The chronicles of Burrito's bizarre adventure into Japanese.

Tadoku Log: Days 16 through 31 (終)

with 2 comments


45.83 pages a day on average for the latter half of the competition, a Tadoku average of 41.9 42, closing at a grand total of 1,301.26. None too shabby, if I do say so m’self.

I finished at a cool 15th out of 99 participants, a position I vowed to hold by whatever means necessary (read: reading like a readaholic). I had hoped to hit a little over 1500 or an average of 50 pages a day, but a few slow/busy/lazy days managed to slow me down a little. Regardless, I’m very happy with my performance and extremely pleased with my improvements (which I’ll get into shortly).

In the end, nearly 90% of my reading came from practically a single source, which I’m still completely hooked to. One guess as to what that might be! I began Tadoku almost halfway into Umineko 1, and finished a few chapters into Umineko 3 – about 1,163 pages worth of greedy siblings, closed-room murder mysteries, witch denying and other assorted creepiness, and I’m fairly certain I can do another few thousand pages before I lose interest.

The various other bits of my reading came from a chapter or two of books (a few chapters into Harry Potter, and just a smidgen of Kino no Tabi), various manga chapters (Yotsubato!, Berserk, Historie, Vinland Saga) and games (ダンガンロンパ, 紅魔城伝説II 妖幻の鎮魂歌, シャンテリーゼ), but the vast majority of my time and energy was invested in Umineko.

As I stated not long ago, Umineko was a tremendous challenge for me. Emphasis on was. I recall running into an unknown (non-RTK) kanji within the first sentence, and wondering if I’d ever be at a high enough level to read and enjoy this thing. I struggled through the first several chapters at a snail pace, often having to look up a dozen words per screen just to make a shred of sense of things. Fast forward to now, and suddenly things are a whole lot easier.

The amount of vocabulary, kanji, grammar, expressions and even prose I’ve picked up is honestly a little staggering. I wish I had a metric to measure just how much I improved, but being able to pick up, read and enjoy something that was once incredibly difficult is really the only metric I need. It’s something I witnessed with Berserk not long ago; it’s as if I’ve chipped down a wall, brick by brick, and can now freely pass, and it’s one of the best feelings in language learning.

I’ve come to realize that Umineko never really was all that “difficult” in the first place – neither was Berserk, or anything I’ve truly picked up and really gotten into. All of these things contain a variety of common words, phrases, grammar and prose that you’ll see again, and again, and again until it becomes impossible not to remember them. As someone who’s been known to do a little writing myself, this observation should have been obvious from the beginning. Each author has his or her own styles, habits and preferences – I can recall having a lot of trouble reading English-language authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien and H.P. Lovecraft for quite some time, until I got used to their writing styles. Of course, the same applies to Japanese authors. Some seem to love using and abusing rare kanji, or complex grammar patterns, or archaisms, or spend pages upon pages describing every delicate detail, and so forth – apart from the never-ending quantity of vocabulary, it’s all a matter of getting used to these intricacies. On a wider spectrum, the same can be said about learning the language in general. At any rate, difficulty is ultimately directly linked to familiarity, which is simply a matter of exposure.

Of course, then I open up another visual novel or book and immediately wonder how, in the ever-loving hell, I’m ever going to understand this thing, so I’m sure the cycle will continue for quite some time to come. I welcome the challenge.

I feel like my reading has improved several times over; my comprehension has never been better, things generally seem to flow much more smoothly and more naturally, and my reading speed is significantly better than it was at the beginning of January. I’ve picked up a countless amount of words without the aid of drilling or SRSing. Of course, I still have a long way to go as well; though I’m having to look up a lot less words, my overall understanding still probably covers only about 90% of vocabulary. I say “only” for a figure as high as 90%, but consider that 90% still requires me to look up or skip over one in every ten words. That’s a handful per screen, more or less.  Of course this varies, as there are cases where I’ll go a dozen screens without having to look up something (usually when the cousins are talking among themselves), and others where I have to look up practically every other word (Kinzo’s insane rants, financial discussions between the parents, any time Beatrice opens her mouth). Still, I’m seeing major improvements by the week.

I’ve also noticed improvements in my listening comprehension as a nice little side effect of my expanded vocabulary as a result of mucho-reading, but on the whole, it’s still one of my weaker aspects. I’ll focus on that quite heavily this month as I catch up on a massive amount of dramas, anime, podcasts, documentaries and movies I’ve been stocking for this very purpose.

As for output, it’s a difficult thing to gauge when I do so little output in the first place. Output (speaking and writing/typing) is another skill in itself, and one which I’ve barely even begun training. Certainly I can put together a simple sentence, and I think I can get my point across in most situations. The words I learn from all my reading become active vocabulary given enough time, which I’m able to use in my speaking without too much mental exertion, but too often there’s a way I’d like to say something which I simply don’t know how to express in Japanese. I believe that’s where the importance of output really comes in – showing us where we need to pay more attention in our L2. I still also have a hunch that output is what will eventually tie this language tightly together for me, but I have no way of explaining this yet. Regardless, I’m about 99% sure that I’m approaching a wall in which I’ll have to output more in order to really advance. We’ll see if my language intuition is correct, but I’ve learned to listen to that poor lil’ guy.

So basically: read like a mutha; it’s good for your noggin.

A special thanks again to LordSilent for all the work he’s put into organizing and administrating this shindig, including the time and work he’s spent programming the ever-awesome TadokuBot and backend; mullr for providing the hosting and having a sweet-ass hat; and mletterle for his simple-but-baller TaCriku, which I’m pretty sure I’ll continue to use while reading Umineko, just because.


Written by ritobito

February 1, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Posted in status report

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2 Responses

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  1. I’ve been silently reading your blog for some time time now, and I feel that I’m in very much the same position you are in (or at least were in). I’m just getting started reading myself, and it’s quite daunting. However seeing the progress you’ve made when coming from the same sentiments that I’m feeling at times is giving me more confidence than ever. Just curious, do you ever add new vocab words discovered via reading to your SRS deck? I was doing that at first but it just got ridiculous.


    February 1, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    • Thanks for the comment, and I’m glad my ramblings are helpful to someone out there!

      During my Berserk marathon, I added several hundred words to a brand new, vocabulary-only deck. I believe I added something like 800 words to it, but I only ever got around to reviewing about 500-600 of them before I got bored with the deck and more or less forgot about it. Still, it worked nicely at the time and I’m pretty sure I could recall most of those words if I saw them out in the wild again.

      I did jot down several dozen words of interest from Umineko, but on the two different occasions I attempted to add them to an SRS deck, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of, “What’s the point?” I realized pretty quickly that most of those words weren’t important enough to drill, and many of them I’d learned pretty well through repetition in reading anyway. I may give these words yet another shot eventually, but I’m QUITE happy with learning words through reading.

      I do want to use SRS to fill the holes, though. Some interesting words just don’t appear enough times for me to learn them effectively, so I think that’s where SRSing really comes in.

      You should join us for the next Tadoku!


      February 1, 2011 at 11:56 pm

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