In the last 24 hours, lots of things fell to pieces. Yesterday, reaching to put a box on a high shelf at in a store room at school, I aggravated a pulled a muscle in my shoulder. A bath and rest will fix it. Meanwhile, I'm out of the dojo for a few days.
On my way out of the front hall of the school, I pulled too hard on the tab of my boot and ripped through the zipper. The school nurse patched me up with a boot lace and a few safety pins. And then the zipper of my cheap shoulder bag let go. The contents stay inside, fortunately.
Usually I come apart on the phone in Japanese. Some Japanese do not notice my accent, or my lack of full fluency, and do not slow down for me. I tend to fumble when confronted with someone motormouthing me inj Japanes. Today, the downstairs office phoned me in the administration room to say there was a visitor, and I went down to receive him as everyone else was busy. The officer who had received said visitor and called the admin room was a little surprised. Who had she talked to on the phone? Yes, that was me. I feel a lot more confident when I've been reading in Japanese.
I'm still nothing near fluent. My suspicion has been that, if I could read more, I could absorb more Japanese language in a natural way.
So, I've been looking for reading material I can read quickly, stuff that interests me. When I get tired of trying to memorize kanji cards out of context (easily misplaced and quickly forgotten), I have been reading A Graded Japanese Reader , which includes short stories, essays and newspaper items, and Instant Business Japanese which presents some funny dialogues loaded with useful vocabulary and expressions. My favorite Japanese as a Second Language (JSL) magazine is J-Life, which you can get online at ALC Japan. I find these materials keep me interested. This morning's train ride went by so fast while I was reading was an essay about a group of men who started a charity to preserve the folk art (originating in Buddhist story telling) of kamishibai 紙芝居. Interesting insight into Japanese culture while learning vocabulary.
The vocabulary and themes I'm reading are varied and help me cope with everyday life in Japan. I just keep going, reading a bit at a time. Sensei tells us to build foundation a bit at a time. Fifteen to thirty minutes a day of reading plus grammar review will build it up. I'm drawing on the concept of extensive reading to learn to cope with longer texts, learn vocabulary in context, and review known grammar.
I'm a compulsive reader. Now I can start to satisfy this urge with the heaps of reading material produced in Japan.