てる for 〜ている or 〜ちゃう for 〜てしまう, or some sound adjustments or different phrases related to child discuss, like 〜ちゃま for 〜さま. These colloquialisms is probably not in your dictionary, however you possibly can typically determine them out with a fast Google search. You’ll be able to undoubtedly give your dictionary (or a minimum of your mind) a exercise with the following problem: lacking kanji.

No Kanji… Can Be A Little Difficult

a page from an ehon that uses only hiragana

Many books for very younger youngsters — from toddlers to these within the first 12 months of elementary faculty — typically have only a few kanji, or none in any respect. On the one hand, this implies you needn’t know any kanji to start out studying youngsters’s books, and you will not stumble over the meanings or readings of kanji you are not conversant in. Hurray!

However, I had no thought how a lot I truly relied on kanji to know the that means of a sentence till my pal’s toddler requested me to learn him a guide with zero kanji. I used to be fairly assured — actually I may learn Japanese higher than a two 12 months outdated? The reply was sure — however not with out some preliminary hits to my dignity.

Take, for instance, this image guide title: 「きょうは なんのひ?」

It is a bit of tough, proper? You’ll sometimes see the title written like 「今日は何の日?」, however with no kanji, it will probably take a minute to parse the place the tip of a phrase is, what’s a particle and what’s not, what the that means of a phrase is… Sentences are damaged up into chunks, nevertheless, typically with areas after particles, which is lots of assist.

The usage of kanji is one thing it is best to look into particularly when choosing a guide.

Like the opposite challenges, this is not an enormous impediment that may’t be overcome — simply one thing to concentrate on. You is probably not snug studying (virtually) all-kana textual content at first, however you will get used to it as you learn. Once you aren’t positive, studying out loud may provide help to acknowledge a phrase you truly know.

Not all image books are devoid of kanji — there are alternatives geared towards older youngsters and extra superior readers which you should utilize to follow your kanji data. Simply remember the fact that using kanji is one thing it is best to look into particularly when choosing a guide!

It Can Be Tougher To Discover A Ebook At Your Stage (Than Graded Readers)

It may be tougher to discover a image guide that is appropriate on your stage.

In comparison with sources like graded readers for language learners, that are categorized into ranges of issue, it may be tougher to discover a image guide that is appropriate on your stage. Some web sites like EhonNavi (which I will speak about later) can help you search by age, which will be a sign of issue stage, however this may be limiting when the studying materials just isn’t tailor-made for language learners, particularly.

NPO Tadoku Supporter’s web site is a web site the place you’ll find graded readers and seek for different really helpful extensive-reading supplies. Of their database, you possibly can seek for their curated image books. Every guide is given a grade so you’ll find books that match your studying stage. If you are on their web site, be sure you take a look at their authentic graded readers too, as many can be found without cost — particularly lower-level reads use numerous photos, in order that they’re like an ideal mixture of image books and graded readers!

Japanese Image Books Style Suggestions

After studying about the advantages and challenges of studying image books, I hope you might be up for giving them a shot. Though “Japanese image books” appears like a particular class of books, it truly encompasses all kinds of genres. In case you are not positive what to search for, or the place to start out, I put collectively a number of suggestions, specializing in genres you can study Japanese tradition from, in addition to ones that I feel adults can get pleasure from. To search out or instill the enjoyment of studying, I feel it is vital to select a guide about one thing you’re keen on or that you simply’re a minimum of all in favour of. I hope you’ll find one thing on this record that you simply really feel enthusiastic about studying!

むかし話: Conventional Folktales

an assortment of mukashi banashi ehon

Whereas basic European fairy tales are common in Japan as nicely, Japan has its personal conventional folktales, or むかし話 mukashi banashi, which accurately interprets to “tales of a very long time in the past.” The storylines of a few of these well-known tales, like Momotarō, Kaguyahime, and Urashimatarō are so well-known they’ve develop into a part of the cultural cloth of Japan — you’d have a tough time discovering somebody that would not know them. The truth is, it’s fairly frequent to see or hear in regards to the characters and references to those folktales in day-to-day life in Japan. In order a Japanese learner it is not a nasty thought to increase your cultural data by studying them your self!

Only a heads-up, since folktales are tales that have been historically handed down orally via generations, the writing model and format are likely to differ between authors and publishers, even for a similar story. Most Japanese folktales additionally function aged characters — ojiichan (grandfather) and/or obaachan (grandmother). Due to this, some books (that revered the authenticity of oral storytelling) may use very colloquial speech patterns attribute of aged characters in fiction. This may be difficult to grasp for Japanese learners, so that you may need to look out for these quirks when choosing a guide.

図鑑・事典: Encyclopedia

a few example pages from various zukan/jiten

That is truly extra of a format than a style, however 図鑑 (zukan) and 事典 (jiten) seek advice from encyclopedia-type books.

For kids who’re studying all about new phrases and topics for the primary time, these are nice vocabulary-builders and might present deep-knowledge on a topic they discover attention-grabbing, like bugs or fish. There are zukan and jiten of actually something, so you’ll in all probability be capable of discover one which’s all about one thing you’re keen on. You is likely to be pondering,”nicely, I am not all in favour of any of the issues youngsters love.” Okay, regardless that you may not be all in favour of dinosaurs or acorns, critically, the number of zukan and jiten is large. And lots of have actually attention-grabbing viewpoints that adults would discover attention-grabbing and academic.

For instance, a guide known as 絶滅したいきもの図鑑 (zetsumetsu shita ikimono zukan) options animals that went extinct for a type of foolish and ridiculous purpose. (Like, do you know a manatee-like animal known as Steller’s sea cow grew to become extinct as a result of they have been too type!? 🤯) There are additionally books that function chicken beaks, the reduce ends of citrus fruits, and even fish fillets.

What’s good about these encyclopedia-type books is that they’re formatted to parse data in an easily-digestible format as a substitute of utilizing lengthy, limitless paragraphs. Often, a topic (or a gaggle of topics) is featured on one web page. This chunking makes it simple to learn or skip complete pages which may not curiosity you with out feeling such as you missed out on one thing integral to the non-narrative format.

So long as they’re supposed for kids, each zukan and jiten (the phrases are used virtually interchangeably) are image-heavy. Nonetheless, word that zukan, because the title consists of 図 (which suggests “image”), means “visible dictionary,” so they have an inclination to have a stronger emphasis on visuals. So, though it actually is determined by the guide, it is not uncommon for zukan to have extra restricted textual content. As an example, some solely record a reputation alongside the image of the topic.

食べ物: Meals

an assortment of food related ehon

There’s one thing particular about taking a look at illustrations of meals that scrolling photogenic foodie images in your social media feed cannot contact. Particularly in case you love Japanese meals (washoku), image books that function meals are a real gem.

There are story books that revolve round meals, however there are additionally extra instructional books that includes a sure sort of meals that offer you a deep dive into its historical past, substances, and extra. I feel grownup language learners who’re into Japanese culinary tradition would particularly get pleasure from these books.
Some books additionally function encyclopedia-style content material like zukan, for instance seasonal wagashi, or differing kinds and thickness of ramen noodles. These books are typically geared toward elementary schoolers, and are written in kana and kanji (typically with furigana readings), in order that they may very well be nice supplies for learners who need to follow studying kanji. Simply be sure to eat some snacks earlier than heading to a library or bookstore — they’ll absolutely make you hungry!

妖怪: Yokai

an assortment of yokai ehon

Are you a fan of 妖怪 (yokai)? In the event you’re into horror tales or the occult, image books about yokai may very well be your jam. If weren’t already acquainted, yokai are supernatural beings and mysterious creatures of Japanese folklore. They are often “haunted” inanimate objects imbibed with non secular power, water demons just like the kappa — who additionally featured in a Harry Potter sequence film — or the frigid 雪女 (yuki onna) snow lady, who freezes her unsuspecting victims to loss of life.

They could sound like an innately horrifying matter, however yokai, regardless of their folktale origins, are a outstanding a part of Japanese popular culture, particularly for kids. Ever heard of a bit of franchise known as Pokemon? Yea, yokai impressed. Yokai’s appears to be like and habits will be quirky and hilarious, making them way more than the subject of some scary tales. Since many youngsters love yokai in Japan, there are fairly a number of youngsters’s image books that includes yokai. You may also see the phrase おばけ as one thing in the identical vein — it typically refers to mysterious creatures together with yokai.

Whether or not you might be new to the world of yokai, or an avid fan already, there are lots of 図鑑 (zukan) / encyclopedia-type books that introduce the totally different “species” of yokai, and a few that even offer you ideas for methods to cope with them in case you have been ever to come across these mysterious creatures in real-life.

Yokai manga legend 水木しげる (Mizuki Shigeru), who’s greatest identified for the ゲゲゲの鬼太郎 (Ge-Ge-Ge No Kitaro) sequence, additionally wrote many image books about yokai which are nicely price testing.

The place To Discover Japanese Image Books?

Now you is likely to be feeling impressed to start out studying Japanese image books (or a minimum of I hope you might be), however left questioning the place to select one up. In the event you’re in Japan, you possibly can simply pop into the closest bookstore and wander over to the kids’s part like I did. Most bookstores can have a minimum of a young children’s part. Kinokuniya, Maruzen, Tsutaya, and Book1st are all good choices. Even some 100-yen retailers promote cheap youngsters’s books. In the event you’d choose to purchase used books, attempt BookOff! Remember to take a look at your native library as nicely.

In the event you’d choose to browse or learn on-line, otherwise you aren’t in Japan, there are some choices for you as nicely. EhonNavi is a Japanese website devoted to, what else, ehon. On EhonNavi, not solely are you able to seek for books by style, however you may as well search by age, which will be useful to gauge the studying stage of the guide. One of many many advantages of purchasing their catalog on-line is that they supply free samples. Whereas it’s a restricted function, you possibly can even preview entire books without cost by signing up. Along with your free account you possibly can entry the 全ページためしよみ (all-page preview) of as much as three books a month (as soon as per title solely). Many books additionally provide a ちょっとためしよみ (“a bit of” preview) which helps you to take a peek of some pages and for this, you do not even join an account. EhonNavi additionally affords a premium, paid membership that means that you can learn as many books as you need for about 4 bucks a month (396 yen, to be actual). You’ll be able to nonetheless solely learn every guide as soon as, however you possibly can entry as many books as you need! Previews are solely accessible with the cell app, nevertheless it’s well worth the trouble to obtain it. Sadly, though EhonNavi does have an internet store the place you should purchase bodily books, sadly, they don’t ship abroad.

In the event you like free stuff and need to assist a group of volunteer creators, take a look at, 絵本ひろば (Ehon Hiroba). This Japanese website is devoted to image books, however all of their books are created by customers! You’ll be able to learn tales by newbie ehon artists without cost, and there are some great tales with actually spectacular artwork. Join a free account and browse these high-quality ehon to your coronary heart’s content material!

And if you wish to come up with a bodily copy, delivery from Amazon Japan is another choice. There are in fact numerous youngsters’s books to select from, and Amazon Japan often ships internationally. For these within the U.S., particularly city-dwellers, Kinokuniya might need a brick-and-mortar location close to you. Additionally they have an on-line retailer, and delivery prices are typically cheaper than Amazon Japan or different on-line shops that ship from Japan.

Able to Take pleasure in Some Japanese Image Books?

Lastly, I simply need to offer you a pleasant reminder — be sure to take a peek earlier than buying! Particularly in case you are searching on-line, remember to take a peek inside earlier than whipping out your pockets and committing your money and time to a purchase order. There are various books that present free previews so be sure you test them out. Once more, there may be a variety in image books, so be sure to decide on what you’re feeling is correct on your stage. Books for toddlers and people supposed for school-aged youngsters are vastly totally different when it comes to each language and content material, so be sure you look out for issues like writing model, vocabulary, using kanji, textual content density, and font.

Most significantly — be sure to select a guide that you simply assume you will get pleasure from, and give attention to the enjoyment of studying relatively than how a lot you possibly can mine the sources for research materials. And naturally, remember to take a while to admire the illustrations!

I hope this text has given you some new concepts for Japanese books to learn. Despite the fact that there are some challenges with studying Japanese youngsters’s books, as a result of they are typically shorter and have numerous illustrations, they are often very approachable. They’re additionally, in fact, numerous enjoyable. I’ve gotten lots of pleasure out of studying Japanese youngsters’s books, and I hope you do, too.



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