Generally, I think in terms of very short term goals, but you have to have long term goals as well. Here are a couple of long term goals for me: to watch Kikujiro no Natsu without subtitles and to read よつばと! (Yotsubato, or, as some people prefer it Yotsuba&!) in Japanese.
What the heck is Yotsubato!, why do I want to read it, and why does it have an exclamation point at the end?
Let’s take the last question first. I don’t know. See how easy that was?
Yotsubato is a manga about a little girl named Yotsuba who is growing up and learning about things. If that sounds a little too Sesame Street for you, don’t worry. It is Yotsuba& because of the chapter titles are along the lines of Yotsuba and…something or other.
Now, given the fact that I don’t read a lot of manga or watch a lot of anime, but, when I do, I prefer sort of science fiction action comedy (yes, that is a mishmash), why do I want to read Yotsubato!?
There a couple of reasons. One is that I hear good things about it from people who have read it. The other one is furigana.
Just like with romaji, some people love furigana and some people hate them, but, in my stage of learning Japanese, I’m happy to have them. If you know all about furigana, feel free to let you attention wander at this point…go wash the dog or practice the guitar or something while I fill in the people who might not know about them.
What is the hardest part of learning to read Japanese? Pretty much everything, I guess, but, for the sake of this post, I’ll go with figuring out the meaning of a kanji that you don’t know. I mean, if you are just meeting this character for the first time, how do you look it up? Now, if you are reading something online, you can always cut and paste the Kanji into a nice online dictionary like this one. But what if you are reading a hard copy? You don’t know what the kanji is or how to pronounce it…how do you look it up?
That’s where furigana come in…they are small kana next to or over a kanji that give you the reading. Check it out in this panel from Yotsubato! (I like the exclamation point. I don’t know why.)
Let’s take the last sentence in the panel, which, since this is Japanese, is in the lower left hand corner. It says お店もか!? So there we run into this kanji: 店 and maybe we don’t know what it means, but next to it we have the furigana that say みせ and that helps us i.d. the kanji as meaning “shop”.
That may not help us with the whole sentence, but now, with only kana, we can easily type it into an online dictionary and come up with something useful.
Oh, and to all of you who are off washing the dog, you can dry him off and come back now.
So, that’s my longer term goal. I actually intend to start digging into Yotsubato! pretty soon. It will help reinforce the Kanji and give me some grammar and some everyday Japanese, which is the other good thing about Yotsubato! There won’t be a lot of peculiar words like “plasma drive” but a lot of every day words like “shop”. That should make it a bit easier than some other manga might be.
Let’s see how it goes.