Japanese · Language Acquisition · Manga · Monthly reading challenge

A Book a Month 2017: Ichigatsu一月

This year I really wanted to start the year with very clear goals. There are many things that I hope to accomplish this year and a simple New Year’s resolution list wouldn’t cut it. In the past, like many other people around the world, I would make goal lists and find that by the end of the year I hadn’t accomplished as much as I’d have liked to.

So after reading many articles about the most effective ways to make goals and learning that setting time limits for these goals is good, I decided to do that. This year I introduced deadlines to my goals.

As an avid reader and lover of literature it really makes me sad that I haven’t been able to read in Japanese. Reading goes a little like this. Hiragana Katakana, Kanji, Hiragana. I can read the Hiragana and Katakana but the kanji…nah bruh.

So my goal is to be able to read a book in Japanese by the end of 2017. To achieve this goal I decided that I would read one Japanese book a month this year. Starting from the very bottom and working my way up. Just like in English, we learn new words by reading or hearing them in context. So I figure, I can learn kanji the same way. Taking a class and memorizing things is not really my thing. I’m learning that I learn words and kanji best through experience with them.

I’m happy to say that I’ve completed my first book. The following is a commentary on my experience and log to prove that I did it.

January 2017: Tonari no Totoro # 1

What not to do: Don’t watch the movie prior to reading the book. At least not for Japanese classic/famous stories like Totoro. Dude! I watched the movie and then started reading the first book in the series and it was word for word the same. Over the course of the month, I forgot lots of dialog but remembered the gist of it. In some ways this was really helpful. But in others it wasn’t. For example, if I already remembered the dialog then it wasn’t that I was learning to read but more that my memory is blessed.

What to do: Keep a dictionary handy. But realize that with most Japanese manga they use lots of colloquial language that isn’t in most dictionaries. So its handy to have a Japanese person for reference. They can explain things to you in a way that dictionaries can’t. Also, I recommend that you pay these Japanese references in candy and baked goods.

In reality, I started reading this book months ago. But having Jan 31st as a deadline for completion really put the fire under my butt. I also realized that during the time off from reading, I learned quite a few kanji and colloquial phrases that were used in the book. When the light of revelation turns on in its the best feeling.


I went through this book breaking a personal rule the whole way. I used to think ill of people who wrote in books. But I found that writing in the book was much easier than keeping a word and definition log somewhere else. There was less paper and thus less to keep up with. I printed out a Katakana and Hiragana list that I kept inside the book as a ‘quick reference’.


Next month, I have two books up for consideration. Curious George rides a Bike or Yotsuba to!. I think because Feburary is a short month that I will read Curious George. I bought it because I love Curious G and the entire book is in Hiragana! Score!

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