Starting over with Harry Potter

I have been reading the Harry Potter books in Japanese since I left Japan. Thought it might help me remember my Japanese after moving to Singapore.

Reading the first book was a breeze. My Japanese level had advanced in a year working in Japan in a non-English environment. I could recognize most kanjis and I could even read words I was not familiar by the characters and the context.

The second was relatively slower but still manageable. It was at this time that I was tempted to buy the Kanji Reading Pen. My friend in Japan bought one for himself and said it was quite handy. I could not make up my mind which pen to buy and I ended up buying nothing. Nevertheless I finished book two with flying colors.

Then there was Book 3. And still here is book 3. I guess it has almost been two years since I first picked up book three and up to now I am not even halfway. And when I skim through the pages, I can no longer recognize the kanji, even the most common ones. I guess I could say I have not given Japanese as much importance as I previously had since the need was no longer there, there was no opportunity to speak it, and I was also on my way to learning French.

But I suddenly got back the motivation to pick up the language again a few days ago. Although I may not be able to practice it in conversations, I can still measure my progress by listening to anime, which my boyfriend is a big fan of. Some days I take with me book 3 to work hoping I can inch a few paragraphs or maybe a page more.

It also delights me that people still somehow find their way into my blog.

Anyway, since my level has dropped since my last post here, I will be reviewing some basic grammar, vocabulary and kanji along the way. I may not be able to categorize them by JLPT levels as I used to but I will try my best to organize my posts as best as I could. I will start my review/study/lessons from book 1 (not that the book order really matters for the level).

And if you are interested in the French version of Harry Potter, head over to my French learning blog – Petit Frog. I am a total beginner in French so the bigger challenge is there 🙂

Well then, hope to see you around for my first lesson with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone ^_^



14 Responses to Starting over with Harry Potter

  1. カミル says:

    Hello. I googled the 1st sentence from the 1st chapter of ハリーポッターと賢者の石 and stumbled onto your page. Your wordpress page was the 1st 4 hits on google actually 😀

    I haven’t really been studying Japanese for very long. I actually recently finished a semester of Japanese only to gain basic knowledge of kana & how to greet people >_> (what a waste) I started to self study 2 weeks ago but only RTK1 and RTKana (review and work on katakana) so far.

    So my question is: Is this too advanced for me in my current level (which is almost full beginner)? I have read many people reading Harry Potter to improve their Japanese with some success.

    • shiRoi says:

      Hi kamiru (sorry im using someone elses pc right now so no jap input)

      I havent seen the book so i cant really say, but i can say that the most effective way to remember kana is to actually write them. Start with hiragana then follow with the katakana. Maybe you can create some flash cards with all the kana mixed altogether and drill yourself with it 🙂

      As for kanji, my personal experience did involve a bit of writing but its really not practical to learn writing unless you are required to. I personally wont suggest learning the characters one by one either. Depending on your need you can start with kanji for jlpt or kanji by grade. Rikai is a great plugin for firefox or chrom that will show you the reading of kanji. Once you get familiar with it you can start to study stroke order to guide you in writing kanji and remember easily. Stroke order is really important for writing. For me the fastest way to learn kanji (form and reading) is by context 🙂

      I will be covering kanji in my posts so you can follow along. im also starting from the simple grammar so it should not be so much problem for you… if theres anything you want me to discuss feel free to say so 🙂

      i am on holidays until first weekend of january so i wont be able to post until then… i look forward to helping you with your japanese study 🙂

      by the way, do you plan to study with the harry potter book?

      • カミル says:

        My plan for the harry potter book was to add it to my self study and build up my reading comprehension in japanese. I thought reading harry potter would be a good way to reinforce the kana and kanji I learn along the way instead of just doing flashcard drills with anki ( ).

        I use “Remembering the Kanji” sample pdf found on the publisher’s website:
        I’m using this for now until I can save up enough money for the real book. It contains a few lessons there. To find the sample just look for the following sentence at the bottom of the page (I will put brackets on the link word): “Portions of this book are available for [downloading] and reading with Adobe Acrobat.”

        The order of the kanji is not by grade or jlpt lvl, but by “..their component parts or ‘primitive elements’…”. This book doesn’t teach pronunciation of the kanji. Just how to write and 1 english meaning. I decided to go with the method of learning kanji this way because I can learn pronunciation by context like you said.

        Yes, I do agree with you on how great rikai plugins are. I actually use rikaisama (firefox only). It’s alot like rikaichan with the bonus of hearing pronunciation of highlighted words. You can read more about it here ( )

        Sorry for writing so much. I just did alot of research on self learning japanese and I found many tools/resources as a result. That’s actually how I found the harry potter books (in .txt file) and the audiobook file. 😀

        Have a good holiday! ^_^

  2. Craig says:

    Hi there,

    I am about to start reading Harry Potter in Japanese. I am a beginner, but I do not mind jumping in the deep end. If anyone else wants to share vocab lists or help decode the grammar, please contact me. I’d love to have a study partner because extracting the vocab can be hard work for beginners.

    For those scared of the kanji – don’t be. I can give you a free copy of the Kanji Sketch Pad program (I wrote it) and will be making a list of the Harry Potter kanji in the order they appear, along with mnemonics, and vocab, to load into the program.



    • shiRoi says:

      Hi Craig, that’s a neat application you got there 🙂

      Have you started on your Harry Potter reading already? how is it going? Tell me how you plan to do your study using the book 🙂

  3. Craig says:

    Hi shiRoi,

    I haven’t started on HP yet, apart from reading this site, but I am all poised to go. The only problem is I am a complete beginner, but I don’t mind a challenge.

    I have bought the hardcopy and it’s flying to Australia now, hopefully. In the meantime I have links to a pdf, which will be helpful for extracting kanji. I also have the audio.

    What I plan to do is have two study streams going at once. First up, I want to “learn” the joyo kanji in three months. (By “learn” I mean be able to draw them in response to an English keyword prompt. I know this is a long way short of real Japanese knowledge – readings will be much harder than the graphical component, for me anyway). I will learn the kanji in Harry-Potter order, but add in the necessary stepping stones so that, for instance, I learn the kanji for tree before tackling kanji that have the tree radical. If there are any joyo kanji that fail to appear in Harry, I will do them at the end in RTK order.

    At the same time, but at a more relaxed pace, I plan to (try to) read Harry Potter. I will add vocab that I meet into my program, and get tested on them via a spaced-repetition process to maximise efficiency. I will also try to decode the sentences the words appear in. The idea will be to understand each sentence as I read it, but not commit to grammar drills per se until I have a lot more vocab in my head. Hopefully the grammar will leach in by sheer exposure, to some extent. I’ll play the matching audio in my car, regardless of whether I understand it. The aim is to learn about 100 words per week, starting after I finish the joyo kanji, and have abut 5000 words known 15 months from now.

    I’ll probably make notes about each difficult sentence I meet, particularly when it illustrates a new grammar principle. This should make it easier for others trying to do the same thing. This site may save me from doing that, or at least help me along the way.

    Of course, I may have to change plans as I go along. Any help would be greatly appreciated.



    • shiRoi says:

      Thats some plan you got there 🙂

      Well I guess we’ll just see how things go with your study. If you need any help I’ll be glad to assist. 🙂

      I’ve been slacking with my posts since the Christmas holidays but I’ll try to get back to it as soon as I can so I can help you any way I can.


  4. カミル says:

    Hi Craig!

    I’m a beginner myself and have plans to read HP. Haven’t really done it yet due to school semester starting just this week (I’m in Japanese 102-part 2 of beginner Japanese).

    I have text and HTML files of HP so it will be easy to read and learn along with the help of rikaisama. I have the audio files too. So far the only thing I have done HP related is start to match each audio book track to the sections of the book.

    As for kanji, I’m learning through RTK. I only have gone through 200 or so and already it has helped because I was able to recognize 石 in the title of the book meaning “stone”.

    If there a collaborative study project of the book happening I want to participate

    • Craig says:


      That’s great. The more people join, the better. There is a certain amount of tedium in identifying words, looking them up, and so on, and if we share that out we can get more return on our efforts.

      I have text and audio, and I have just parsed the first four chapters into sentences. There are about 1500 of them, and I’ve also extracted the unique kanji. The kanji counts are as follows…

      Chapter 1 – 569 kanji
      Chapter 1 and 2 – 739 kanji
      Chapters 1 to 3 – 893 kanji
      Chapters 1 to 4 – 991 kanji

      Some of those kanji are not in the joyo kanji, but the vast majority are. Personally, I want to finish ~2000 kanji by the end of May, but that is a separate project.

      What would really help is having a parsed copy of the text with spaces between words, so we can move on to defining the words and then trying to understand the grammar (or, actually, do both at once, because the meaning will depend on the grammar). There are programs that can parse unbroken Japanese text, but they are error-prone. (I’ll check out rikaisama – not yet familiar with it). A human reader will need to look over it.

      I am about to split the first chapter’s audio into individual sentences. Then I can do neat stuff like audio-flashcards, and so on.

      I think we need a forum to work in. Comments at the bottom of posts here are probably not quite enough. Depending on how active this site is, we could post links to here from the forum.



      • shiRoi says:

        at the moment i do full japanese text, and then the kana (spaced), and lastly the romaji. hope you’re already able to read kana. I can add another section for the full japanese text with space. however, once you learn grammar, you will already be able to know where a word stops yourself. 🙂

        i do however recommend that you have a look at the book “A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar”. This is a very great tool for you to look-up grammar. The explanation and examples are comprehensive.

        There’s also the J301 book. it’s not for beginners though but greatly recommend when you start to go a bit intermediate.

        this is getting more exciting! 🙂

      • Craig says:

        Hi shiRoi,

        The format you have used to present the text is perfect. I just did not want to assume we could sit back and let you do the work… 😉 Maybe the knowledge that we are avidly waiting for each installment will be a motivator for you.

        I do not want to crash your party at all, but I think a forum format would be useful. I have a website with a forum, so I could host it with links to your posts, or I could help you put a forum on your own site. It’s up to you. I get a bit of traffic on my website, so hosting a discussion there would send people your way.

        BTW, I got the Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar about a week ago, before I found your site. I agree it is very good. I now have the Intermediate one as well. I tried to get all three volumes, but the bookshop did not have the Advanced volume available. I’ll ordr it online.



    • Craig says:

      Hey カミル…

      Maybe you could contact me by email so we can start a study group? crgmccollATyahooDOTcomDOTau….


  5. Craig says:

    I should add, if you already have audio, I have a way of playing the audio for each sentence as you study the corresponding kanji.

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