Now that I’m more or less free to do what I want until classes start again, I decided to look through some old stuff that’s accumulated in my room in my parents’ house to throw away the things I don’t need to keep and make room for new things. I found a huge stack of Italian manga which I bought when I was, well, in Italy. They already had all the cool stuff back in 1999 or something, when the manga market here wasn’t really as massive as it is now. I bought lots of random stuff, basically anything I could get my hands on, mostly shounen and seinen titles like Macross 7 Trash, Gundam and Cat’s Eye – sadly no shoujo manga, though. No matter where I looked, I couldn’t find any manga for girls even though they were said to be already quite popular in Italy at that time. (We only had Sailor Moon back then.)
I also found old manga scripts that I’d printed out to read Japanese manga. Ah, the good old days as a manga reader! Yes, we actually bought Japanese manga and tried to read them in Japanese with the help of scripts kind souls with admirable Japanese skills had provided for us on the internet. This is how I learnt Japanese! I taught myself hiragana and katakana, got myself a good dictionary and started reading manga with the help of English scripts. I found scripts for Tenshikinryouku/Angel Sanctuary and other old Yuki Kaori titles, CLAMP stuff like X, Tokyo Babylon, RG Veda and Clover and more light-hearted shoujo series like Emura’s W Juliet. This way, I acquired quite an impressive range of vocabulary which I’d probably never been able to use in every-day life in Japan, including words like “organic angel” (yuukitenshi)…
I might not be doing what I’m doing now if I’d gotten into manga just three or four years later when the scanlation business took off and people became lazy and didn’t buy manga anymore but downloaded it and read it in English. Back in the days, you just had to learn Japanese if you wanted access to all the good titles…
(Does anyone remember fansub tape trading? So last century! ^_~)
3 comments on Learning Japanese in the year 2000
I’m mainly from the scanlation generation. It would be nice if there were a fansub equivalent of scanlating where the translation was shown without obliterating the Japanese text.
I do have some Japanese 3×3 Eyes tankubons though which I read using downloaded scripts. I’ve certainly found it educational trying to read the words directly, but 3×3 Eyes is pitched at a level where they only use furigana for Chinese or made-up words so it’s not easy. There’s a lot of set-piece phrases though which after watching countless anime I can hear in my head just from looking at the pictures, and then looking at the speech balloons I learn what those sentences look like as kanji.
I’ve never seen an actual fansub tape, but all the early fansubs I watched were Realvideo or MPEG transfers from VHS, most notably Sachi, whose work IMHO has never been bettered! I saw the whole of Sailor Moon as Realvideo transfers, with their quaintly smeared colours that looked like someone had spilt water over the whole thing.
Haha, yeah that’s the way I learned Hiragana and Katakana really fast. We sat down with a dictionary and looked up the words of the Manga (mostly X by CLAMP…). Too bad we didn’t have an english translation, this way the interpretation of the story and dialogues went wild. Anyways it did it job for the basics…^^
Natsukashii ne!! Reading about your forays with learning Japanese through manga and translation scripts is so very nostalgic, because that’s exactly how I started learning Japanese myself. And oh, I remember the hours spent digesting Tenshi Kinryouku and CLAMP works, which were the first manga that I ever got my hands on. And the even more hours spent agonizing over the dictionaries…the English-Japanese dictionary, and that other kanji dictionary, for when the furigana weren’t there…
I do think people now are less likely to learn Japanese, because they can simply pick up the English translated version at any Barnes and Nobles. And, maybe I’m a purist, but I think it’s a shame. I don’t think it’s possible to really understand manga unless you are exposed to the background it’s coming from, and the language is a big part of that. Even if it’s just learning katakana sound effects like “zawa zawa.” Reading an English version of a Japanese manga is just not the same.
I was never that into anime, but I do have a small stack of fansub tapes my sister brought home from artschool. Now that’s what I call 90’s!
honto ni natsukashii… :D