japanese classic audiobooks free download – and an app to play them

Khatz had an excellent post today on learning through the spoken word, which inspired me to start looking for some audiobooks, and also to find a way to play them properly on my iPhone.

I’ve been half-heartedly collecting podcasts* but seldom actually listen to them, because I have little idea whether they’ll actually be talking about anything I’m interested in for one thing, and there’s usually also no transcripts so if you want to follow along you can’t. Not a problem of course for natives or more advanced learners but for an intermediate whose reading is much stronger than listening it removes a significant potential advantage.

So then I thought, well yes let’s get audiobooks; they’re a known quantity, they have text, they’re pretty long, there’s no real downside here.

A problem I ran into right away though is that every audiobook player app wants to lock you into its own store or market or at least file source. It seems like most will not allow you to import your own mp3 or other audio files, or if they do the description at least says nothing about it. I did eventually find one that does, and looks like it should be easy to use and work well; namely Bookmobile. It does also handle podcasts to some extent with a built-in RSS capability, but I imagine dedicated apps like Downcast will be better for that.

Then the books themselves. The #ajatt IRC channel has had a link in the header for a long time to some that user Decoface converted to MP3 and shared – those are here. From there I also found a link back to the original list of files on the RTK wiki, which I’m not sure why I’d forgotten about; that’s here.

If you import them into iTunes and it doesn’t recognize them as being audiobooks, which is quite likely, select all the files, Get Info (⌘I will do it), go to Options tab and in the media type list pick Audiobook. Also make sure all the files for a book are in a single album.

Should be set for a good long while now.

 

* surely I’m not the only one who always types “podcats” first? and then conjures up a little mental image of podcats?

Remembering the Kanji vol.1 with Japanese Keywords

Having looked for a while for a thorough list of Japanese keywords for Remembering the Kanji volume 1, I eventually gave up and made my own. The list put together by wrightak is well known, but its downfall (not a terribly serious one admittedly) is that he attempted to stick as close to the original English keyword as possible, and partly as a consequence the list is missing quite a few characters, as well as having some pretty strained keywords (not that the English list doesn’t have its share of those as well).

I made the list on Skritter and you can get at it from the shared list page, but if you don’t use Skritter (but really you should) here are plain files of it:

Tab-delimited text

Numbers spreadsheet

And the description from the list page:

RTK 1 with Japanese keywords. Mostly kun-yomi, with many exceptions where the kun-yomi is excessively rare, or non-existent. (That said, there are quite a few words included that are rarely written in kanji, just because I found them interesting.) Meanings may or may not coincide with Heisig keywords.

This list introduces many kanji out of order as they feature in compounds of kanji in the Heisig order. It is not recommended to learn this list instead of the normal RTK 1 with English keywords; rather, finish RTK 1 with English keywords first, give it some time for the mnemonics you used for that to fade, then go through this list.

There may be some duplication which I’ll try to weed out as I review through the list.

finding the right serving size: a simple search

Anime is of course excellent immersion material, and part of the reason for that is the convenient 24-minute length of a typical episode. Sometimes it would be nice though to have something even shorter so that you could fit it in between the cracks of an ordinary busy day. Maybe you have a 15 minute coffee break, or a 10 minute bus ride, or similar, and it’s nice to fit in a complete episode instead of leaving something unfinished. To this end I’m planning a series of posts on anime with short episodes, ranging from 12 minutes down to 3 minutes, or maybe even less.

If you want to find your own, it’s surprisingly simple. ANN always lists the running time and always in the same format. So just search for “running time: 10 minutes”, substituting whatever time you want, like this.

 

background looping, floating phrases, and gomes the hitman

There are different points of view on “passive listening”, whether very useful or not at all; and to go with that, different ideas of what it actually is. Olle Linge over at Hacking Chinese has been having a very useful series on listening, and what I’m talking about here is background listening – the sort of thing you turn on and tune out, not paying any serious attention to at all. This is probably what most of us have the most time for, but does it actually do anything for your language learning? Continue reading

turning reading comprehension into listening comprehension: three simple strategies

Once you have kanji at least somewhat tamed, reading is the easiest skill to develop to a high level. You can take all the time you need to get through a passage, no one is rushing you, you don’t need to depend on anyone else to talk to or correct your writing, and you can do it all day long if you like. And especially for those of us using extensive reading as the foundation for our studies (which, it hardly needs repeating, I strongly support), we will most likely arrive at a stage in our learning where reading is quite far advanced above the other three skills. Then when you try to listen to material that’s at the same level that you’re comfortably reading, it’s completely incomprehensible. This can be very frustrating! It’s like solving a Chinese puzzle with mittens on. The question then is, how can we use that reading skill to boost our listening skill?

Certainly massive immersion is foundational to listening skill. Listen as much as you can. Listening is something you can multitask, so take advantage of that. Going out for a run? Headphones in. Punching numbers in Excel at the office? Headphones in. Deep discussion with your significant other? Headphones in. (Kidding … maybe?)

But that’s a little random for our purposes here, and doesn’t really answer the question. How then can we focus our listening a little more closely? Here’s three simple things I’ve found to work well, in order of precision.

Firstly, you might remember I’ve previously mentioned incremental reading combined with audio. This SRS exercise will result in exceptionally complete comprehension and retention of short passages. A quick summary of the method: find a source for short passages where you have both audio and text. You can select passages that are quite difficult as long as you find them interesting, but don’t overdo it because the quantity of repetitions you’ll need for a passage that’s too far over your level will only result in you getting sick of it. Podcasts are perfect material. I like the audio blogs over at japanesepod101. Your card, then, will have the text on the front, the text with readings on the back, and the audio. Have Anki set to not play audio automatically. Reviews are done by reading the card and then listening. Feel free to look up as much as you need to while reading. Particularly unfamiliar words should probably be added to a simple vocabulary deck or an MCD deck. The reading should be fairly easy though, because the point is to bootstrap the difficult listening with the higher skill level of the reading. Grading can be done like any other SRS card.

That’s the most effective method in some ways, but the focus is quite narrow, and there’s a lot of setup required. It also has a fairly high burn-out risk.

Secondly, let’s consider a method for using Japanese subtitles. Now, just watching video with J-subs is something I have found to be not terribly effective. It does aid comprehension, and I’m sure if you could read at the same speed as normal speech it would be a lot more effective than it is for me. But as it is, it often ends up going by all too quickly to be much use. So what I do instead is put the text of the subtitles file in Learning With Texts. (You could just as easily use a plain text file – maybe put them in an e-reader program like iBunko – and make MCD cards for words or grammar points as needed.) The process then is to first watch the video without subtitles, then read through the text carefully taking all the time you need to understand everything, and then re-watch the video. This should be done without too much delay between, but a day or two is fine. You will notice a big difference in comprehension between first and second viewings!

For this method, the video must be reasonably within your grasp before reading the text, otherwise two viewings won’t be nearly enough. And if you’re anything like me, two viewings of anything is already very nearly one too many, no matter how good the material is. Also, it must not be too long, or it will take you all day to study the text, and you won’t be able to retain all of it. I find the 20 minutes of a typical anime episode to be pretty much perfect.

That might still be too much structure for your taste, so lastly let’s consider a method (that’s so loose it can hardly be called a method) that will let you take in the most volume of text and audio of any of these. For tadoku, it’s often recommended that you concentrate on the works of a particular author for periods of time, since you get used to their style and their selection of vocabulary. We can take advantage of this for listening as well. Most anime are based on manga, as are many dramas. So all you need to do is watch your favourite series, read through the manga (SRS as much or as little as you like), re-watch the series, reread, etc., until you’re tired of it, which is your sign to move on to something else. Very often the lines in the anime or drama are lifted directly from the manga, and even when they’re not, they’ll be in the same style and using the same set of vocabulary. Sometimes you can also find audio dramas (”Drama CD’s”) that are also based closely on the manga. ARIA in particular has a great many of these, so you can get a lot of listening immersion that’s all based on material you already know from reading. As well as ARIA, I like みなみけ and ひだまりスケッチ for this approach. Any simple slice-of-life anime or drama is a good bet for practical and realistic everyday vocabulary. But make sure to follow your interests! The brain is like a little kid faced with a plate of broccoli; very good at rejecting what it doesn’t enjoy. Luckily when it comes to language even the chocolate cake is nourishing!

I always remember something loafyi said in the #ajatt channel one day – something like “when I can recognize a word in listening, that’s when I feel like I really have it”. I’ve found this to be very true. I hope that these simple common-sense suggestions can help you to use your hard-earned reading comprehension to raise your listening to a similar level.

learning with texts text+audio: ごん狐

I asked a little while back on Twitter whether anyone would be interested in pre-formatted texts made to work with Learning With Texts, with accompanying audio. Here’s the first installment of these. Useful even if you don’t use LWT!

This is ごん狐 by the famous children’s author 新美 南吉(にいみ なんきち). The Aozora page is here.

Reading is courtesy of the lovely people at ふぁんた時間 podcast.

Level could probably be considered lower intermediate, I think.

Text

Audio

nippon voiceblog culture podcast with transcripts

My main focus at the moment is attempting to get my listening comprehension up to the same level as my reading comprehension. To do this, ideally one needs materials that one can both listen to and read. They must also be interesting materials. Such are not terribly common.

One that I found just yesterday is Nippon VoiceBlog. There’s no audio left at the site, but you can get a complete archive of it here.

This promises to be fascinating listening/reading material. It covers a wide array of cultural topics, everything from Hina Matsuri to karaoke.

I’ve just starting using Learning With Texts and intend to work through these in there. It’s perfectly suited, I think.

Comments Off on nippon voiceblog culture podcast with transcripts Posted in Learning Materials