December 27

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How to Read Japanese News (and Learn From It)

By Jake Hallows

December 27, 2020


When people learn foreign languages, there comes a point where textbooks just don’t cut it. Textbooks are fantastic tools to learn the rules and grammar that come with any language, but at some point, people need to gain real experience using the language. One great way to gain this experience is to read the news in Japanese.

One good thing about the news is that there’s new material created every day, you can pick up a variety of vocabulary, and you can learn about Japanese culture too!

Of course, there are difficulties when it comes to reading the news in Japanese too. Between the big blocks of text, unknown kanji, and stories that don’t take your interest, getting started can be intimidating.

But don’t let that stop you! In this post, we’ll be looking at how to read the news in Japanese and share some sites to help you get there.

Choosing a website to read Japanese news

First of all, it’s very important that you pick the right Japanese news website for you. If you’re a beginner learner, you’ll want to choose an easy Japanese news site. If you’re an intermediate learner, you’ll want to choose something more challenging. Let’s cover a few sites that I think are a great place to start.

NHK News Web Easy

This is (in my opinion) the best place to start reading the news in Japanese. This was also the website that I used when I first moved to Japan to upgrade my vocabulary. This site has a great variety of news stories, all aimed at newcomers to the Japanese news scene.

The biggest benefit of using this site is the accessibility of it. All kanji have furigana above them, so you don’t have to go scanning through the dictionary every other sentence. There’s even an inbuilt Japanese dictionary! Put your cursor over any underlined word and several simple Japanese explanations pop-up. It really is news made easy!

NHK News

The big brother of NHK News Web Easy, this is one of the primary sources of news in Japan. With new stories being uploaded around the clock, you’ll never run out of material to read and absorb. You can also search for news by topic, allowing you to easily find the stories that you’re interested in.

Of course, the difficulty with this website is in the challenge of reading it. No furigana, no color-coding and large blocks of text: It’s definitely a challenge aimed at those with more advanced Japanese abilities.

ORICON NEWS

Unlike the previous two sites, ORICON NEWS is more focused on pop-culture and lifestyle stories. Whether its music, manga, or movies, ORICON has got it. In terms of interesting stories, I would rate ORICON number 1.

Once again, the news stories lack furigana, but are generally easier to read than NHK due to using more ‘everyday use’ vocabulary. And like NHK, you can search for news based on topics such as ‘anime and manga’, ‘music’ and ‘sports’. It’s a great website to use to read interesting Japanese news.

Or, search for it

It’s important to remember that there are lot more news sites available online too, on almost any topic. An easy way to find these sites is to google the topic that you’re interested in (In Japanese), followed by news.

For instance, typing ゲームニュース (Game news) brings up a bunch of different gaming news websites. Finding the right news website for you can make all the difference, so be sure to do some searching around!

Reading Japanese news gets easier, trust me!

Reading the news in Japanese can be pretty overwhelming at first, and it might seem like an impossible task. However, it’s important to remember that it gets easier as you keep it up.

Taking notes of new vocabulary or creating flashcards is a great way to help commit those phrases to memory. Whenever I read the news, I make sure to keep Jisho open and ready to help me understand any new words, and I recommend you do the same.

A lot of the vocabulary used on news websites is repeated in multiple stories on the same website. For instance, a lot of game-related vocabulary will show up in many articles on a game-related news website. It might seem hard at first, but you’ll start recognizing patterns soon so stick with it!

Why read when you can listen to the news in Japanese instead?

Reading the news is great, but so is listening to it too! Some news websites will offer an audio alternative of news stories too. For instance, NHK have videos on most news stories, and even have a weekly summary of the news in slower, simpler Japanese. 

These audio options are often a little more difficult to understand, but can be a nice alternative to keep in mind. They can also be used as background audio, whilst you go about your day. It’s not for everyone, but definitely will help your listening skills out.

It’s not an easy task, but reading the news in Japanese regularly helps you improve in a big way. Best of luck to you all!

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