JLPT BC 135 | Adding Grammar and Vocabulary Back In

JLPT BC 135 | Adding Grammar and Vocabulary Back In post image

I’ve got a good start on the first book of Game of Thrones (氷と炎の歌1). It has been a lot of fun because I really like that particular story. I think there are a lot of people that will probably find it way too difficult to struggle through. For me though, it is interesting to see how it got translated because it seems like the author has done a decent job in converting the book to Japanese.

It is definitely not a book to learn with, at least for the faint of heart. It is pretty much purposely written to be difficult to read. The author uses a lot of rare kanji and uncommon words for obvious reasons. He wanted to convey the feeling of a fantasy novel and some of the descriptions are quite difficult to fully understand even in my native language.

Something that I have never seen before this book was the author’s way of translating certain key terms that are important to the series. He created a new word out of kanji that symbolizes what he wants to convey but then has katakana furigana of the original term.

For example, for the Night’s Watch, which is a name of a group of guardians in the book, the author writes 冥夜の守人 (lit. guard people of the dark night), but to the side it has the furigana ナイツ・ウォッチ. This makes for an interesting blend that keeps the fantasy tone but clarifies what is actually being talked about.

Another thing I noticed was the use of brackets to emphasize certain key words. For example, the Night’s Watch lives near a place simply called ‘the wall’ in English. In Japanese the author uses 壁 (kabe), which means wall, but then he puts <> brackets around it for emphasis so that you know it’s not just some wall but the wall.

I haven’t had a lot of experience with this kind of formatting. Has anybody else read something like that before?

Dual Reading

So I have the English kindle version of Game of Thrones that I read awhile ago. Since it is in kindle format I can easily pack it with me. So I have been making use of it lately to help me better understand the Japanese translation of the book.

Also, I have an uncommon interest in seeing how things are expressed in different languages so I like to see what is kept, what gets removed, what gets added so to speak. No language can perfectly relay a scene to someone, and that is actually one advantage of writing, because you have to use your imagination to fill in the gaps, making reading a more personal experience than say movie watching.

But, having the same text in two different languages also has the benefit of being great for language learning of course. And basically what I have been doing is reading 3 or 4 pages in English than reading 3 or 4 pages in Japanese. The two books match up fairly well so far so I can get the meaning of what is going on without having to look up a lot of words.

This helps me out a lot because I have a hard time guessing about the overall scene of a piece of writing and so getting an overview of it before I read really helps everything slip into place. And it makes reading go a lot faster with just the right amount of struggle to come up with certain words.

I do still take the time here and there to save words that I want to practice later. These are mostly uncommon but interesting words to know like decapitation, which is probably not going to appear on the test but just interesting to know.

I’m thinking about taking a similar approach to Harry Potter, because I have the English kindle book, I just need the Japanese one. I’d like to combine it with the audiobook as well for some extra practice.

Squeezing in grammar and vocabulary

I’m starting to spot check more and more grammar recently. I want to avoid going into it very deep and boring myself with it, but I want to do some regular review so that I have it over-learned by the time I reach the July test.

As I’ve said a few times before though, The N1 grammar section is not as cut and dry as that of other levels of the test. You really need to know small nuances, and really pay attention to detail. I’ve been trying my best to notice and take note of interesting usage that I see, but other than that I don’t see how you can really be 100% prepared for that section other than just using Japanese and being corrected a lot.

I’ve also tried my best to bulk up on difficult vocabulary before the coming test. Last test, there were some words that I recognized but couldn’t use very well. I’d like to take some extra time with vocab and try to binge on as much as I can before the test, so that I can again over-learn what I need to pass.

I will need to improve my reading comprehension and actually concentration. I have a lot of trouble keeping focused through the more boring pieces of the test. What seemed to work for N2 for me was reading a lot of old pre-N tests. Although the questions and style are a little different, they are still great practice.

I’ll be cracking open a few of those over the next couple of weeks to see where I stand. Another issue is taking a practice test. Although I’ve found the N1 practice tests to be all over the map in terms of being the correct level. For instance, I’ll ace one then turn around and fail another.

How about you?

We are heading into the final 2 months before the July test. Are you ready? How are you preparing? Let me know in the comments.

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • david April 24, 2014, 4:29 pm

    Nice article. it woud be nice to read a post of you comparing the GoT book, because I’m doing the same but with other book and yes, I struggle with author coined words like night’s watch. a comparison article would be really helpful.

    • Clayton MacKnight May 2, 2014, 12:42 am

      Comparing the English and the Japanese versions? I’ll try to write something up. I might have to take a break from it for awhile to prep for the July test. I’d like to pass and it get it over with this time. 🙂

  • HB April 25, 2014, 7:26 am

    “Something that I have never seen before this book was the author’s way of translating certain key terms that are important to the series. He created a new word out of kanji that symbolizes what he wants to convey but then has katakana furigana of the original term.”

    I’m not into manga nor anime, but I know this is used a lot in some works. For example, in Saint Seiya:




    • lazuli April 27, 2014, 11:35 am

      I think those can be called ateji (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ateji).
      Maybe they used it so the people not so familiar with English words would get the meaning thanks to the kanjis.

      • Clayton MacKnight May 4, 2014, 6:28 am

        I don’t think they are ateji because the reading of the kanji doesn’t match up with the katakana furigana. The Kanji symbolize what the katakana transliterates from English, if that makes sense.

    • Clayton MacKnight May 2, 2014, 12:54 am

      Huh, must be a feature of fantasy writing. I’ve never read manga with any regularity so I’m not really familiar with it, but makes sense. It keeps you in the world so to speak. Katakana always has a poppy new feel to it.

  • alex April 25, 2014, 5:03 pm

    It would be nice to see a memrise pack with words you found in the novel.

    • Clayton MacKnight May 2, 2014, 12:55 am

      I’ll try to put one together. But maybe with Japanese definitions. I’ve been trying my best to study Japanese to Japanese these days.

  • anonymous April 26, 2014, 3:31 am

    In preparation for N2, I am doing: N2 Somatome series (currently grammar, I switched to that from kanji on your advice), Kodomo Shinbun, and Japanesepod 101. That’s all I have time for.

    At work, a fellow (Japanese) teacher noticed me reading the kids’ newspaper and she said she reads it too because it is so fast and easy.

    • Clayton MacKnight May 2, 2014, 12:57 am

      I think you have a good plan. Reading is a tough beast at the N2 level. If you can get your speed and comprehension up, you should be in good shape. Also getting the grammar under control. Are you taking in july?

      • anonymous May 2, 2014, 9:12 pm

        Yes, I am taking it in July. I don’t think I will be adequately prepared, so I plan to take it in Dec. if I don’t pass.

  • Amon April 26, 2014, 7:04 am

    here´s my approach to start reading Japanese: Visual Novels. In short, they are storys, read on your PC line for line, with background- and anime-like character-graphics and slight interaction, like choosing the route a story develops. While the lines of other characters in most VNs are mostly voiced, your (the protagonists) lines are mostly not. So you can´t just listen, you have to read. VNs are actually one of the reasons I started learning Japanese. Because of the partial voicing, you can look up unknown kanji and words more easily compared to unvoiced text. Because of the graphics, you get some hints about the overall story. While reading, i look up unknown words and add them to my list of vocabs i later add to my Memrise course. In my eyes, VNs are the perfect combination of fun and learning.
    (Just for rough estimation: I´m learning Japanese for around 10 months for 2h a day now and i am already able to enjoy VNs. Of course there is still no end to new vocabs and unkown grammar, but i am SO HAPPY that Japanese isn´t a vague dream anymore, but real!)

    • Clayton MacKnight May 2, 2014, 1:00 am

      VNs sound great, can you recommend a good site where we can pick some up?

  • Jude April 26, 2014, 11:27 pm

    The Game of Thrones, huh? Pretty impressive. Someday I’ll read real books in Japanese, too …

    In the meantime, I’ve found a book in Japanese at the International Children’s Digital Library with a translation (into German, but beggars can’t be choosers). With an OCR program I’ve put it into Word (there are free online sites that will do this) and I’m putting the English below it, line by line – my first bilingual reader). The idea of using Globefish isn’t particularly useful for Japanese, unfortunately – Google Translate is really pretty bad for Japanese. (I’ve used it to translate comments in on-line posts from Chinese, and it was a lot better.) Is there another Japanese to English translation site that works better than Google?

    What’s even easier than the kids’ book about the stolen pet turtle is a “book” on Edo Japan at https://www.digitaldialects.com/Japanese/tokugawa_ebook.htm. This is great – there are buttons to switch between normal Japanese, hiragana, romaji, and an English translation. And there’s audio, spoken by a woman not pretending to be a kindergartener. The only problem is that the sound is low, but Audacity can take care of that.

    So, any other suggestions for a bookworm at the N5 level?

    • Clayton MacKnight May 4, 2014, 6:27 am

      Wow, those are a lot of great resources. For me, at the N5 level, I had to end up getting graded readers and kids books at the local Book Off. Are you in Japan?

      • Jude May 4, 2014, 8:13 am

        In Japan? No such luck.

        The 0-level books listed in that link you sent look good. I remember the first graded reader I got when I was starting Russian college – it felt like real writing, with a distinctive style and everything. (Lermontov’s A Prisoner of the Caucasus – the Russians have been having trouble with the Chechens et al. for a long time.) Years later I looked at the book again and it seemed pitifully crippled, but it did its job at the time, hooking me on Russian literature.

        The big problem with learning by reading always used to be pronunciation (not so much for Russian, which is a bit complicated, but regular. IF you know where the accent is and how it shifts with the case and number). With the TTS programs available now, though, you can at least be sure of getting the individual words right. I’m making playlists with Total Recorder for the new words in the Edo Japan book. As a result, there are days I spend more time debugging the procedures for preparing materials than learning Japanese, but I tell myself I’ll make up the time spent on these scripts in all the time I’ll gain in the future for concentrated study. We’ll see.

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