A while back, I wrote an article on how to teach yourself to understand Japanese (TV) news to basically 100% comprehension. Essentially a “how I did it and how you can, too”. A young, virile, extremely good-looking man named James followed that advice. This is his story, in his own words, with some extra formatting/editing added by yours truly:
Understanding the News
This article is about how I learnt to understand the news.
I started by listening to the Yomiuri News Podcast and the Nihon Keizai Shinbun Podcast when ever I had a moment’s spare time. At first I understood close to nothing, maybe the odd word or two. However, the more I listened, the more I understood. As a result, I now have the confidence that I will understand it all first time.
What was particularly helpful was the reading TBS or Fuji News Network articles in the morning and then listening to news podcasts later in the day. Generally, they all report the same news so having that initial knowledge about a story helped astronomically in boosting my understanding.
What I also did was read articles/editorials/anything news-related and if there was a word/phrase I didn’t understand I would simply copy and paste into Mnemosyne/Surusu. This, to me, is the definition of sentence mining: harvesting any sentence that you would like to be able to say or want to understand.
This is really a simple process, but one that is essential to get the large amount of names of people/places/crimes/boats/buildings/etc. into your SRS and thus into your brain. I didn’t actually read many ‘newspapers’ as such — but I did read editorials and articles from online sources (much easier for SRS entry) and since these are practically the same as newspaper articles you will be able to understand real newspapers.
My typical day in the ‘news’ phase would be:
- Get up read listen to news online whilst having breakfast.
- Walk to uni whilst listening to news podcasts.
- If the lecture was boring, I would listen to news podcasts and try to write out what was said (or the headline) on the notes in front of me.
- Any free time during my day where I was alone, I read news articles online or listened to news podcasts.
- A lot of the time I would just walk around listening to news on my iPod and mimicking (albeit very quietly) the news reader.
- I tended to mix my focus on news with other Japanese studies such as books, magazines, Youtube videos — pretty much anything that was in Japanese.
- The best thing about this was following a news story for weeks and seeing how it developed over time.
One thing I struggled with was understanding the headlines of news articles. Often they rely on Japanese people’s knowledge of kanji to decipher the meaning or simply are just words with no particles in between them.
As you learn more and more Japanese you will understand the incredible flexibility of Chinese characters and hence will become able to, as the Japanese do, to grasp the meaning simply from seeing the characters in the headline. To this end, knowledge of ALL 2000 odd characters is essential as they ALL appear in news no matter what internet forums/idiots may say about the lesser-used ones.
As Khatzumoto has recommended previously, using the FNN Video News would be a good place to start as the videos’ text is in the corresponding article on the main page. If you loop the video the same news articles repeat — thus giving you reinforcement of the content. I combined this with podcast listening.
In my opinion, the most important thing for the learner of Japanese is knowing all the general-use kanji. Everything stems from this. I can concretely say that if I had not done Heisig, I would have quit Japanese years ago. Anyone who has done the Heisig method will tell you it works perfectly and it is 100% worth doing.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of knowing ALL the kanji in general use; they are the foundation of Japanese and will provide a helicopter to the top of the mountain that is Japanese whilst everyone else falls by the wayside.
He’s right about the kanji, you know…