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Reading Comprehension

nameless

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I'm about to finish upper beginner level (103) at Yamasa. Next is lower intermediate level (201). Reading a lot of Japanese text is probably key to building more vocabulary and a better understanding of the language from now.

I really like the reading comprehension tasks our teacher gives us ever week. The questions give reassurance that whatever was read has actually been understood. We get to read a page-long article, and then have to answer 5~10 questions on it.

Does anyone know some Japanese reading comprehension books so I can do this outside of class? It would need some sort of quiz or test at the end of each story to be useful, I think.

The standard Mike Cash response might be 四コマ (if you laugh, you understood it), but I'm not too fond of those. Any other ideas? Non-fiction would be great.

I doubt there'll be specific books for foreigners, but I guess reading comprehension isn't an alien concept in Japanese public schools, right? There ought to be something. I just don't know where to look and what exactly to look for.

Thanks!
 

Mike Cash

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Thanks for saving me some typing, and even more for giving an indication that somebody even read my advice. It brings a tear to my eye.
 

nekojita

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Keywords: 読解力 プリント 練習 問題 無料 (etc)
for example.

Or generalised study materials with review questions would work. I think people should try to read more non-fiction. It doesn't have to have questions at the end if the material is logical enough that you can use common sense to work out whether you're making a total hash of it. Recipes or instructions are good, as are materials in Japanese about a topic you're familiar with in English (入門 is a good keyword there).

Sites like this, while technically aimed at children, can be interesting in parts.
 

BrianLewis

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Why couldn't you just read a newspaper? I don't see why you would need to test yourself on comprehension for everything you read. Following teacher's instructions in class is good, but I have noticed that students don't know how to let go and just read when the class is over.
 

nameless

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Nekojita, thanks for getting me started. I'll start browsing around. The reason I thought questions are important is that they actually force you to read the text in detail; skipping over difficult parts or unknown kanji results in wrong answers. It's just a way to force myself not to take shortcuts. But yeah, if the text is about familiar topics, it probably doesn't need questions. :)


BrianLewis, I understand what you're trying to say, but the reason I prefer reading comprehension is that I figured the texts might be easier to understand; especially if they're aimed at children or teenagers. My grammar and kanji knowledge is at N3 level right now, so newspapers might still be too frustrating. :/
 

kentpaul

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The Defense Language institute has a free learning resource called GLOSS which has short self contained reading comprehension lessons for a number of languages including Japanese.

Global Language Online Support System

Click on the japanese option and "search 99 lessons"


They're usually built from news articles or broadcast transcripts.

There is a fair bit of kanji without furigana for the higher levels but just use something like rikai-chan

eg: the lesson overview on Tarai mawashi


Improve comprehension by analyzing long sentences in order to distinguish various points of view in an article related healthcare.


1. Become familiar with the upcoming article.
2. Determine the meaning of 'Tarai mawashi' used in the text.
3. Analyze a long sentence to comprehend the upcoming story.
4. Understand specific details of this report.
5. Assess your comprehension and review key points of the article.


They also have a full translation in most of the articles (but its a little hard to find). Click on "source" on the top and then click on "view translation"
 

Mike Cash

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If you need a translation to see if you understood what you read then you didn't understand what you read.
 

Angel Valis

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If you need a translation to see if you understood what you read then you didn't understand what you read.

That's true, but if you don't understand it, then you need the translation. Like when I know all the words in a sentence, and I also seem to know the grammar but still end up confused about the complete meaning. Usually this is because of some grammar point that has a specific meaning when used a certain way, or when the construction is so very different than the English construction with the same meaning. Sometimes I'm pretty sure I understand something, but something about the construction makes me second-guess myself; then a translation comes in handy to let me know whether or not I was on the right track.
 

Mike Cash

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Any reliance in translation is, in my opinion, a habit to be avoided like the plague.
 

Andromedashun

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That's true, but if you don't understand it, then you need the translation. Like when I know all the words in a sentence, and I also seem to know the grammar but still end up confused about the complete meaning. Usually this is because of some grammar point that has a specific meaning when used a certain way, or when the construction is so very different than the English construction with the same meaning. Sometimes I'm pretty sure I understand something, but something about the construction makes me second-guess myself; then a translation comes in handy to let me know whether or not I was on the right track.

This is confusing. If you know the words and grammar you should be able to get what's going on. That's common sense. Its the time limit that gives you trouble. I think sitting inside a test atmosphere is a huge different from doing comprehension at home.

Anyway to improve reading needs process. When your vocabularies are up your reading skill are up as well.
 

BrianLewis

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The brain has a wonderful way of figuring things out depending on the context of the sentence. I find that to be, by far, the most effective way to learn. It's also the most natural way to learn that there is.

The biggest mistake I see language students make is to demand perfection in what they are reading. That's a nasty habit that is both demeaning and counterproductive. One of the best skills to learn is when to move on to the next sentence.

That said, there are some times when the meaning of even the most simple of sentences will elude you. From time to time I have asked for help, or came back to it later, just to see that it was staring me right in the face.

First and foremost, read something you enjoy. If a sentence eludes you, keep reading. Often the later sentences will key you in on what it was that you missed. If what you missed keeps you from understanding the rest of the reading, take a break and come back to it later.

Manga is probably the best medium for students between Beginner 2 and Advanced. The vocabulary is almost entirely common use words. The dialogue bubbles point you right to the speaker, so there is little confusion as to who is talking. Plus, if you feel lost, you can easily compare your work with someone else that has posted the book on the internet. Eventually, you won't have to compare it anymore. If you don't like Manga, I would suggest trying it anyway. I am not much of a comic or Manga person, but I can't deny that it was the best thing for me at the time.

Good hunting.
 

kentpaul

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lol, I'm not sure why my post set off a thread derail about why using translation is bad.

The self study lessons are mostly in japanese (with the odd instruction or question in english).

I'm just saying there is a translation hidden in the background if you need it (its hard to find if you're not looking for it so obviously the lessons aren't reliant on it)

If you don't want to use it....don't use it.

The End :p
 

Angel Valis

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This is confusing. If you know the words and grammar you should be able to get what's going on.

Unfortunately, more than once I've read a sentence and been completely confused on what it was supposed to mean. Usually the sentence makes sense all by itself, but taken in context with the rest of the paragraph, it seems completely off. After talking to someone like a teacher, I usually find out that it actually means something a bit different due to the specific grammar construction; one that would be relatively easy to mistake if you weren't aware of that particular usage, but with others.

As an example:
あぶなく耳にひびを切らすとこだった。

When I initially read that I ended up getting quite confused due to 危ない seeming to be in adverbial form. I was like, "My ears almost dangerously chapped?" Once I asked my teacher about it, he explained that in this sentence あぶなく simply paired with ~ところだった to mean almost (presumably with the idea that what almost happened was a negative thing).

Then there was the confusion that set in once before I found out that する could be used to mean a lot more than "to do", such as "to smell" and more.

I'm not saying that one should totally rely on translation, but they're useful to understand nuance, and for some people they're very helpful. I personally feel that I've been doing more poorly in Japanese since my classes have begun to be taught entirely in Japanese; part of which is due to my poor listening comprehension.

Learning new grammar is also much easier for me if it's given to me with an appropriate English translation. Many times when someone explains a grammar point using a Japanese sentence with a similar meaning, I just get confused.
 
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Check out macaronics.com which is a site I designed exactly with improving reading comprehension in mind.

There are plenty of resources for beginners, and so I wanted to focus on something that would help in reading real Japanese (all the articles are well-written pieces from a contemporary magazine).

I'm about to finish upper beginner level (103) at Yamasa. Next is lower intermediate level (201). Reading a lot of Japanese text is probably key to building more vocabulary and a better understanding of the language from now.
I really like the reading comprehension tasks our teacher gives us ever week. The questions give reassurance that whatever was read has actually been understood. We get to read a page-long article, and then have to answer 5ツ〜10 questions on it.
Does anyone know some Japanese reading comprehension books so I can do this outside of class? It would need some sort of quiz or test at the end of each story to be useful, I think.
The standard Mike Cash response might be ナスlニ坦ニ筑 (if you laugh, you understood it), but I'm not too fond of those. Any other ideas? Non-fiction would be great.
I doubt there'll be specific books for foreigners, but I guess reading comprehension isn't an alien concept in Japanese public schools, right? There ought to be something. I just don't know where to look and what exactly to look for.
Thanks!
 

eeky

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Obviously the experience of native speakers proves that it is possible to learn a language without ever having it translated into a language that one already knows. However, I think most learners of second languages reach points of frustration where they have done as much as they can with a sentence, and now really just want to be told what it means in a language that they understand. On those occasions translations are a great benefit.
 

BrianLewis

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'A dictionary of basic Japanese grammar' is by far the most useful book I have read with regards to language learning. I would highly recommend it to anyone that needs to work on their grammar. The other 2 books are far less useful, they seem more like nuance and misc. books rather than useful resources.
 

nekojita

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On the translation argument: to take Angel's example upthread, in あぶなく耳にひびを切らすところだった she (I'm assuming) was actually already 75% of the way there, just by recognising that the first attempt at translation didn't seem to make sense. From there it was only a matter of working out which bits might have been the problem (words that might have nuances you weren't currently aware of, like 危なく, or maybe grammar like ~Vところだった) and double-checking their meanings/uses - you should be able to find this sense of 危なく in a decent dictionary.

Recognising when things don't feel right; working out which bits are the sticking point; figuring out how and where to look for the answers - these are important skills to develop. Translations should be an absolute last resort. (Same goes for Rikaichan - turn it off, or use the 'd' option if you just want to doublecheck readings). I'm not saying you shouldn't use J-E dictionaries, grammar books etc. which are designed for teaching Japanese and where the translations are annotated or given to explain/clarify.

Some search hints:
とは appended to an unfamiliar term brings up definitions, when ordinary dictionaries have failed you.
* in google search terms for phrases acts as a wildcard, e.g.
"あぶなく*ところだった" brings up other phrases using the same pattern (you can try changing the number of * to get different results). Note this needs to be * not * to work.
For patterns involving verbs, if you're not having much luck finding anything, try replacing the verb with the equivalent conjugation of する

That aside, I actually came back to this thread to link in this, which is a series of past exam papers (questions/answers, although for some of the recent years these aren't complete). They're at a 中学卒業 level.

国語 has some kanji/language questions but also several which look to me like basic reading comprehension. Other subjects, like 社会 have some bits which basically require you to understand a graph/table/map and answer a question based on it.

Here is some primary school level stuff, which might be interesting. The maths, for example, is pretty simple so it's a matter of whether or not you understand the questions.
 

BrianLewis

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Have you considered buying "readers"? There are several books out there that give you both languages on each page. However, they don't have any test at the end.
 
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