April 21st, 2021 was the day I purchased a Kindle solely for the purpose of reading Japanese books. Not too long after I bought it, I purchased my first light novel (はたらく魔王さま). From that date in 2021 to the beginning of July of 2022. I had only finished 32% of the book. Safe to day, my Kindle was a rather expensive paperweight a lot of that time. There wasn’t really a specific reason for it, in general I’m not a very prolific reader. The last books I actually finished in English were actually audiobooks.
Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been poised to change my immersion habits, and I really wanted to make sure reading was a big part of it. While I have comparatively read more than I did last year, I still haven’t read as much as I would have liked. I can finally say that last month I was consistent with my reading and it really was quite an experience. Over the years, I’ve gotten a considerable amount of reading that wasn’t from books, manga, light novels and the sort. Be it from daily studies, articles, forum posts, youtube comments, video-games, social media, news, websites, food packages. While not as focused, it has been there on almost a daily basis. Still, that focused reading element has been missing.
After reading a light novel almost every day this past month for at least 25 minutes everyday, I can say that the experience has been very good. Having a Kindle makes it easy since I can look up words easily and carry it almost anywhere. My post dinner evenings usually involve me pacing around the living room, holding up a kindle while wearing overpriced noise canceling headphones playing lo fi hip-hop and drinking a Topo Chico. I have a very patient partner.
As a not yet fluent reader, I have struggled quite a bit. I have had to look up plenty of words, at times I was lost as to where the characters actually were and who was speaking. At times I did not get the context of the sentence despite looking up all the words in it. There were pages that I spent a considerable of time on due to not understanding the situation. There were moments that I asked myself, why do I still not understanding this? But you know what, it never deterred me from continuing my reading session because for every failure there was always something that kept me going. Laughing along because I understood a gag or reference, coming across a word I hadn’t seen in a year or so and remembering it perfectly, recognizing the grammar I’ve studied daily here on Bunpro for the past year and half, realizing I’ve read a couple pages without having to think about it or look up anything. The kicker came when a character had a heartfelt conversation about the great Hanshin earthquake of 1995. Despite what I was reading being a fantasy light novel, what she was describing was very real. Talking about the loss, the horrors, the devastation, and the somewhat lukewarm reaction from people in Tokyo. It was also the first time the character spoke in Kansai dialect which added to the conversation. It was something that I feel would not be as impactful had I just read it in an article. Thats when I felt that I had made some sort of breakthrough, despite how small.
So after one month on consistent reading, I went from 32% completion to 65%. Not too shabby, but it will be even sweeter when I complete the book. Then what? Well, move on to the next book, this is a journey after all. What the next book will be, I’m not sure. Maybe it’ll be another light novel, or a history book, or maybe even a book on Hikkikomori or Ainu like I’ve always wanted to read. Whatever the case, I know that it will not be easy, but after completing this book, one thing is for sure; it’s not going to get any harder. The content of the book itself may or may not be harder than the last, but the act of reading, of improving, of understanding the flow of Japanese writing will only get better. Theres no way it can get worse or stay stagnant if I keep this pace. That in itself is enough reason to press on.
June has definitely been the most productive month so far. Apart from reading, watched a somewhat decent amount of content. Finished God Eater even though I never really played the games much. Still getting through season 2 of Hi Score Girl and started the recently released Bastard!!. It’s been a while since I started something brand new…even though it’s still based on something old. Between reading はたらく魔王さま、playing Fire Emblem Three Houses, and watching Bastard, I am recognizing similar vocabulary. Lots of magic, demons, knights, and swords in the things I consume. Maybe I have a thing for medieval fantasy? Stuff I would never use in most conversations, but stuff that’s important to me. Huh, kinda reminds me back in college when a Japanese student who spoke English relatively well, but complained about not understanding much of Lord of the Rings when he went to go watch it at the theatre. Sometimes it pays to be a geek.