Reading a Book in English


Hello, friends!


I study Japanese every day. I have studied Japanese for about 10 years.


In 2014, I tried to read a book written in Japanese for the first time. The name of the book is, 「ハリー・ポッターとふしちょうのきしだん」


I wanted to improve my Japanese reading level. I decided to read Harry Potter because I already knew the story. I had read that book in English many years before. I thought, “I know what happens. I’ve studied Japanese for 6 years. This book is for children, and the difficult words have furigana. Surely, I can read it easily!”

Right away, I was surprised. Reading in Japanese was really difficult! I wanted to read 1 page without stopping to check a word in the dictionary, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t even read 1 sentence without stopping!


I was determined not to give up, so I started taking notes. I made a vocabulary list. I looked up all of the words I didn’t know: fushichou, kishidan, uranai, kantokusei. It took a long time.


Soon, I got tired. After reading 1 chapter, I had 3 pages of notes. I thought, “this is taking forever! It will take me 3 years to finish this book!”

So, I stopped checking every new word. Instead, I waited until I saw a word 2 or 3 times. Using this strategy, I could read more quickly, and I stopped worrying about understanding every word.


If I couldn’t understand the meaning from the context, I used the dictionary to look it up. By “context”, I mean that sometimes, we can understand meaning from hints in the sentence. For example, look at this sentence:


“When the waiter came to the table, we first ordered some quesadillas.”


If you don’t know the word quesadillas, you can probably guess that it’s a type of food or drink, right? Because from the context, we know that:

1. There is a waiter, and a table --> probably a restaurant.

2. To order something = ~ o chuumon suru

So, we can keep reading without using a dictionary. But, if I see this word many times, and I want to have an image in my head, I can check it.

Reading a book in English is a great strategy to improve your skills. I recommend it! And yes, I finished the book– in only 3 months! I really worked hard, and read some pages every day. So, here are my recommendations for reading a book in a foreign language:

1. Choose a book that is not new to you, such as a book that was made into a movie (Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Holes, The Fault in Our Stars, The Hate U Give, etc.). If you’re interested in translation, try a Japanese book that has been translated into English.

2. Don’t write down every new word. Wait until you see the same word 2 or 3 times, and then look it up.

3. Try to read several paragraphs without stopping. You can get more hints from the context about what is happening, even if there are many words or phrases you don’t know.  

What do you think? Have you tried to read books in English before?


I hope you’ll give it a try!