When learning Japanese, it is crucial that you keep using what you’ve learned all the time, else you will oftentimes find yourself forgetting things. One of the best ways to relax and also practice Japanese is to read, whether it be a book, manga, or the news. However, as an intermediate student, it can be difficult to find reading materials that don’t confuse you as soon as you take a peek at the page. But fear not, because there are some resources out there that are perfect for intermediate Japanese students.
Let’s just get this straight, if you’re still an intermediate student, you aren’t going to be able to go and get a newspaper and be able to read it. The kanji and grammar are going to seem impossible to you at this stage.
However, NHK is thoughtful enough to provide a nice little tool called “NHK NEWS WEB EASY.” It is a website, updated most days, with the latest news stories in Japan and around the world but with easier-to-grasp language and furigana above the kanji, as well as simple explanations of harder words at the bottom of the article. Some news stories even come with video and/or audio clips if you want to have some listening practice as well.
Considering the price, a grand total of nothing, NHK NEWS WEB EASY is, by far, one of the best reading practice materials there is, and the best part is, you’ll never run out of new content.
NHK NEWS WEB EASY Website *Japanese only
Ah yes, manga – for some, the very reason they’re learning Japanese at all, but for others, just a fairly interesting, widely available, and fairly cheap (at least within Japan) way of practicing reading Japanese.
Of course, manga aren’t actually designed to be read by foreigners learning Japanese, so most manga are still pretty hard even for intermediate learners. However, having trawled the Internet and my local BOOK-OFF, there is one series that is very well suited for anyone at roughly a JLPT N3 level: Yotsuba&! (よつばと!). The manga itself focuses on the life of a little girl called Yotsuba and it starts with her moving to a new house. I’m not doing a great job of making it sound interesting, but it’s better than you’d expect from my poor description, and honestly, the sense of pride you get when you finish the first volume is enormous.
That being said, if you live outside of Japan, it may be slightly harder for you to get hold of a copy. Luckily, Amazon Japan offers international shipping, although just be warned it can work out expensive.
I know what you’re thinking, surely you can’t read a book at an intermediate level. Well, you’d be wrong. Much like in the West, Japan has books designed for children of all different ages, but what’s different is that some of these books are actually interesting to adults. One great example is the 2016 hit movie, Your Name (君の名は。), in book form.
Kadokawa Tsubasa Bunko (角川つばさ文庫) is a collection of books by the Kadokawa (角川) publishing company that is aimed at younger schoolchildren in Japan. Since they are simpler and most of them have furigana above every kanji, they are also brilliant for intermediate Japanese learners. Of course, getting a hold of these can be harder for people living outside of Japan, but as mentioned above, Amazon Japan offers most of the books in this collection. And even with the rather expensive international shipping, it still comes to much less than most Japanese textbooks anyway.
Despite the books being aimed at younger Japanese readers, they do still use some words that intermediate students have likely never seen, so reading with a dictionary or a dictionary app is recommended. Additionally, I found that making a vocabulary list of the words I didn’t know also helped.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of things that can be used for reading practice while learning Japanese. There is a plethora of others, including apps such as “Hello-Hello” and “italki,” and even reading Twitter. But in my experience, the three tools listed above are some of the more interesting ones that are better aimed at intermediate students. Have any other reading suggestions? Let us know!