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Reading visual novels/manga


13 Mar 2014
Alright, so according to this guide you can learn how to read some of the simple visual novels anywhere from 121 ~ 400 days depending on your dedication to learning. I've got a couple of questions and it'd be great if you can answer them:

  1. How many hours per day would I need to put in to learn in 121 days?
  2. Will I be able to read manga smoothly?
  3. How long do you think it would take to be able to smoothly read any visual novel released?

Also it would be great if you had resource links that could help me start learning. Thanks for reading!
121 days is a suspiciously exact number. Nobody can say "how long will it take you to learn to read Japanese", because there are far too many variables, but I really doubt the person writing that did it the way they list there anyway.

All they suggest you do is basically spend 100 days doing Heisig and learning all the Joyo (which I have various problems with, mostly the "all the Joyo part"), and then basically the other 21 is one week on kana and two weeks reading through Tae Kim's grammar guide. There's no way that's sufficient to "read" any sort of native text in any serious manner, even if you can manage to finish Heisig in that time, and it's stupidly heavy on kanji and light on grammar/actual vocab.

They seem to mean "read" to mean "look through visual novels for words you haven't learnt yet, so you can make flashcards", where I would take it to mean at minimum "be able to read a text with sufficient comprehension that you don't have to stop and look things up to understand the plot".

I would suggest not setting impossible goals for yourself. Study every day, but don't force yourself to do so much that you burn out. Think about what you want to focus on (just reading? listening? speaking? writing?). Don't ignore grammar - there are some specific texts for manga grammar around. Don't spend a large amount of money importing a bunch of manga you really really really want to read - if you want to test yourself at any point you can have a look on Jコミwhich has a bunch of older stuff available for free.

"Read anything fluently" will take years.
Thanks for that Nekojita. I read this thread, and couldn't think of a polite way to express it.

It's great to set lofty goals, like reading fluently, but the notion of "learn Japanese now" seems so much like "get rich quick." It's possible, but really unlikely.

I'm relatively fluent (I understand 80% of what I hear daily, and 70% of what I read). Even still, manga is a major hassle. The kanji is out of ordinary; military/police/medical stuff comes up, and I rush off to a dictionary. But even the spoken stuff/hiragana can be difficult. Dialects, slang, and onomatopoeia are all well out of the normal daily experience of a non-native speaker.

I also learned the same thing a long time back, trying to use American comics to teach Japanese kids. The number of times I had to stop and explain that something was a phonetic spelling of something else, or that a trendy phrase was used was too much, and I just stopped.
Sort of like saying "how long does take to learn to play the piano". Between being able to play a couple of pieces you know, and being able to sightread pretty much anything is a gulf of years of practice.

But you don't need to be a concert pianist to say "I can play the piano" and enjoy doing it.

Similarly, you can enjoy reading a subset of things in Japanese - and probably there's nobody who genuinely wants to read everything from "Otome Sparkle Princess♪" to "LARGE ROBOTS PUNCHING EACHOTHER" anyway. (not names of actual manga. I hope.).

Geniune advice: Focused study in one area can really help. You like baseball? Read stuff relating to baseball - blogs, sports manga, whatever. Get really good at baseball vocab. It will be quicker then trying to switch between different genres/areas constantly.
I estimate that in total I have spent about 1500 hours studying reading (only), over several years, and I am nowhere even remotely close to being able to read fluently. If I can read three consecutive sentences of Japanese Harry Potter smoothly and without stumbling or consulting the dictionary then I feel I'm doing pretty well.
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