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HomeCulturaStudying 絵本 (Ehon) – Japanese Image Books as a Japanese Learner

Studying 絵本 (Ehon) – Japanese Image Books as a Japanese Learner

After I lived in Tokyo, my pal and I’d usually take lengthy meandering walks adventuring across the metropolis and infrequently ended up in bookstores. Whereas he tended to gravitate towards the tutorial textbooks, I one way or the other all the time ended up within the youngsters’s part. One thing in regards to the cabinets filled with image books simply appeared so inviting to me.

I do not care what number of kanji you realize, it may be formidable to try to learn even a novella in Japanese. If there are no illustrations, it is simply you and the textual content — there are not any different contextual cues to depend on. However with youngsters’s books, I did not really feel like studying them can be an amazing problem from the beginning, and I felt completed studying an entire guide (irrespective of how brief or what number of photos).

Nevertheless, simply because youngsters’s books are for kids doesn’t suggest they’re essentially simple to learn for these learning Japanese as a overseas language. On this article, I will focus on why youngsters’s books generally is a nice useful resource for Japanese-language learners, in addition to among the inherent challenges to be careful for. I will additionally suggest some genres of books that grownup learners of Japanese would possibly take pleasure in and counsel the place to search out your personal books.

絵本 (Ehon): Japanese Image Books

While you hear “youngsters’s books,” the very first thing which may come to thoughts is the traditional image guide. However there are additionally simple readers, chapter books, center grade, younger grownup, and a ton of different associated classes of books aimed towards early readers. For instance, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Harry Potter are each youngsters’s books, however they’re fairly totally different by way of degree, size, and the quantity of images.

Ehon are illustrated tales for kids by which the textual content and pictures are built-in, and usually work collectively to inform a narrative.

For this text, nonetheless, the main target can be narrowed to image books, or 絵本 (ehon). So what precisely could be thought of ehon? To place it merely, ehon are illustrated tales for kids by which the textual content and pictures are built-in, and usually work collectively to inform a narrative. It may appear apparent, however to think about the earlier examples, The Very Hungry Caterpillar is an image guide however Harry Potter is just not. I do know, I do know, however what in regards to the illustrated model of Harry Potter? No, nonetheless not an image guide, as a result of the narrative doesn’t depend on photos on each web page to assist additional the story and have interaction the reader — who, within the case of an image guide, is commonly being learn to, not studying the guide themselves. However for the sake of the sources I’ll introduce on this article, any guide that’s heavily-illustrated, from youngsters’s tales to encyclopedia-type specialty books often called 図鑑 (zukan) can be known as a “image guide.”

Why Learn Japanese Image Books?

There is a purpose I gravitated in the direction of the image books in Japanese bookstores — it was just like the sweet aisle within the grocery retailer. Amongst lengthy rows of examine guides and harried college students, administration tomes and surly salarymen, and “simple” cookbooks and the heavy mantle of my very own failures, the youngsters’s part beckoned like a heat hug. It was a microcosm of shiny colours, cozied with charmingly tiny tables and chairs, the cabinets filled with titles I may really learn — or at the very least roughly determine from the duvet artwork.

Past the welcoming ambiance of the youngsters’s part, as a Japanese language learner I additionally take pleasure in studying youngsters’s books as a result of they really feel extra approachable. Should you’re nonetheless not satisfied, listed here are just a few extra causes to strive them out.

Photos Present Context Clues

Particularly for these at a decrease degree who’re nonetheless studying to learn in Japanese, photos generally is a recreation changer.

For one, you possibly can’t take it without any consideration that they visually make it extra interesting and approachable. In comparison with one thing that is text-only, photos definitely decrease the emotional hurdle of choosing up a guide and beginning to learn. Studying youngsters’s books does not really feel like learning, even.

Studying new phrases from image books may also help you achieve a greater understanding of their nuance, and supply concrete examples of how and after they’re usually utilized in context.

Photos may also present context to not solely enable you learn, however learn between the strains as effectively. In actual fact, analysis has proven that the mix of textual content with graphics like photos or diagrams facilitates studying comprehension. Pictures may also help you perceive phrases you might not know, and provide you with further details about the way to interpret the textual content. Which means photos may also enable you study new phrases and phrases with out translations. Studying by photos is a extra direct and intuitive strategy than, say books with parallel translations. Whereas studying new phrases by translation is a standard strategy for language learners (like flashcards), studying new phrases from image books may also help you achieve a greater understanding of their nuance, and supply concrete examples of how and after they’re usually utilized in context, which is one thing direct translations cannot all the time archieve.

Not like Manga, It is Not All Dialogue

However why all this discuss image books when you may simply go and decide up some manga? Based mostly on this standards, they need to be good studying materials, proper? Full of images, maybe somewhat longish however not too text-heavy, Japanese tradition savvy, and naturally tremendous enjoyable!

Dialogue tries to copy how individuals really discuss, and could be very casual and infrequently colloquial.

Do not get me flawed, I like manga. However manga could be troublesome for just a few causes, and among the massive ones are associated to the truth that the tales are primarily advised by dialogue. After all, this dialogue tries to copy how individuals really discuss, and could be very casual and infrequently colloquial. On prime of that, spoken Japanese can require you to choose up on a whole lot of subtext, since issues like topics are sometimes omitted. All of this collectively signifies that manga can typically be troublesome for newbie and even intermediate learners to grasp.

You may discover a few of these challenges additionally apply to image books, however as a result of the tales are typically advised by narrative textual content as a substitute of almost completely by dialogue, I discover they are often simpler to digest. Whereas the tales in manga may also get actually sophisticated actually quick, the tales you discover in image books are shorter and never overly-complex — in any case, they’re geared towards youngsters.

You Can Set Small However Achievable Targets

You may learn — and end — them quicker.

As a second-language learner, I usually discover that attempting to sort out an extended guide or a novel to be daunting, and the strain to complete could be deinsentivising. That is why I’m a giant proponent of setting smaller, extra achievable targets to remain motivated to learn. As a result of image books are on the shorter facet, you possibly can learn — and end — them quicker. I all the time really feel a heat sense of accomplishment after I’ve completed studying a guide in Japanese, and it does not actually matter if it is a novel, a chapter guide, or a thirty-page image guide.

Be taught About Japanese Tradition

Desirous about Japanese tradition in a broader sense, many Japanese youngsters’s books, both explicitly or implicitly, clarify or train youngsters about Japanese tradition and the way to be part of Japanese society.

You should use image books to study what Japanese youngsters study that turns into a part of the collective widespread information.

Take into consideration all of the tales you hear and concepts you decide up as a youngsters that go into your understanding of your tradition and the way to be part of it: fairy tales and songs, tales about well-known individuals and occasions, characters which might be a part of a shared cultural reminiscence, what you possibly can count on to see and do in other places, expectations about how you must act. You should use image books to study what Japanese youngsters study that turns into a part of the collective widespread information — as an example, the tune Donguri Korokoro, who Kaguyahime and Urashima Tarō are, what you would possibly do within the springtime, and the way to work along with a bunch.

Image books may also help you study not just some foundational facets of Japanese tradition, however may also be a sort of backdoor to understanding a Japanese standpoint!

And… They’re Merely So A lot Enjoyable!

Maybe the very best a part of studying Japanese image books is that they’re enjoyable. And cute, and shiny, and charming, and simply plain beautiful.

Even in the event you had been by no means a giant fan of studying to start with, or in the event you’ve developed an emotional allergy over time of attempting to learn in Japanese, identical to Harry Potter impressed non-readers to search out the enjoyment in studying, attempting out Japanese image books is perhaps simply what it’s essential jumpstart your journey into studying Japanese (once more). So if it appears like a enjoyable concept, give it a strive! It is perhaps simply what it’s essential encourage you to sort out one thing with much less, and even no photos, ultimately.

Inherent Challenges of Studying Japanese Image Books

Like I discussed earlier than, the youngsters’s guide part beckons just like the sweet aisle of the bookstore. Nevertheless, sadly not each Japanese image guide presents an easy jaunt by sweet land. So, let’s shortly discuss among the challenges so you are not stunned by a bitter gummy worm once you’re wolfing down on some candy, candy gummy bears.

As a second language learner, there are going to be some inherent challenges that include studying books written for native audio system, even when these native audio system are youngsters.

Youngster-Centric Vocabulary

Whereas the overwhelming majority of Japanese image books are written for kids who’re native audio system of Japanese, in the event you’ve spent a lot time round youngsters you may know that they’ve a vocabulary that is probably not utilized in lots of contexts for adults or second-language learners.

They’ve a vocabulary that is probably not utilized in lots of contexts for adults or second-language learners.

For instance, some of the well-known English youngsters’s tales is Pat the Bunny, however I could not let you know the final time I used the phrase “pat” or learn it in a sentence that wasn’t in Pat the Bunny. It is such a easy phrase, simply three letters, however it’s not even within the prime 5000 phrases advisable for superior learners of English by Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries.

The identical goes for Japanese image books. For instance, they usually use onomatopoeia and different fun-sounding expressions that add good rhythm to the tales. ごっつんこ gottsunko, as an example, is a phrase used for when one thing bumps to one thing else. It is a pretty widespread expression for Japanese youngsters, and whereas it could even be utilized by native-speaking adults, is just not essentially as well-known to second language learners. Studying some of these phrases generally is a pleasure, however may also be a stumbling block, identical to the comparatively superior grammar which may pop up.

Grammar the Textbooks Do not Train You

Once more, with youngsters’s books, the belief is that the reader is a local speaker. And native audio system study language in a very totally different manner in comparison with second language learners — textbooks don’t have anything on that spongy child mind!

You would possibly see extra superior grammatical expressions and verb tenses simply casually thrown round.

So, because of this you would possibly see extra superior grammatical expressions and verb tenses simply casually thrown round, just like the pleasant trio causative, passive, and causative-passive. Oftentimes, even when there’s some grammar you do not perceive you possibly can nonetheless get sufficient of the context to determine roughly what a sentence means (that is precisely how I learn a textual content written in classical Japanese), so do not get too discouraged!

You may also come throughout contractions, like 〜てる for 〜ている or 〜ちゃう for 〜てしまう, or some sound adjustments or different phrases related to child discuss, like 〜ちゃま for 〜さま. These colloquialisms is probably not in your dictionary, however you possibly can usually determine them out with a fast Google search. You may undoubtedly give your dictionary (or at the very least your mind) a exercise with the following problem: lacking kanji.

No Kanji… Can Be A Little Difficult

a page from an ehon that uses only hiragana

Many books for very younger youngsters — from toddlers to these within the first yr of elementary faculty — usually have only a few kanji, or none in any respect. On the one hand, this implies you need not know any kanji to start out studying youngsters’s books, and you will not stumble over the meanings or readings of kanji you are not acquainted with. Hurray!

However, I had no concept how a lot I really relied on kanji to know the which means of a sentence till my pal’s toddler requested me to learn him a guide with zero kanji. I used to be fairly assured — definitely I may learn Japanese higher than a two yr previous? The reply was sure — however not with out some preliminary hits to my dignity.

Take, for instance, this image guide title: 「きょうは なんのひ?」

It is somewhat tough, proper? You’ll usually see the title written like 「今日は何の日?」, however with no kanji, it might take a minute to parse the place the tip of a phrase is, what’s a particle and what’s not, what the which means of a phrase is… Sentences are damaged up into chunks, nonetheless, usually with areas after particles, which is a whole lot of assist.

Using kanji is one thing you must look into particularly when deciding on a guide.

Like the opposite challenges, this is not an enormous impediment that may’t be overcome — simply one thing to concentrate on. You is probably not comfy studying (nearly) all-kana textual content at first, however you may get used to it as you learn. While you aren’t certain, studying out loud would possibly enable you acknowledge a phrase you really know.

Not all image books are devoid of kanji — there are alternatives geared towards older youngsters and extra superior readers which you should utilize to observe your kanji information. Simply take into account that using kanji is one thing you must look into particularly when deciding on a guide!

It Can Be Tougher To Discover A E-book At Your Degree (Than Graded Readers)

It may be more durable to discover a image guide that is appropriate to your degree.

In comparison with sources like graded readers for language learners, that are categorized into ranges of issue, it may be more durable to discover a image guide that is appropriate to your degree. Some web sites like EhonNavi (which I will discuss later) permit you to search by age, which could be a sign of issue degree, however this may be limiting when the studying materials is just not tailor-made for language learners, particularly.

NPO Tadoku Supporter’s web site is a web site the place you could find graded readers and seek for different advisable extensive-reading supplies. Of their database, you possibly can seek for their curated image books. Every guide is given a grade so you could find books that match your studying degree. When you are on their web site, you’ll want to take a look at their unique graded readers too, as many can be found at no cost — particularly lower-level reads use a number of photos, so that they’re like an ideal mixture of image books and graded readers!

Japanese Image Books Style Suggestions

After studying about the advantages and challenges of studying image books, I hope you might be up for giving them a shot. Though “Japanese image books” appears like a selected class of books, it really encompasses all kinds of genres. In case you are not certain what to search for, or the place to start out, I put collectively just a few suggestions, specializing in genres which you can study Japanese tradition from, in addition to ones that I believe adults can take pleasure in. To seek out or instill the enjoyment of studying, I believe it is essential to choose a guide about one thing you like or that you simply’re at the very least thinking about. I hope you could find one thing on this checklist that you simply really feel enthusiastic about studying!

むかし話: Conventional Folktales

an assortment of mukashi banashi ehon

Whereas traditional European fairy tales are in style in Japan as effectively, Japan has its personal conventional folktales, or むかし話 mukashi banashi, which accurately interprets to “tales of a very long time in the past.” The storylines of a few of these well-known tales, like Momotarō, Kaguyahime, and Urashimatarō are so well-known they’ve change into a part of the cultural cloth of Japan — you’d have a tough time discovering somebody that does not know them. In actual fact, it’s fairly widespread to see or hear in regards to the characters and references to those folktales in day-to-day life in Japan. In order a Japanese learner it is not a nasty concept to increase your cultural information by studying them your self!

Only a heads-up, since folktales are tales that had been historically handed down orally by generations, the writing model and format are likely to differ between authors and publishers, even for a similar story. Most Japanese folktales additionally characteristic aged characters — ojiichan (grandfather) and/or obaachan (grandmother). Due to this, some books (that revered the authenticity of oral storytelling) would possibly use very colloquial speech patterns attribute of aged characters in fiction. This may be difficult to grasp for Japanese learners, so that you would possibly wish to look out for these quirks when deciding on a guide.

図鑑・事典: Encyclopedia

a few example pages from various zukan/jiten

That is really extra of a format than a style, however 図鑑 (zukan) and 事典 (jiten) seek advice from encyclopedia-type books.

For youngsters who’re studying all about new phrases and topics for the primary time, these are nice vocabulary-builders and might present deep-knowledge on a topic they discover fascinating, like bugs or fish. There are zukan and jiten of actually something, so you’ll most likely have the ability to discover one which’s all about one thing you like. You is perhaps pondering,”effectively, I am not thinking about any of the issues youngsters love.” Okay, although you may not be thinking about dinosaurs or acorns, severely, the number of zukan and jiten is large. And plenty of have actually fascinating viewpoints that adults would discover fascinating and academic.

For instance, a guide referred to as 絶滅したいきもの図鑑 (zetsumetsu shita ikimono zukan) options animals that went extinct for a sort of foolish and ridiculous purpose. (Like, do you know a manatee-like animal referred to as Steller’s sea cow grew to become extinct as a result of they had been too variety!? 🤯) There are additionally books that characteristic chook beaks, the lower ends of citrus fruits, and even fish fillets.

What’s good about these encyclopedia-type books is that they’re formatted to parse data in an easily-digestible format as a substitute of utilizing lengthy, countless paragraphs. Normally, a topic (or a bunch of topics) is featured on one web page. This chunking makes it simple to learn or skip total pages which may not curiosity you with out feeling such as you missed out on one thing integral to the non-narrative format.

So long as they’re supposed for kids, each zukan and jiten (the phrases are used nearly interchangeably) are image-heavy. Nevertheless, word that zukan, because the identify consists of 図 (which implies “image”), means “visible dictionary,” so they have an inclination to have a stronger emphasis on visuals. So, though it actually is dependent upon the guide, it is not uncommon for zukan to have extra restricted textual content. For example, some solely checklist a reputation alongside the image of the topic.

食べ物: Meals

an assortment of food related ehon

There’s one thing particular about taking a look at illustrations of meals that scrolling photogenic foodie images in your social media feed cannot contact. Particularly in the event you love Japanese meals (washoku), image books that characteristic meals are a real gem.

There are story books that revolve round meals, however there are additionally extra academic books that includes a sure kind of meals that provide you with a deep dive into its historical past, components, and extra. I believe grownup language learners who’re into Japanese culinary tradition would particularly take pleasure in these books.
Some books additionally characteristic encyclopedia-style content material like zukan, for instance seasonal wagashi, or differing types and thickness of ramen noodles. These books are usually aimed toward elementary schoolers, and are written in kana and kanji (usually with furigana readings), so that they may very well be nice supplies for learners who wish to observe studying kanji. Simply ensure to eat some snacks earlier than heading to a library or bookstore — they may certainly make you hungry!

妖怪: Yokai

an assortment of yokai ehon

Are you a fan of 妖怪 (yokai)? Should you’re into horror tales or the occult, image books about yokai may very well be your jam. If weren’t already acquainted, yokai are supernatural beings and mysterious creatures of Japanese folklore. They are often “haunted” inanimate objects imbibed with non secular vitality, water demons just like the kappa — who additionally featured in a Harry Potter collection film — or the frigid 雪女 (yuki onna) snow lady, who freezes her unsuspecting victims to dying.

They could sound like an innately horrifying subject, however yokai, regardless of their folktale origins, are a outstanding a part of Japanese popular culture, particularly for kids. Ever heard of somewhat franchise referred to as Pokemon? Yea, yokai impressed. Yokai’s appears to be like and habits could be quirky and hilarious, making them way more than the subject of some scary tales. Since many youngsters love yokai in Japan, there are fairly just a few youngsters’s image books that includes yokai. You may also see the phrase おばけ as one thing in the identical vein — it typically refers to mysterious creatures together with yokai.

Whether or not you might be new to the world of yokai, or an avid fan already, there are numerous 図鑑 (zukan) / encyclopedia-type books that introduce the totally different “species” of yokai, and a few that even provide you with ideas for the way to take care of them in the event you had been ever to come across these mysterious creatures in real-life.

Yokai manga legend 水木しげる (Mizuki Shigeru), who’s finest identified for the ゲゲゲの鬼太郎 (Ge-Ge-Ge No Kitaro) collection, additionally wrote many image books about yokai which might be effectively value trying out.

The place To Discover Japanese Image Books?

Now you is perhaps feeling impressed to start out studying Japanese image books (or at the very least I hope you might be), however left questioning the place to choose one up. Should you’re in Japan, you possibly can simply pop into the closest bookstore and wander over to the youngsters’s part like I did. Most bookstores could have at the very least a babies’s part. Kinokuniya, Maruzen, Tsutaya, and Book1st are all good choices. Even some 100-yen retailers promote cheap youngsters’s books. Should you’d want to purchase used books, strive BookOff! Remember to take a look at your native library as effectively.

Should you’d want to browse or learn on-line, otherwise you aren’t in Japan, there are some choices for you as effectively. EhonNavi is a Japanese website devoted to, what else, ehon. On EhonNavi, not solely are you able to seek for books by style, however you can too search by age, which could be useful to gauge the studying degree of the guide. One of many many advantages of procuring their catalog on-line is that they supply free samples. Whereas it’s a restricted characteristic, you possibly can even preview entire books at no cost by signing up. Along with your free account you possibly can entry the 全ページためしよみ (all-page preview) of as much as three books a month (as soon as per title solely). Many books additionally provide a ちょっとためしよみ (“somewhat” preview) which helps you to take a peek of some pages and for this, you do not even join an account. EhonNavi additionally presents a premium, paid membership that means that you can learn as many books as you need for about 4 bucks a month (396 yen, to be precise). You may nonetheless solely learn every guide as soon as, however you possibly can entry as many books as you need! Previews are solely obtainable with the cellular app, however it’s definitely worth the trouble to obtain it. Sadly, though EhonNavi does have a web based store the place you should buy bodily books, sadly, they don’t ship abroad.

Should you like free stuff and wish to help a neighborhood of volunteer creators, take a look at, 絵本ひろば (Ehon Hiroba). This Japanese website is devoted to image books, however all of their books are created by customers! You may learn tales by newbie ehon artists at no cost, and there are some fantastic tales with actually spectacular artwork. Join a free account and skim these high-quality ehon to your coronary heart’s content material!

And if you wish to come up with a bodily copy, transport from Amazon Japan is another choice. There are after all a number of youngsters’s books to select from, and Amazon Japan normally ships internationally. For these within the U.S., particularly city-dwellers, Kinokuniya may need a brick-and-mortar location close to you. In addition they have an on-line retailer, and transport prices are usually cheaper than Amazon Japan or different on-line shops that ship from Japan.

Able to Get pleasure from Some Japanese Image Books?

Lastly, I simply wish to provide you with a pleasant reminder — ensure to take a peek earlier than buying! Particularly in case you are shopping on-line, remember to take a peek inside earlier than whipping out your pockets and committing your money and time to a purchase order. There are lots of books that present free previews so you’ll want to test them out. Once more, there may be a variety in image books, so ensure to decide on what you’re feeling is true to your degree. Books for toddlers and people supposed for school-aged youngsters are vastly totally different by way of each language and content material, so you’ll want to look out for issues like writing model, vocabulary, using kanji, textual content density, and font.

Most significantly — ensure to choose a guide that you simply suppose you may take pleasure in, and give attention to the enjoyment of studying quite than how a lot you possibly can mine the sources for examine materials. And naturally, remember to take a while to admire the illustrations!

I hope this text has given you some new concepts for Japanese books to learn. Regardless that there are some challenges with studying Japanese youngsters’s books, as a result of they are usually shorter and have a number of illustrations, they are often very approachable. They’re additionally, after all, a number of enjoyable. I’ve gotten a whole lot of pleasure out of studying Japanese youngsters’s books, and I hope you do, too.



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