I started reading some Japanese manga recently. Here’s a photo of the ones I’ve read so far:
Here’s a rough breakdown of their content:
Crows- A blonde kid with super fighting powers turns up at the Crows school and starts kicking everybody’s asses because they get in his way.
One-Piece- A kid with special powers (GUM-U GUM-U Mr. Fantastic-style stretchy body, allowing for GUM-U GUM-U rocket punch and etc..) wants to become the Pirate King, and kicks everyone’s asses because they get in his way.
Naruto- A ninja kid with special powers (he’s got strong magic maybe) acts like an idiot and starts kicking people’s asses because they get in his way.
There’s obviously a pattern, but then it’s probably unfair to judge them poorly for this- because they’re primarily aimed at juveniles, AND of course I’m only understanding the bare minimum as I read- so only getting the broad strokes. I look at the pictures mostly.
But why? Why after 4 years am I suddenly taking an interest in Japanese culture?
Well- good question. I suppose it’s just about time. I’ve been here 4 years!! More than that to be honest. I’ve tried many times to study Japanese. I’ve had free classes, paid classes, and studied solo. I tried writing in Japanese in my diary, tried speaking in Japanese to my girl-friend, went to work as an ALT hoping I’d get serious about Japanese, tried studying Harry Potter in Japanese, tried studying fairy stories in Japanese, bought flashcards, listened to all the Pimsleur audio lessons, listened to Japanese podcasts, and etc..
But none of those really stuck or worked much. I lost motivation. That could just be my mind giving up, but I have a hard time blaming my mind when learning Japanese just never seemed relevant. Even when I was studying real written Japanese and not lesson material, I chose materials that weren’t really Japanese in the first place- Harry Potter!
All of that has been by-passing the purpose of language- which is communication. I was studying the language like it was something dead and irrelevant, since I have/had no Japanese friends, and no Japanese inputs/outputs in my life. But of course it is not dead and irrelevant, it’s happening all around me.
So, now Manga. It’s relevant. It’s vibrant and new and always changing. It’s a big Japanese export, and it helps shape the world zeitgeist. So- it’s a worth-while thing to get onto.
I guess we’ll see. So far I have learnt some new words, and guessed at many more, and ignored most. When I think about how I felt when reading Lord of the Rings for the first time at around 10 years old- It’s kind of the same thing. If nothing else, it builds familiarity with the Japanese syllabary, kanji, and high-frequency words and expressions. The high-frequency stuff I’ll see again and again, and should eventually be able to start guessing their meanings accurately. Then when I get that in the bank, and can fix the context of what I’m reading better, the low-frequency stuff should start to give up its secrets.
Will it help me with speaking? I think it will. But we’ll see.
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