Note: This is my series on Learning Japanese with (insert resource here). The point of these is to teach you on how to best pull knowledge from these resources.
So, recently, I came across a very interesting free source to improve your Japanese, NHK News Web Easy.
It’s pretty much an online newspaper with articles about recent events written in plain and easy Japanese. All you have to do is read the article, pick up a few unknown words along the way, and you can also hear a native Japanese reading of it .
It’s great reading practice for beginners and above. Basically, if you can read and have basic grammar, you’ll probably still struggle but learn a great deal. Oh, if you cant read, start with my article: How To Learn Japanese Hiragana in Under 1 Hour. Part 1
For anyone else above beginner level, it’s fast, easy practice and great Japanese reading material.
So, what are the benefits of using NHK Web Easy? Aside from that it’s free..
- It’s putting in time and practice into Japanese overall
- Learn relevant Japanese since the news articles are about current events
- You pick up vocabulary in Japanese
- You can improve your reading speed
- You can improve your speaking speed if you read out loud
- You can improve listening skills if you listen to the recording of it
- The articles are easy to read and won’t take much time
- Articles, articles, articles. Usually 3 paragraphs long
- MP3 recording of the news read by a Japanese person
- Furigana above all Kanji
I decided to have a crack at it. It didn’t take long to finish 1 article. Here’s my experience with learning reading Japanese articles on this site.
- Task: Read 1 article.
- Duration: 7 minutes.
- Tools Used:
- Rikaichan plugin on Firefox: This lets me translate unknown words into English
- Word doc: So I can copy and paste anything I don’t know for future review
As you can see, this didn’t take long at all. The words I didn’t know were quickly identified by Rikaichan which I noted down. Then I kept reading.
- Read the article for the first time, slowly.
- Use Rikaichan to translate unknown words
- Paste unknown words into a word doc for future review
- Re-read the article for the second time to see if I can read it more smoothly
- Re-read a 3rd or 4th time
Conclusion & Opinions?
Overall this is quick, decent practice… kind of like doing 10 pushups a day. If you’re consistent, you’ll improve over time, build up vocabulary and reading speed. It doesn’t feel overbearing. But, like doing 10 pushups, it still requires push and effort – sitting down and reading, taking notes etc.
✓ Great way to practice reading & listening
✓ Learn new words and see new grammar in action
✓ Easy for Beginners but perfect for everyone
Advice: Re-read old articles after you’re done…and return to them to read some more. Why?
- The more times you re-read it, the faster your reading gets
- Easier to drill in the words
- With enough reads, you’ll be reading like a natural
- If you’re reading out loud, your “speech” (not conversational skills, mind you) will get faster & better
But lets be honest.
If you do just 1 article whenever you feel like it, you may as well quit. My mom does 10 pushups once a week. That won’t make a dent in her fitness.
Let’s see. There are 10,800 minutes in a week.
- 3 minutes of doing pushups out of the total 10,080 minutes in a week?
- 10,077 minutes spent not doing pushups?
Which one of these will rule your progress or lack thereof?
Definitely the 10077 minutes of not doing pushups. It’s like trying to push a boulder uphill, except, that boulder has been pushing you back 5 miles every day.
Is it better than doing nothing? It IS nothing if all the inactivity outweighs the activity you actually do.
So, reading 1 article once a week won’t make a dent in your Japanese learning progress. And such is the problem of using “easy and quick” methods to learn. If you’re going to use NHK News Web Easy, do it regularly. It won’t dramatically improve your speaking skills, but your reading and vocabulary should improve with time.
That being said – I recommend it. Great Japanese reading material for beginners.
– The Main Junkie
P.S. I highly recommend this for Japanese learners. If you REALLY want to learn to Japanese with effective lessons by real teachers – Sign up for free at JapanesePod101 (click here) and start learning!