Monday, August 13, 2012

My Darling is a Foreigner

The first two volumes of My Darling is a Foreigner
I have a tough time with reading in Japanese. It's unfortunate, but I've never been a patient person - this is primarily why I fail at baking, drawing, and other hobbies that require the simple skill of waiting. I have a tendency to rush - and it makes language-learning particularly hard.

For a time, I tried reading manga in Japanese to help encourage my reading skills. I tend to like the kind of manga that comes chock-full of big, complicated words and no furigana at all, though (Tezuka Osamu, I'm looking at you!) so this quickly became a failed effort. The amount of dictionary lookups it took to get through a chapter of Detective Conan made the pace mind-numbingly slow. At some point, I found Chi's Sweet Home, an adorable cat manga targeted at a younger age group, but found that not quite challenging enough. I was enjoying, but not really learning anything new when I read.

Recently, though, I've found a happy medium in「ダーリンは外国人」; My Darling is a Foreigner. I bought the two first volumes of My Darling is a Foreigner from Honto back in June, as my 'test' purchase from them to gauge the shipping costs. (Came to ¥800 - fantastic!) It's the story of a mixed married couple; she Japanese, he American with Italian-Hungarian heritage. It is a very nice departure from the usual "Japanese girl meets foreign man" plot, as the leading man, Tony, is a linguist who's very interested in wordplay and the leading lady and artist of the story, Saori, is a manga artist. They are not, by any stretch, your typical mixed couple living in Japan! There was even a comedy movie a few years back based on the franchise (it wasn't bad at all, though it also wasn't quite in line with the books) and I used to see animations based on Tony on the Yamanote Line media monitors. Natsukashii, ne!

The main draw of My Darling is a Foreigner for me, right now, is the level and pace of the comics as a study tool. The short illustrated stories in the books are usually just long enough to get in some good reading practice, and often address things that are funny to me as a linguist and student of Japanese, which makes it a perfect choice for aspiring JLPT test-takers.

The first volume, I had actually already read in the form of a translation - a bilingual version of the book was published while I was in Japan. The alternate title of one of the English prints, which was offered for a time on Amazon, was "Is He Turning Japanese?" It's still in print in the bilingual format in Japan, but much tougher to find on Amazon, so I'd recommend using the link I provided above if you'd like to pick it up.

Reading it in its native Japanese has been much more of a challenge than reading the bilingual version, and I can stop myself more easily from peeking at the English now, though that would certainly be a help when I'm stuck! It's good that you can enjoy these books on either level, in any case - with the English text, or without. When I finish this set, I'm definitely going to pick up the next one!