The Daily Telegraph, a newspaper from some random, wind-swept island in the North Sea, has this really cool article by Nick Hornby about how to read. I find it interesting because it applies directly to Japanese study in particular and language study in general. A lot of people sneer at manga readers and anime watchers; they’re not “serious” learners; they’re not doing “real” Japanese.
First of all: WTF? I can’t think of a more important reason to learn Japanese than to read manga. Secondly, what the intellectual snobs fail to realize is that it actually takes a steaming BUTTload lot of intelligence (whatever that means… 🙂 ), background knowledge and kanji competency to be able to make one’s way through a Japanese comic. It’s fun (for me, at least), don’t get me wrong, but it took the largest single self-directed mental effort of my life thus far to get to the point where I could just enjoy a manga, and Japanese kids are no different — you actually have to be pretty freaking smart and literate to read a comic book.
So, not only is reading for pleasure the only reading that’s really worth your time, but it’s also a serious(ly fun) and worthy intellectual exercise. I wish the “if it’s not boring then it’s not good for you” camp could see this, but I really don’t care if they ever do, as long as I can keep getting my Keroro Gunsou on in peace…
By the way, my favorite gem of Hornby advice comes when he suggests that we change books just like we change the channel — when the TV channel is boring, no one suggests you keep ploughing through it because it’s “good for you”. Similarly, if the book is boring you, close it and open a better one. Or, skip the boring part and go to the fun section. Life is too short and there is too much information out there for for you to be attempting to process all of it — you must be selective, and the best selection criterion is what you like. I know, heresy, right? But it’s true: Hornby is right.