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Light novels complicated?

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Light novels complicated?

Postby eidius » Mon 11.10.2008 4:51 pm

i know that Japanese writing is difficult but when concerning light novels are they complicated to normal newspaper or text book reads? for example if i where to read Twilight(the new girly romance) it would be easer then reading my Brisinger(inheritance trilogy/fantasy) since twilight is written simpler and has less complkicated vocabulary and advanced english phrasing then Brisinger. my question is this: are Light Novels easier to read(like the brisinger\twilight example) and if it is easier to read how long does it take to reach that level of reading/writing in Japanese considering your 18, working japanese 4 to 5 hours of self study(using Rosetta stone and websites) at home and a 3 hours university course(hopefully)?
just give me an estimate
thanks for the reply
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Re: Light novels complicated?

Postby richvh » Mon 11.10.2008 5:05 pm

In my case, it was about a year, a year and a half before I attempted to read a light novel with near constant reference to a dictionary, and about 3 years before I could set the dictionary aside for the most part. Don't expect it to be much, if any, quicker than that.
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Re: Light novels complicated?

Postby KL Gryce » Mon 11.10.2008 5:20 pm

If you're just starting, we're talking years rather than months, regardless of what you want to read. Newspapers may be more adult in tone than light fiction, but they're also less likely to reference obscure details of Japanese culture. After years of study, my reading comprehension was a lot higher for newspapers than it was for novels. Or manga, for that matter.

eidius wrote:since twilight is written simpler and has less complkicated vocabulary

Also less fabricated vocabulary.
Last edited by KL Gryce on Mon 11.10.2008 8:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Light novels complicated?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Mon 11.10.2008 6:11 pm

I'm going to stick with 5 years as a pretty average figure for anyone, to be able to do your goals in Japanese reasonably fluently without any dictionary reference.
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Re: Light novels complicated?

Postby eidius » Mon 11.10.2008 7:46 pm

i guess i should stop QQing and start working
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Re: Light novels complicated?

Postby Fillanzea » Mon 11.10.2008 8:47 pm

I feel like there's a huge range within light novels and a huge range within more serious contemporary fiction. The first novel I ever tried to read was "Norwegian Wood" by Murakami Haruki and that spoiled me because it was very modern and colloquial and really didn't have anything too hard in it. (I had been studying Japanese for about 3 years at that point. It was slow going, but I could basically get the gist without a dictionary.) Yoshimoto Banana is easy like that, "Keritai Senaka" is easy like that.

Light novels tend to be pretty easy unless they're science fiction, or fantasy, or historical. Which is most of them! With science fiction, you have to deal with the technobabble (neutron flux capacitors, and whatnot.) With fantasy, sometimes they use a lot of relatively archaic words, and sometimes they just use a lot of made-up words, and sometimes they use obscure kanji (especially if they're borrowing aspects of the setting from China.) And historical novels tend to use a lot of archaic words and rely on the reader having an okay grasp of the relevant history. But when I was in Japan I found myself reading mostly light novels for pleasure reading, because serious fiction was just too dark for me emotionally. If I had to spend two or three weeks on a single novel, I didn't want to be depressed the whole time.

It did take me about 4-5 years to get to the point where I was comfortable reading novels without a dictionary, and even now (I slacked off a LOT since then, admittedly) there are some novels -- mostly older ones -- that are a total chore.
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Re: Light novels complicated?

Postby nukemarine » Tue 11.11.2008 12:55 am

I know it seems a cop out, but really look into slice of life / teen age oriented mangas. The dialogue is much easier to follow, and the vocabulary is not full of area specific words like in medical, sports, military, gangsters, police, etc.

If you can wind your way through a manga series, you're set for light novels. Plus, something tells me if you want passive training on area specific vocabulary, look into popular mangas set in that area. For example: if you're looking into being a pirate (and who doesn't?), look into One Piece. If you really like baseball, look into H2.

Anyway, depending on the way you study, you can be reading light novels and manga (without rushing to a dictionary every panel) in about a year's time. That's balls to the wall immersion, kanji, 30 to 50 new vocabulary every day, etc which takes a heavy amount of dedication. With a more relaxed schedule, 18 months to 2 years if not longer (expect longer).
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Re: Light novels complicated?

Postby Bucko » Tue 11.11.2008 5:09 pm

I'm pretty much going to say what the others have said. It'll take you at least 3 years of solid learning to be able to get the general gist of a simple newspaper article, and simple stuff like Murakami Haruki without referring to a dictionary too often. Give it another two years on top of that to be able to read more stylistic or specialised text.

Newspapers are written in very simple grammar, but things like place names, company names, people's names etc will mess you up. Learning a language is for the long haul though. I've been at it for about 4 years now, probably give it another 5 or 6 years til I can read anything in Japanese that I can read in English. Even then there'll no doubt be things I won't understand.
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Re: Light novels complicated?

Postby Oracle » Tue 11.11.2008 9:24 pm

I'd agree that to read for meaning (newspaper or novels) takes probably 3 - 5 years of solid work: You need a good grasp of grammar, large vocabulary, and kanji. To read for pleasure however, so you've internalised the grammar and really read Japanese prose rather than 'decoding' it takes many, many years more.
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Re: Light novels complicated?

Postby yukamina » Tue 11.11.2008 10:35 pm

Oracle wrote:I'd agree that to read for meaning (newspaper or novels) takes probably 3 - 5 years of solid work: You need a good grasp of grammar, large vocabulary, and kanji. To read for pleasure however, so you've internalised the grammar and really read Japanese prose rather than 'decoding' it takes many, many years more.

I disagree...if you're reading something like a light novel, it shouldn't take so long to be able to read for pleasure.
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Re: Light novels complicated?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Tue 11.11.2008 11:07 pm

yukamina wrote:
Oracle wrote:I'd agree that to read for meaning (newspaper or novels) takes probably 3 - 5 years of solid work: You need a good grasp of grammar, large vocabulary, and kanji. To read for pleasure however, so you've internalised the grammar and really read Japanese prose rather than 'decoding' it takes many, many years more.

I disagree...if you're reading something like a light novel, it shouldn't take so long to be able to read for pleasure.


Have you actually read light novels before?
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Re: Light novels complicated?

Postby Harisenbon » Tue 11.11.2008 11:12 pm

yukamina wrote:I disagree...if you're reading something like a light novel, it shouldn't take so long to be able to read for pleasure.


I disagree with your disagree, but your Millage May Vary.

I consider reading for pleasure to be:

1) Reading without looking up any words/very few words. This means that if you don't know the word, you have enough of a grasp of the grammar that you can guess what the word means.

2) Can read the book in a reasonable amount of time without getting frustrated.

3) Understand the majority of the story insofar as there are no plot holes caused by misunderstanding.

I would assume perhaps 5-8 years of hard work to get to that level.
Also, I find light novels generally harder to read than more literary books, as they take a much looser tone and are often more ambiguous than more "proper" novels.

Just my 2 cents though.
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Re: Light novels complicated?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Tue 11.11.2008 11:19 pm

Of course reading anything in a foreign language depends on your familiarity with the genre -- much more so than your native language, you tend to be able to read what you practice reading very well, and other things not so well. For instance, I can read an article about Genji or the text of a typical RPG video game pretty quickly, almost as quickly as I can read English. But if I try to read something I rarely read, like a newspaper article, or journal article in some area I'm not usually familiar with, it doesn't go as well.

So if you read a lot of light novels, you'll probably find them easier and easier to read. True, light novels on the whole are easier than some other genres, but when you're talking about a foreign learner, any native materials are going to be at some minimum level of difficulty. Light novels are generally 200-300 pages, and it's going to take a while studying to read anything of that length no matter what it is.

A common misunderstanding that I harp on a lot stems from the classification of kanji into grades -- there tends to be the idea that the difficulty of a text is purely a function of the kanji used in it. So children's books are the easiest, light novels have a lot of furigana so they're only a bit more difficult, and newspaper articles are really hard because they have a lot of kanji. But actually, grammar and vocabulary are significant barriers to understanding for foreigners at *any* level of text. The middle school students that read light novels have a mastery over Japanese grammar that none of us can ever hope to reach, and a huge vocabulary. Kanji is only one part of the puzzle.
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Re: Light novels complicated?

Postby Fillanzea » Wed 11.12.2008 10:12 am

I would agree with your classifications there, and also your timeline, Harisenbon, with a slight caveat here:

1) Reading without looking up any words/very few words. This means that if you don't know the word, you have enough of a grasp of the grammar that you can guess what the word means.


When I read for pleasure, I rarely have a dictionary to hand, but there are a fair number of words I don't know. Some I can guess from context, some I just... skip over. When I was reading every book I could get my hands on in middle school, or when I was in college reading about signifieds and signifiers, I could usually get the gist of what was going on even if I missed a lot of individual words - and that's about how I read Japanese these days. I just get hung up if there's such a density of words I don't know that I can't make sense of it without a dictionary, or if there are too many important content words I don't know (as is the case with a lot of historical light novels.)
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Re: Light novels complicated?

Postby yukamina » Wed 11.12.2008 1:13 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
yukamina wrote:
Oracle wrote:I'd agree that to read for meaning (newspaper or novels) takes probably 3 - 5 years of solid work: You need a good grasp of grammar, large vocabulary, and kanji. To read for pleasure however, so you've internalised the grammar and really read Japanese prose rather than 'decoding' it takes many, many years more.

I disagree...if you're reading something like a light novel, it shouldn't take so long to be able to read for pleasure.


Have you actually read light novels before?

A couple light novels and a couple children's books, they were very enjoyable. I usually end up reading without a dictionary because it interrupts the reading too much. There were plenty of new words, but only a few times where I couldn't understand a sentence.
I've been studying for around 7 years, but it was hardly solid work. I didn't get really serious until a couple years ago, and even then my study habits are inconsistent... The only good thing about taking so long was that it gave me plenty of time to internalize the basics.
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