When I worked in Japan years ago as an English teacher, I happened to get into Japanese manga by accident. I was renewing my work visa for another year at Sakaiminato, a tiny port on the North West coast of Japan and while I was waiting for my train home I browsed in the newsagents at the station. As any ex-pat who has lived in Japan knows, you can only really buy English language magazines, newspapers or books in big cities such as Osaka and Tokyo. Since I was studying Japanese at the time anyway I decided to pick up a paperback copy of what looked to be a weird little horror comic book (Japanese manga). The comic was called Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro, about a half-Goblin, half-human character called Kitaro from Ge Ge Ge forest. Anyway, it was by a local author in Sakaiminato, quite well known in Japan, but not in the West. As it happens, I found the comic to be a great way to learn Japanese, since the pictures aided my studying and the kanji characters were translated into furigana (for the purpose of Japanese schoolkids who don’t yet know all of the Chinese script). Roll on 7 years later and the comic has finally been translated into English. I found a copy in a central London comic book store just last week.
Apart from being a great source of literature for people wanting to learn a second language (nursery rhyme books are great for this too!), manga is a great way to get kids back into reading. A few months ago, I worked with an 11 year old girl who was having problems with her literacy. She was below her age for reading and spelling and was bored of any books recommended to her. She’d pretty much given up on reading for fun at this point. After a few one to one sessions with her, I found out that her main problem was being shy about asking whenever she encountered a new word. In a class of 30 kids in school, who could blame her. In our sessions I set her the task of trying some manga. As she was a girly girl, I started with D N Angel – the teenage girls at my school are crazy about the love triangle in the series between Dark, Daisuke and the twin sisters. Anyway, this not only helped her reading comprehension but her concentration too – little and often with lots of pics. She ended up loving the series so much that she read the first 15 books in a week!
Manga, comics, graphic novels… it’s all the same to me. The boys I work with love Naruto. They find it amusing when I correct their pronunciation of the Japanese name, of course – it should be Nah-roo-toe (short and succinct) instead of Na-ROO-toe with the emphasis on the middle as they say it… wrong, wrong wrong!
As for me? I’m reading real high art at the moment (tee hee)… Cinnamoroll. He’s a cutesy, fruitesy wonderpup from the sky. Aw!
About this blog