Learn to Read Japanese News Websites

Read Japanese News (Not as hard as you think)Trying to read Japanese news is probably scary for most students of Japanese. Wouldn’t it be great if you could read current Japanese news instead of the usual stuff found in textbooks? I want to talk about some ways and resources that can help you learn to read Japanese news websites and blogs.

Learn to read Japanese News

NHK has a great website for Japanese learners called “NHK NEWS WEB EASY”. It uses real news stories and simplifies them so that they are easy to read, no matter your level. The articles are updated regularly, so you don’t need to worry about reading really old news.

Don’t Overwhelm Yourself

I knew a person many years ago that printed out Japanese news articles and painstakingly looked up all the unknown words. It must have taken him a really long time to do all of that. Looking back, I was amazed that he could read news articles. However, I was not envious of how much time he had to spend looking up kanji in a dictionary.

Get Started with NHK News Web Easy

NHK Easy News, the key to starting to read Japanese news

With NHK’s easy news site, anyone can become accustomed to reading Japanese news before trying to read regular news sites. I used this site for six months to a year before I moved on to the normal NHK news one.

If you’re overwhelmed at the thought of reading news in Japanese, I highly encourage you to start learning with the easy news site.

Using News Web Easy

Each news story features the basic text story, accompanying audio, and a short video. If there are any difficult words written in Kanji, there is furigana above the words to help you read them. This will save you a lot of time because you won’t need to manually look up the kanji readings.

NHK's News Web Easy is a Japanese news website anyone can read!Try reading a few stories each week and you will pick up a lot of vocabulary that will come in handy for higher JLPT levels or discussing current topics with Japanese friends or coworkers.

If you’ve been reading the stories for a while and want to take your Japanese reading to the next level, the stories also feature a “Regular News” link that take you to the original article for advanced or native level readers.

Maybe you’re not at the right level or ready to read Japanese news, but that’s all right. You can bookmark it and come back when you’ve gained more reading experience.

Switch to Normal Japanese News Websites

After I changed from the easy news website to the normal NHK news one, it took me much longer to finish reading an article and look up all the words. I printed out articles and circled words I didn’t know. At first, I had to circle a lot of words and my papers looked ridiculous. However, I limited myself to two or three different genres of news.

For example, I always read articles that were about technology, society, or entertainment. By focusing on a few types of news stories, I could learn the vocabulary often used in them. After learning more words, I could start reading business or politics articles, but only after I built up my confidence with easier themes.

Something else I did to reinforce what I read was add unknown words to a study list. You can use any kind of system, but I first saved the unknown words in a dictionary app on my smartphone and later entered them into a Memrise list. By keeping a list of news words that I studied daily, I continued to circle less words every day, meaning I was learning!

For those people that want to be completely digital and not use paper, another method for studying news articles is to use Evernote. For most web browsers, there is an Evernote add-on that lets you “clip” articles or webpages for archiving.

Saving an article with EvernoteChoosing how to save an article in Evernote

After you save a news article into Evernote, you can now edit it and visually mark words you don’t know. For example, you can highlight unknown words or change their color to red. When you go back later to read the article again, you can challenge yourself by trying to read the red words you looked up before.

Highlighting unknown words in Evernote

Evernote is a good idea for storing news articles because you can always access them. There were times in the past where I read an article and wanted to look at it later or the next day but couldn’t find it again.

Japanese News Sites I Use

For websites on a traditional computer, I mainly use two news websites.

NHK News: The main site I read because I love the simplicity and the readability of articles.

Yahoo Japan News: I use Yahoo News when I want to read more technology or gaming news. I don’t usually see much of that content on NHK’s site.

Other Japanese Sites

Rocket News: I love this site. There is an English version and a Japanese one. I read both because the posts are different. You never know what kind of article you’ll read on this site.

Mac Otakara: I enjoy reading news about upcoming Apple software and hardware, so I want to read about it in Japanese.

Pouch: If you couldn’t already tell, I read a lot of geek sites, so I think I need something to balance out the kind of articles I see. That’s why I also read Pouch. It’s targeted towards young women, but you’re bound to encounter different kinds of vocabulary on this kind of blog than the usual geek sites.

Read Japanese News Through Smartphone Apps

Read Japanese News with Smart News AppSmartNews: What a great app! I find myself opening this app every day just to see the headlines across different categories of news. The preview pictures also help with understanding the possible story at a glance.

Have you found any cool websites or ways to improve your news reading? Let me know in the comments!

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