When you start learning Japanese from an Indo-European language (English and Spanish in my case), you encounter a somewhat stiff language. We are assailed right away with the politeness issue. Yes, we have polite level language in both Spanish and English but the way they present Japanese in the books, you’d think you’d get beaten if you don’t use the masu form of the verb every time; and that’s just that. That’s all you get from Japanese learning books; the masu forms. Very little time is spent on the -te form of the verbs and no time at all is spent on using colloquial Japanese; the kind you are more like to encounter in real life.
If you stick with it however, little by little, the stiffness and formality begin to fade and you start to run into more advanced forms of the language and suddenly, Japanese becomes a rich and expressive language, capable of delivering beautiful stories, poems, and songs. It can be as full and complex as English and Spanish are to me now.
This doesn’t mean that I speak that level of Japanese. No, unfortunately I don’t. Yet, lately I’ve become more and more aware that this level of Japanese exists. I’ve always suspected that the Japanese novels I can’t make a lick of sense out of, are full of this elaborate, expressive Japanese.
One book in English that gives you an ample view of that level of Japanese is Making Sense of Japanese by Jay Rubin. Mr. Rubin is a 30+ veteran of the language and he is a professional translator as well. He is more than qualified to show us the Japanese that lies ahead of us and he does it with sense of humor to boot. I highly recommend it.
In other news, the Japanese graded readers are FANTASTIC! I so wish I had run into them when I began learning Japanese. I’d be way ahead by now!
Oh well. Thank you for looking!