Read Real Japanese Essays


There is a world of difference between reading Japanese that has been specially contrived for students and reading real Japanese — that is, real-world Japanese written for native speakers. The contrived variety might be called schoolmarm Japanese: standard to the point of insipidity, controlled to the point of domestication, restricted to the point of impoverishment. The "Read Real Japanese" series, comprising one volume each of essays and fiction, provides the real thing — lively writings by contemporary authors.

"Read Real Japanese Essays" presents short works by eight established writers, including Haruki Murakami and Banana Yoshimoto. The essays are by turns humorous, insightful, and biting; all are stimulating works that will teach you a wealth about Japanese writing and motivate you to read more.

Following the form of real Japanese writing, the text runs from top to bottom, right to left. To guide you in your reading, each double-page spread features translations of nearly every sentence or phrase, making it possible to understand the meaning at a glance. Moreover, in the back of the book is a tailor-made Japanese-English dictionary covering all the words appearing in the essays, and a series of notes that elucidate issues of nuance, usage, grammar, and culture.

Best of all, the book comes with a free audio CD containing narrations of the works, performed by a professional actress. This will help you to get used to the sounds and rhythms of Japanese, as well as the speed at which the language is normally spoken.

For intermediates and beyond; for the classroom and for the car; for the intellect and for the ear: "Read Real Japanese Essays" is your gateway to the pleasures of reading first-rate nonfiction by Japanese authors — in the original.

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That's awesome. Indeed, there's a wide gap between classroom Japanese language and street, real life Japanese language. Only three years after coming to Japan (my scholarship program only provides 6 months of Japanese language course) I am able to hold conversational level with confidence.

They should come up with the viceversa for Japanese learning other languages. Needless to say, Engrish comes to mind. A book like this in Japanese high schools, to read and listen to Real English Essays, would boost the confidence of the students regarding their English capabilities, no doubt.

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Is there a beginners level book in this series? I'd love a book that only has 1 - 3 grade kanji in it, or something like that.

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there's more of a demand for graded readers than this kind of thing. What's the point of reading an essay in Japanese if there's a translation on the opposite page? It's like trying to teach Maths from a textbook with all the answers written next to the questions

PS love the blog Az

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Sagecat, try Hiragana Times. They send out a daily essay that has standard Japanese, hirgana, Romaji, and English.

The Real Japanese series, by definition, won't be restricted to grade 1-3 kanji.

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This book looks like it might be a good thing. There are other books out there that have texts that aren't made up specifically for the textbooks - we had one at university. It was dry as dust, though.

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There's another book Getting into Japanese Literature, I believe the name is. It has stories by Natsume Soseki and Akutugawa. Then, you go to a website (speaking-japanese.com, I believe) and download someone reading the story. Native pronunciation, native writing. Plus, fortunately or not, the translation is on the opposite page. It comes with copius notes for vocabulary.

This book looks similar except with the non-dead authors and CD. I've asked many students who speak English well how they learned pronunciation and the naturalness of their speech and they almost always say, "Listening to movies, music, and native speakers.'


Did your textbook include the essay on plywood imports of 1972? Always a gripping tale, that one.

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I tried hiragana times with my teacher a few years back - we decided that it was no good for intermediate level as the Japanese was very complicated to the level that I would say it is not "Real Japanese". Need to give this a look to see if any better.

Also for Japanese wanting to learn English the translations were a bit dodgy and using a lot of expressions etc that you would not use in everyday life...

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This is brilliant. Let us hope this will have an impact somehow on how English is taught here.

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Fantastic idea. I have used Murakami's essays as a learning tool for myself in the past; it's a great idea, because for a learner, a short essay is much more digestible and therefore less discouraging than a full-length novel. I can attest that Murakami's essays are very engaging and insightful. Heck, I might even pick up this book.

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Another thing: The "schoolmarm Japanese" extends all the way to how Japanese is tested. Anyone who thinks that translation should be a piece of cake after passing 1-kyuu really ought to read this book. For starters, real-world Japanese sentences are typically three times longer than any sentence in the 1-kyuu reading section, and contain less information (like subjects) by which to orient yourself.

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