Step 1 – Find Good Reading Material

Welcome to Step 1 of the Read Japanese Faster series!

In this step I’ll show you where to find good reading material that you can use to improve your reading speed.

I’ll also share a tip that I used to help expand my vocabulary and also learn lots of new Kanji.

Let’s get started!


Click here if you missed the Introduction!


Finding Reading Material

My favourite place to look for material online is NHK Web Easy.

It’s a free news website where new articles are uploaded each day. You’re not going to run out of material any time soon!

The content is aimed at middle school students, so the articles should be relatively easy for N5 and N4 level students to understand.


Note: For N3 and up, you can try the regular NHK News website:


The only downside is that the website uses a lot of Furigana.

Furigana is the small text that you might see above Kanji that shows you the 読み方, or “way of reading”.

Here’s an example:

furigana example
Furigana example for “Kanji”

This brings me on to the tip I want to share with you – No matter your level, always try to read material WITHOUT Furigana.


Reading Without Furigana

Don’t get me wrong, I think Furigana is helpful in some scenarios. If you’ve been to Japan, you’ve probably seen Furigana used mostly for uncommon or difficult Kanji.

I don’t think using Furigana is a bad thing, but you definitely shouldn’t rely on it all the time. In the JLPT, there won’t be any Furigana for Kanji that you should know at the level you are taking.

Having said that…

If you want to read faster, we need to be able to look at any Kanji and immediately understand its meaning.

Consider the following situation – you’re reading a news article that has Furigana for all of the Kanji. When your eyes arrive at a Kanji, your brain tends to do a funny thing and look at the Furigana first, THEN at the Kanji. Note this can happen subconsciously even if you know the Kanji well!

Compare this to coming across a Kanji with no Furigana. In this situation, your brain will either immediately know the meaning or it will not. If you don’t know the meaning immediately, you might then try to recall the meaning using the 読み方 of the Kanji. Again, you’ll either immediately know this or you won’t.

I’ll try explain it more concisely:

Scenario 1 – With Furigana

  1. Look at Furigana (and maybe read it in your mind)
  2. Look at the Kanji
  3. Try recall the meaning
    • Immediately recall (Yay!), or…
    • Can’t recall 🙁
      • Try use 読み方 to recall the meaning
      • … etc.

Scenario 2 – Without Furigana

  1. Look at Kanji
  2. Try recall the meaning
    • Immediately recall (Yay!), or…
    • Can’t recall 🙁
      • Try recall 読み方
      • … etc.

As you can see, Scenario 2 has one less step, so your brain generally process this faster. If you do this for every Kanji in a news article, this small speed improvement becomes significant.

I could really talk about the pros and cons of Furigana all day, but I’ll summarise – In most cases having Furigana can act as a distraction and actually slows down your overall reading speed.


Removing the Furigana

There are two ways to read these news articles without Furigana.

#1 – Use the “Remove Furigana” Button

Until recently, removing Furigana from the webpage required a web browser plugin or extension.

Thankfully we don’t need that anymore! NHK have kindly added a button that will toggle the Furigana in the article for you. How cool is that?!


Remove furigana button


Just look for these buttons, and use the one on the right to hide/show the Furigana above the Kanji.

  • 漢字の読み方を消す means “remove the Kanji readings“.

#2 – TangoRisto Mobile App

When I’m not at my computer, my preferred technique is using an amazing app called TangoRisto. It’s available on iOS and Android, and it lets you read NHK Web Easy articles on your mobile device.


TangoRisto example

You probably noticed in the picture above there is still some Furigana. This brings me on to why I love this app.

You can customise the app so it hides the Furigana based on your JLPT level!

You set your Furigana and Vocabulary level in the settings like so:


TangoRisto settings
TangoRisto language settings

Since I had N3 and above checked, it hid the Furigana for the N4 and N5 level Kanji. That’s pretty awesome!

Best of all, it’s free!


Read the Article

Now you’ve got an article to read, the next part is (surprise!) actually reading the article!

The goal is to test your understanding, so don’t use a dictionary or any study notes while you do this. No cheating please!

This is important because it will honestly test your current ability. You want to see precisely what you know and what you don’t know.

Write down the parts that you don’t know or understand. This includes words, kanji, or entire sentences.

A good rule of thumb is that if you don’t recognise or understand something immediately, you should write it down.

Finally, write a sentence or two about what you think the article is about. It doesn’t matter if you’re right or not – guess if you need to!


Congrats!

That’s all for this step!

By the way – it’s completely fine if you didn’t understand 80-90% of the article. Actually, when you’re starting out, this is normal!

As you use this method more you will start to see a gradual improvement in how much you understand.

This is great because that means you’re leaning!


Next Step

In the next step, I’ll talk about how you can use the words you don’t know in order to create an optimised study list so you can learn them as quickly as possible.

Stay tuned!

Finally, here’s another motivational kitten to cheer you on!

motivational kitten
頑張ってください!