Bilingual audio narration: “Forest of the Dark Night” (森の暗き夜) by Mimei Ogawa (小川未明)

By | November 24, 2021

If you’re read this blog much in the last few years you probably know that I have been gradually publishing a series of ebooks containing translations of works by Mimei Ogawa (小川未明), an important figure in Japanese children’s literature. I also recently released an audiobook of Volume 1 earlier this year.

This series of books has English-only versions, but to me the real highlight is the parallel English/Japanese versions, which are useful for those studying Japanese.

Just as an experiment, I decided to do an audio reading where I read both Japanese and English in alternating paragraphs, just like the stories are listed in the books. Without a doubt this is a bit unusual, and perhaps the majority of people would prefer just one language, but I think it will provide an interesting experience to those who want to compare the two versions using spoken instead of written language. In the video I show the text for both versions so you can follow along.

I chose “Forest of the Dark Night”, one of my favorite Ogawa stories. However, because it is somewhat long (and because of the effort required for the Japanese part, as mentioned below) I just did a short excerpt.

While I have some degree of confidence in my spoken Japanese, I know my pronunciation is not perfect, especially the intonations which can be all over the place, especially for words I don’t use in daily life. So I decided to practice using a native speaker’s narration of the same story, focusing on getting the intonations as close to native level as possible. (This is the Japanese narration I used to practice, which is quite good.)

Normally when I do English narrations I am a bit more dramatic, but I tried to match the narration style between English and Japanese to keep things consistent.

By the way, the audiobook I produced of Volume 1 is done by a professional narrator, and I admit his performance (as well as the natural quality of his voice) is way above anything I can do. (Having said that, if you do like my narration here is another entire Ogawa story I narrated some time back, including background music.)

I’m still debating whether I should do more video content or keep my focus to this blog and publishing books. Please let me know if you have any suggestions. I’m open to doing more bilingual readings of my other books if there is interest.

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