I LOVE learning Japanese through the news. And one of the benefits I got after learning Japanese for a while is the ability to read news written in Japanese. Being able to read the morning news, understand complex phrases in this beautiful (yet complicated!) language, and be informed every day is so satisfying.
Learning through news lays the groundwork for my Japanese fluency, which then boost my confidence and motivate me to study harder so I can... read more news. It's a win-win situation.
Yes, knowing how to make daily conversations in Japanese is nice, but if you actually plan to progress further, I think it's important that you roll up your sleeves and start diving into the world of formal Japanese, which comprise 90% or any NEWS article in this language that we read!
So if you are also eager to UNLOCK your Japanese vocabulary by reading news, you're in the right place. Keep reading!
6 reasons why reading news can boost your Japanese immensely
Free, never-ending resource
Of course, unlike your Japanese textbooks, news sites get updated daily, many hourly, in all topics. And most of them are free to read or only ask for a (tiny) fraction of a book’s cost for subscription. This means you learn something new from free, fresh, up-to-date content every day.
Expand your vocabulary
This is one of the most obvious benefits of reading in Japanese. Your initial vocabulary helps you read smoothly, and in return, reading helps you broaden your vocabulary.
News introduce you to an endless number of new words to learn and new phrases to remember. From specific words about cars, natural disasters, diseases, to expressive words that are exclusive to the Op-ed columns. The more you read, the more enriched your vocabulary.
Put vocabulary into context
Whatever new word you see, you should contextualize it! If you read news, it allows you to see Japanese in context. That’s because words and phrases are never isolated in books and articles. New vocabulary is always supported by other words, grammars and ideas that help you understand it, build connections to it in your brain, and remember it more easily.
This is extremely helpful way of building your Japanese if you find cramming for quizzes and remembering long lists of words difficult (well, they are.)
Expose yourself to standardized Japanese
In news, you don’t see slangs often. It’s because journalists have to make sure their writing is formal, standard, and professional. Words and grammar structures you learn from news is standardized, which is just as essential as the daily used, informal ones.
Learn advanced skills that are often forgotten
News also teaches you some advanced skills that your teachers may skip or don't explain enough at class. From building paragraphs for a powerful and persuasive writing, to using captivating words that attract readers.
You will also learn how experienced writers handle a complicated topic or a controversial subject, or how they defend an idea or summarize it. These are some valuable things that will contribute immensely to your Japanese writing skills when you get to advanced level.
Immerse yourself in Japanese culture and life
Last but not least, a great benefit I would like to mention is language immersion. Today, we are fortunate to have access to the online editions of many Japanese newspapers. And every news outlet try to cover at least some daily life aspects that Japanese people actually care about and read, so it's very easy to immerse yourself in Japanese culturally and educate yourself about what Japan is all about.
As you expose yourself to Japanese news, you’ll grow to understand what the concerns of Japanese people are, which subjects are taboo in their society, what scandals are hotly discussed over there, or how organizations behave when achieving successes or running into failures. These surely help build a foundation for some real interesting conversations you would like to hold with local Japanese, besides greeting them and telling them they don't have to come early every time. 👀
Tips on How to Start Reading Japanese Newspapers
I hope I’ve convinced you that reading the news is a good way to learn Japanese and improve your language skills.
Now to help you get started, I'd like to give you a few tips on how to read online news in Japanese effectively.
Read what you love
When you start reading Japanese news, it is important to choose ones that you will really love. Check out a few news sites (I'll you a list later) and pick out some that seemingly writes about or contains some columns that you care about.
Stick to your favorite columns/sections. If you are interested in traveling, then go straight to the travel section. If you are into politics, you should absolutely stick with the politics section. Once you build up that habit, then you can broaden your scope and try exploring other sections/sites.
Make sure you’ve got the right level
You should pick some articles whose writing language is not too challenging, especially if you are a beginner and don't even read news in your language that often. Reading should not become a boring, hardcore task. If you can understand the general meaning of an article and just look up a few new words per paragraph, that article should be a good choice.
Check pronunciation, for god's sake.
Have you ever been in a situation when you spell a word that you have clearly used and seen multiple times, and then people laugh and tell you that sounds like shit. Like, what? 🤦♀️
Yeah, it's probably because you've never actually sat down and checked that word's On-Kun pronunciation. So, please don't skip this step 🙏
Learn new vocabulary in context
Don't forget to look for context clues and guess the meanings of words instead looking up Japanese dictionary all the time For most words, it's easy to make a guess of a certain word's meaning if you get a good grip of grammar and the context used in the sentence.
In case you are not good at guessing (yet) and need a dictionary, I recommend you try GlotDojo. It's a 100% free, super fast and friendly dictionary extension that will allow you to look up words quickly while reading online news. Click any word whose meaning you're not sure of, and you'll get necessary information about the words including the definition, pronunciation, examples.
GlotDojo also offers an option to purchase The PRO Japanese Add-on, which shows you full word definition, On-Kun reading, compound word detections, component breakdown and more to satisfy your dictionary need.
Take it slow
Actually, treat the article like it's a homework piece that has no deadline but will be submitted to your favorite teacher that you don't want disappoint. Take it slow, start reading one article at a time, one sentence at a time and make the most out of what you read.
You should take time to make all possible guesses, jot down some notes about the new grammar structure you see, and ask yourself why is this word being used in this situation.
It may a slow process at first, but everything you internalize through the process will help you next time when you bump in a similar context. So trust the process and keep reading. Gradually, you will see your improvements and find reading Japanese news no longer terrifying.
Top 11 News Websites For Learning Japanese
Like BBC with its resources for English learners, NHK offers a wide range of short, easy Japanese news stories. It’s pretty much an online newspaper with articles about recent events written in plain and easy Japanese. You can read, listen to audio and watch videos of the most recent news in simple Japanese. The articles are written using easy-to-understand sentence patterns. For difficult language you can read (paraphrased) explanations in Japanese.
Yomiuri Shimbun (or Japan Today in English version) covers current events in Japan and around the world. It is the most read newspaper in Japan today. From pop culture to editorials, you can get information on anything newsworthy from Yomiuri Shimbun. This is a great way to challenge yourself and practice your language skills.
Based in Nagoya, Chunichi Shimbun is one of the giant Japanese newspaper, with over 4.5 million physical copies sold every day. It's known to favor politcal centrism. Chunichi Shibun not only has great approach to politics and a well written Op-ed column, but also provides deep insight into other social topics like Health or Education, making it an ideal choice if you are more of a critical reader.
Watanoc is a ‘free web magazine in simple Japanese’. The name comes from ‘wa’ (Japanese) ‘tanoshii’ (fun). Watanoc offers a variety of articles of different lengths and different levels, so it’s suitable for all types of learners. Watanoc covers topics on food, culture, events and funny news. Each article also has its approximate JLPT reading level (N5 is the easiest) which helps you select the right articles for your Japanese level.
Hirogaru is a cute site for Japanese learners. Here you will find short texts and videos on various topics. You’re sure to learn so much about traditional Japanese culture through reading articles about calligraphy, tea ceremony and martial arts. With each topic, Hirogaru provides you with a list of keywords (and their English translations).
From food and culture to entertainment and technology, News on Japan gives you a lot of insights into what's going on in Japan. You can get a side-by-side look at the news in Japanese and English by clicking on the kanji button on the site menu.
Matcha is a cool Japanese travel and culture magazine. It’s available in 8 different languages, including an easy Japanese version. Matcha offers Kanji like NHK News Web Easy, and it also has furigana (pronunciation guides), too. You can also find most articles in English version and read them afterwards check your reading comprehension.
It's the end of the article. If you have followed me till this point, congratulations and thanks a bunch! I hope you've had an idea of how to improve your Japanese by reading news now. It's time to pick out some articles that interest you and start reading to see your Japanese flourish in an early future.