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[Review] Japanese Stories for Language Learners

I love bilingual readers and Tuttle Publishing has an excellent series for that. Besides the Japanese one, I have the Korean Stories for Language Learners (review in link) and I’m eyeing the Thai Stories that will be published next year. Hopefully by then, I can be more comfortable in reading Thai 🙂

The Japanese bilingual reader is an excellent choice as a first book for reading, given that there are furigana on top of the kanji. I like that they don’t try to put everything in hiragana/katagana, cos that’s just not how Japanese is written naturally. I would much rather see the kanji with furigana on top, for those who are still very new to kanji.

The book consists of 5 short stories and I love how they take care to choose stories of different genres. There’s folktales and also representative works by Japanese authors. I particularly like the story 雪女. I came across this in another novel I was reading and didn’t realize that it was a folktale until I saw it here.

Each chapter begins with the bilingual story, with the English on the left and Japanese on the right. I love how they include translator’s notes, given that language learners may expect the English / Japanese to be as close as possible. but that’s not really realistic given the differences between both languages, making it difficult for a close translation to sound smooth. So it’s great that they have notes where the translation would differ quite a bit from the Japanese (e.g. not possible to translate mimetic words).

This is followed by vocabulary and expressions, where it’s a glossary of words.

Japanese + English + romanization + meaning + example (sometimes)

I thought it was odd to have the romanization there, given that this book is supposedly for learners who can already read Japanese. But even if there is a need for romanization to make things complete, I didn’t like that it’s in bold. That is one of the things I feel very strongly about, given that bolding something would naturally bring attention to it. Learners should wean off romanization, instead of being encouraged (visually) to look at it.

I like the exercises, where it’s to select the most appropriate item in the parentheses. Good extra reading practice and the exercises are friendly for self-study use too. Answer key available at the back. This is followed by a couple of discussion questions (in English) that are more of like prompts to think more deeply about the story and also how the reader relate to it.

Overall, I think it’s a neat book, and it would have been perfect if not for the bolding of the romanization haha. Sorry, but I feel very strongly about that point.

I’m definitely looking forward to the Thai stories!!

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Madison (Someday Korean)
    5 November, 2021 at 11:03 AM

    I 100% agree about the bolding of the romanization. Literally makes no sense. Like, “hey! don’t look at the actual word or it’s meaning LOOK AT ME THE ROMANIZATION!”
    Honestly, including romanization at all is bizarre to me. Furigana is already there above the Kanji, and if you’re at the level that you can use that book, surely you know hiragana?!

    • Reply
      Hangukdrama
      5 November, 2021 at 10:54 PM

      RIGHTTT?! sigh. I think English speakers would find Japanese sounds to be relatively manageable, hence, I really don’t get why romanization is used in anything beyond the introductory chapter of a beginner book.

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