Reading for Writing

It is funny. Here I am, wanting to write. I have the perfect source for learning it, and yet I am reading even more about writing, than I actually write. I guess this is inevitable. Even mori7 stresses the importance to read consistently, to develop knowledge and a feeling for the language, before starting to write. They are giving this advice to both parents and teachers, as well as the older students visiting their site. I am neither a preschool nor a school child, or a child at all, but you knew that already. Only in my heart I will remain to be one. That aside, in a way, I am currently a child again. I am trying to learn a culture technique, probably the most important next to speaking, and my level is close to that of a 1st grade elementary school child.

Being a child again, or at least pretending to be one for the sake of comparison, the first thing I do when I start learning is to play around with different ways and methods. Everything is possible in that phase. This way it is possible to find what works and what doesn’t in a fun way. To play, means to have fun, and by having fun, it feels less like work. In the case of learning Japanese, even working hard would be in order. But it doesn’t have to be when it mustn’t, right? The direction in this case is clear, reading is the first step. In the past I was reading for different reasons. To learn new, and strengthen my knowledge of learned vocabulary, for grammar, particles, and to learn reading in general. This time around I am reading for writing.

I am doing it in this way. I am looking at parts of sentences and mark them, and how they are used to connect sentences and paragraphs. My reading focus lies on conjunctiva, or 接続詞 (せつぞくし), because they are most important for several reasons. Those words and phrases are used to develop arguments, and to make shifts in ideas over several paragraphs, for one thing. Another, and probably the most important reason why I prioritize those is, that a proper use of transition words guarantees that paragraphs sustain their coherence. In Japanese words such as さて、でも、そして、 しかし、それに, しかも、もし、and many others are used. Then there are the particles. They are probably even more important than conjunctions since they glue sentences together, they can change the whole meaning of a sentence, and with their help sentences can be made softer, among other things.

Considering that my source is mori7, I can be absolutely sure that it is safe to use what I learn in my writing, without worrying whether or not their writing is correct or even used in writing at all. A textbook doesn’t teach this, it’s all theory, and one can only hope that this is correct Japanese. Reading is theory, writing is practice. To practice writing I use, what could be called “3-sentence method”. The general idea behind this is to read a text, and afterwards write 3 sentences about it, or summarize it if you will. The other way to use this is to discover the main points of any given text, and then take them to rephrase it in only 3 sentences. Both seems to be in order in this case, and I haven’t seen anything written that it is not. 3 sentences are short enough, the length of the sentences does not matter, so it is a good start. From the 3 sentences method to writing reviews about books, it is only a small step for men, but crossing the mount Everest, wearing only a fig leaf, in the middle of winter, for me. Golly! Another great opportunity to read!

Another method, and a rather classic one, is to draw pictures and add conversations to them. Sounds like drawing a comic, doesn’t it? Actually it is a first step, after which a real text has to be written, about the contents of ones drawings. A deviation of a mind-map, which is also outlined how to do over at mori7, comes closest to it. Or a storyboard for a movie if you will. According to mori7 this makes it easier to write with a wider variety of words and expressions, because there are pictures and also conversations. The idea here is that even if the same things occur everyday, coming home from school, studying, and playing with friends, there is not much going on that allows for a more lively description in the eyes of a child. This reflects in the writing and choice of words, reading something like this. 「私は毎日六時半歯を磨きます。」 ・・・ 「そして、朝ごはんを食べます。」 ・・・ 「そして、友だちと一生に学校へ通って勉強します。」 ・・・ 「そして。。。」 To finish this story, そして、新聞によるとあの子の先生が自殺しました。現場にいた警官は先生の書いた遺書や別れの手紙を見つけました。「私の自殺理由が「そしてという言葉を濫用」です。 In short, this method would have helped to avoid, what has led to the suicide of this fictitious teacher, the overuse of the same words, and writing in a chronological order without any variation.

There are several other methods outlined at mori7 that I just have to give a try. The ones described above are enough to keep me busy for quite a while, but as I said already, at the beginning I try out several different until I find the most suitable for me. And without wanting to advertise for them, mori7 is a godsend. Not only for the purpose of writing, but also for reading and preparing for the JLPT2. Many articles have a counter for characters written beside it, and it becomes easy to measure, how much and in what time I read any number of articles. If you haven’t visited the website yet, here is the link As for me, after writing so much, it is about high time to return to my reading. I hope you’ll excuse me, dear Reader.

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