Sunday, August 20, 2006

"Listening Practice"

My technical level of Japanese is pretty sloppy, but I was able to get used to the rythem and feel of the language through a lot of listening practice.  I bought a Y30,000 yen "Professional" Sony recording Walkman in 1985 that I used to make tapes of children's books that I listened to (nearly) endlessly while studying the books.  Typically I would understand very little during the first listenings before having struggled through the book with a dictionary (getting help from Japanese friends for parts I couldn't find in the dictionay on my own), but then the meaning would come through loud and clear after listening to the tape several times after having read the relevant pages in the book.

I made copies of the master tapes that I then listened to with auto-reverse walkmans (walkmen?).  I had an auto-reverse machine for my bag that I listened to all the time while outside - walking down the street, riding the trains, etc., and I had one for when I was sleeping.  Typically, the sleeping model would burn out every four or five months from excessive use, and I went through a small mountain of machines over the few years I was most intensively studying this way.

It's much easier now with MP3 players.  Recently I've gotten ahold of some Japanese audio books that I like.  One by that famous actor Taka... something Ken, that is quite entertaining and interesting to listen to, and Botchan, which is great - particularly after reading two separate English translations of the book (the one by the Japanese translator is vastly superior to the one by the western translator - who overtranslated it, doing stupid things like calling soba noodles "buckwheat noodles") and half of the Japanese original.  Same as back in 1985, I understand the part I read very well, but am missing things in the last half, which I've yet to read.

In the "Why am I doing this?" category, I've obtained recordings of "The Tale of Genji" and "Heike Monogatari" (What's the English title for this?  The Tale of Heike?  The Heike Tale(s)?).  These are useless for modern Japanese, but since everyone here studies them, and even has to memorize part of "Heike Monogatari", they are interesting to listen to in a way (with very low compression!).

Just some random stuff I guess.  But I do have a specific question.  Does anyone have any information on available Japanese audiobooks?  The concept seems to be not nearly as popular as in the US.  I guess people prefer to actually read books (gasp!) than listen to them.  Actually, I prefer reading books too, but I *can't" read things like "Heike Monogatari" and in the sardine trains of the morning rush, I can't even hold a book in front of my face, so audiobooks are the only way to go!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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