Tag Archives: Japanese

Ask Manga Mom: The Raw Edition

Labo asks:

I’ve been wondering for a while now, but you say that you are learning Japanese characters to read more Japanese manga not yet translated for the public audience and I was wondering, that is you achieve that goal exactly how or where would you get the Japanese manga to put your skills to use. Seeing as few internet sites like Jbox.com offer a limited selection that are usually popular series, that have their own animes already.

Well Labo, I’m fortunate to live in an area of the US where I’m 45 minutes more or less to several Japanese bookstores, including, but not limited to, Kinokuniya and used bookstore Book Off. But as you note, their selection will be mostly for newer titles, and used bookstores inventory is always fluctuating. So to find some specific titles, I will have to go online.

There are several online bookstores, the most obvious being Amazon.co.jp, the Japanese arm of Amazon.com. A query of the hive mind that is Twitter got me several other suggestions. Kinokuniya also has an online book store. It has stores in both the US and Japan. The Japanese store probably has a better selection.  BK1 is an online store that sells manga, cds and dvds and is located in Japan.  Yesasia came up as an option as well, as did Yahoo Actions using a proxy, but those can get expensive. I used one once, and that was just to replace a CD that had been stolen from my brother, and I couldn’t get it anywhere else. I wouldn’t recommend those. Ebay can also be a source, but like used bookstores, the selection is hit or miss. beNippon seems to be a new online store that has lots of Japanese manga, though I don’t know anyone who’s tried it.

Another option that will be growing (hopefully) is reading manga online, in Japanese. CDJapan has an e-book rental section that allows you to read manga online, all in Japanese. I think this would be the ideal version for me. I just don’t have room for more manga! They already have quite a selection in all demographics, and even one title I really want to read! And it’s just a $1.00 for 48 hours for 1 volume. Now that’s a deal!

Japanese Journal: The Basics

hiraganaFor the good part of 25 years, the thought of learning Japanese has flitted in and out of my mind.  For most of that time, either inaccessibility of resources and/or time has kept me from putting any serious effort into it.  In the last three years, I’ve made two abortive attempts, both ending after collecting resources, but never taking it anywhere.

They say three’s a charm, so with this third attempt, I’m going to write about my experience, which I’m hoping will keep me on track.  That’s the problem with self-study sometimes, motivation.  I’ve set a goal of trying to reach an elementary level of reading that will allow me to read manga.  Speaking is going to be secondary, but since it’s helpful to learning the letters, I will be working on it somewhat along side the reading and writing.

Continue reading Japanese Journal: The Basics

Why Not?

I was reading the comments on this post at Anime Vice.  Most of the debate over justification for scanlations didn’t interest me, as I’ve seen them all before, but one comment did sort of bother me.  Fellow Manga Village reviewer and blogger John Thomas had joined the conversation and made a simple statement.  “Why not just learn to read Japanese?”  It was the response to this that made me go “Huh?”

I have to confess, that is the one answer I loathe seeing in scanlation debates, and it appears every time.

He goes on to give excuses of no time, too expensive, too difficult, etc., which then steers the conversation toward learning Japanese.

Continue reading Why Not?

So You Wanna Read Japanese Manga?

Sanen KimengumiWith a long list of wish lists and license requests, and not too good a prospect on getting a lot of those titles in English for whatever reason (too long, too old, too niche, etc), it makes a manga fan seriously consider learning to read Japanese.  Why go through a middleman when you can go straight to the source?  And Japanese tankoban are cheaper, even with the exchange rate, to buy.  But learning a new language can be intimidating, especially when the letters that look nothing like you’re used to.  Fortunately the internet is filled with resources to help you buy and read your Japanese manga.

One really good resource is Rainbow Hill Language Lab which features entries about Japanese language and culture.  Recently the blog has been featuring several entries about reading manga as an aid to learning Japanese.  One such entry was a list of tools to help you start reading manga.  This list featured both resources that could be found online as well as books and study aids, all with links. He gives resources to the basics of the alphabet, basic grammar and vocabulary and kanji.

If you’re serious about your manga, and don’t want to wait for a license that might never come, then learning to read Japanese is the way to go.  And if you don’t have a lot of time to take a class, this is a good way to start.  I know I’m sorely tempted to pull out the Highschool Kimengumi manga we have and try this out!

Tech Friday: You Won't Find These in Any Textbook

Anime-manga

Learning Japanese from popular culture such as anime and manga is nothing new.  Mangajin, a magazine from the early 90’s used manga to teach lessons.  In fact, it’s exactly these things that inspire westerners to want to learn to read and speak Japanese.  The Japanese have recognized this and have created a website to help learners of their language.  But it’s not exactly what you’d expect.

The website, anime-manga.jp doesn’t show you manga panels with translations.  No, the purpose of the site is to help teach learners about colloquial expressions that often show up in anime and manga, but not in textbooks.  Languages are fluid, they are always changing.  Anime and manga, which are all about popular culture reflect these changes, which often stump new readers who don’t live in the culture and see and hear these changes. On the site, you can see and hear expressions from typical characters from anime and manga such as school age boys and girls, butlers, and samurai.  You can even hear an Osaka dialect from an old man!

I’ve heard people try to discourage others from using anime and manga as a resource for learning Japanese precisely because of the colloquialisms.  But in order to sound like a real native speaker, you should know them, and I think it’s great that the Japanese recognize this and are reaching out to foreign learners to help them.  Of course, I’m sure all the raw manga and anime these learners will buy to help their studies won’t hurt either.

What's In A Name?

A short conversation came up on Twitter about whether Japanese names should be translated.  I found some of the point that were made interesting, and it got me thinking.  When you hear someone’s name, do you think about it’s meaning?  Pick up a baby book of names, and you’ll see that every name, even our English names have another meaning.  But because it’s a name, we don’t consider the meaning important.  Why should translators do the same to Japanese names?

Yes, many of the Japanese names have mundane meanings, such as Sakura, meaning Cherry Blossom, or Yuki, meaning snow.  But are you going to call someone named Mirai, Future?  Just because that is the literal translation, that doesn’t make it the best interpretation.  My name, Lori, means “laurel tree symbolic of honor and victory”.  That doesn’t mean I want to be called “Laurel tree”.  If you were introduced to someone named Sakura, you wouldn’t go around calling them Cherry Blossom, would you?  That’s not their given name.  When a word becomes a name, it transcends it’s original meaning, and becomes something more than that.

Translators that change a person’s name to it’s literal meaning are really missing the point.  When something is being translated, there needs to be more than a literal translation.  The translator has to do some interpretation to convey the meaning as well.  And just because someone’s name also means elephant doesn’t mean that’s how the people in that culture will see it.  So we really shouldn’t either.  It’s another case of just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.