Awesome Tips for Learning Japanese with the News

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A great way to study Japanese is by watching, listening to or reading ニュース(にゅーす), the news.

The news helps you learn important vocabulary and improve your listening and comprehension. Another advantage is that you can know what the heck is going on. All of the studying I did with the news came in really handy during the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima a few years ago. I was very glad I’d done it.

But I have to say that it’s tough at the start. When I first moved to Japan ten years ago, I planted myself in front of the news nearly every night and couldn’t make heads or tails of what anybody was saying. But I stayed the course and I kept studying, along with practicing conversation whenever possible.

Here are some tips that made it easier for me (and will for you too).

Tips for Learning Japanese with the News

1. Become a News Junkie

Consume a lot of news on a regular basis. Of course, the more you practice, the better your comprehension will become. But with news, there are certain phrases and words that are used repeatedly, such as:

について – about, concerning

によって – according to, due to

。。。に注意してください (。。。にちゅういしてください) – please beware of…/be careful with…
詐欺に注意してください。(さぎにちゅういしてください。) – Please beware of fraud.
雷雨に注意してください。(らいうにちゅういしてください。) – Please be careful with the thunderstorm.

政府 (せいふ) – government

問題 (もんだい) – problem, issue, question

事件 (じけん) – affair, case

地震 (じしん) – earthquake

You’ll get used to hearing these words and phrases, and this will boost your comprehension.

2. Let It Wash over You

When you first start studying with the news, don’t try to understand everything that’s being said. That will drive you insane. Instead, take in whatever you can pick out and try to get the gist of what they’re saying. If you find yourself losing the thread of what’s being said, try to start up again with the next story.

3. Remember New Words and Phrases

Whenever you’re able to pick out a new word or phrase, write it down. This will help you remember it the next time you hear it. Before you start your news watching sessions, do a little drilling on your new vocabulary to help it stick so that you’ll be better able to follow your stories.

4. Go Audio

Most of us watch the news on TV, but if you’re studying a language with the news, another option is to listen to the radio or a news podcast. In an audio format, broadcasters tend to talk more slowly and clearly. I noticed this when I discovered the talk radio stations in Tokyo. With podcasts, you can save episodes to go back and listen to them again.

5. Use Your Interests

If you’re not particularly interested in the news, choose a specific field of the news that interests you. If you’re a baseball fan, watch the sports news. If you like cars, find an automotive news podcast. If you’re into music, find some news about the Japanese music scene.

6. Follow a Story

Find a particular story that interests you and follow it. Each day, tune in to news about your story. You’ll remember the vocabulary and have the necessary context to understand the latest broadcast. I remember doing this with a newspaper story about a high school girl murder case. Pretty morbid subject matter, I know, but it was easier to understand than the political bickering and other news.

7. Japanese and English

A cool exercise for learning Japanese with news is to find the same story in both English and Japanese. Watch or read the story in Japanese first, and then use the English story to see if you understood it. This is easiest to do with newspaper articles. Often, a news story will originate with a native English news service and be translated into Japanese. With the internet, it’s relatively easy to find both stories.

8. Not Necessarily for Conversation

Keep in mind that when you learn Japanese with news, you’re not learning everyday conversation. I point this out because you don’t want to talk like a news reporter when you hang out with your friends. I recommend learning with the news as part of an overall study routine that includes colloquial Japanese as well.

Resources for Learning Japanese with the News

All of the resources below are free and most are aimed at Japanese language learners.

  • Japanese News App

                  

 

Make a Japanese learning plan

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Why we need to make a Japanese learning plan:

While learning goals are a target that you aim for, learning plans will show you which step and action you need to take. That way you can reach your goals steadily, quickly within your time and money budget.

Learning plans helps you manage your time and allocate your time budget strategically (especially with detailed plans), it helps you keep everything in check, to see if what you’re doing is enough for you to reach those goals? If it’s not enough, you’ll need some adjustments.

Learning plans helps you focus solely on what you’re doing, you don’t have to worry about other things because you have already allocated your time into individual tasks.

You might need an hour or two to make a Japanese plan, however, don’t hesitate to spend that much of time, what you can benefit from it will be worth it.

Practice and learning plans:

There are two types of Japanese learning plans:

Mid-term plans (2-4 years): You have to sketch out what you need to do in 2 to 4 years. For example, your goal is to become a Japanese interpreter in 3 years. You can plan to focus on the basis and do some research on the field that you wish to work on (think about it as the time for you to relax since you will be more excited over things that you like) in the first year. In the second year, you need to practise for both the test and your listening and speaking skills. The third year will be the time for you to practise your speaking and writing skills, along with improving your specialized Japanese vocabulary.

Short-term plans (6 months – 1 year): Based on those above mid-term plans to determine what you need to do in each year, only this time is for each quarter, month and day. It’s important to allocate your time for every day.

How to make a Japanese learning plan?

Making a Japanese learning plan isn’t hard, what you need is a goal, take everything in consideration (mostly time), and find out what tasks need to be done to achieve the goal in a specific period of time – how long it takes to complete each task. It goes on like that until you’re able to allocate your time for each day.

For example, if you want to have your N5 after a month learning Japanese, you need to understand things you need to know about the JPLT N5, the JPLT N5 structure, how much N5 vocabulary or N5 Kanji or N5 grammar you need to learn. Split each day’s workload (25 days for example), you will know how much vocabulary, Kanji or grammar you need to learn every day.

You also need to make time to practise listening, writing and sometimes take some sample JPLT N5 so you can learn and see your progression at the same time. From the amount of vocabulary, Kanji…you need to learn in a day, take note of how long it takes for you to learn, which time is the best for you then choose that time to learn every day. You can relax, research, prepare as well as do other things in the remaining time. That’s how you use your day to reach your goal.

Deal with unexpected scenarios

While following your plan, unexpected things will probably happen (illness, family business,.), there are things you can take a rain check on (friend gathering, family business…), there are things you can’t avoid (take a rest to recover from illness). Therefore, you need to have buffer time to back up your plan. For example you can’t learn 7 days straight in a week, only learn in 6 days and spend one remaining day to revise, relax and to deal with unexpected scenarios. When you make a Japanese learning plan, or any other plan, don’t forget about this buffer time.

Review your plan every day

At the end of every day, spend some minutes to review what you have learnt in one day, how would you rank your day? 10 for an excellent day and go on. You’ll be rewarded if the outcome turns out well, and punished if the outcome turns out badly.

Determination

So you have already had your detailed plan, now it’s time to get started. Be determined to achieve your goal, because there will be many hardships along the way. It may be from other factors (friends, studying…) and from yourself (laziness, your love for sleep and all the fun…). Just win over them and over yourself and improve every day.

Adjust your plan

Making a Japanese learning plan is based on the knowledge, prediction, for a point of time in the future. Things can go like planned, or better ( for example. Your goal is to have your N5 in a month, but you can do it in only 3 weeks). You then have to adjust your plan, be flexible. However, don’t take advantage of that to compromise with your laziness and lack of determination.