You may wonder how good I am at Japanese, and how I study. Well, my Friday Japanese teacher always reads my blog (and corrects it! She is so sweet.) so I will just say my Japanese ability is まだ下手です。。。
I study in various ways. I am no longer a beginner, but not nearly native-like.
One thing I do is attempt to read the newspaper. My husband subscribes to the Yomiuri Shinbun (Yomiuri newspaper) and reads it daily. We started taking the Kodomo Shinbun (Yomiuri’s newspaper for elementary school students) and then later the Yomiuri’s newspaper for junior high students. The main paper (my husband’s paper) arrives daily, but these newspapers for children arrive weekly.
The Kodomo Shinbun (literally: Children’s Newspaper) has furigana. This enables the reader to read the Kanji character.
The jhs newspaper does not have furigana, and because of this, it can be difficult for me. I usually resort to just reading the headlines.
The following two articles are the same news story. The news story is about a nuclear power plant in south Japan. (I took these photos during winter break, and sort of forgot about them, so I am posting them now.)
First, I’ll show it from the elementary school paper.
Then I’ll show it from the junior high paper. Ready? Okay!
In the elementary school paper, you can clearly see the little furigana over the kanji characters. They are not really supposed to be there–it’s an aid to reading the characters. They teach the pronuncation of the kanji.
The above photo is still the elementary school newspaper. It’s the headline of the same article. It says: “Genpatsu no Unten Tomeru Meirei.” With the furigana there, it’s very easy for a beginner to read. (Although not necessarily to understand…. Nuclear energy is a difficult topic.)
In English, the headline reads: “It has been commanded that a Nuclear Power Plant’s Operations be Stopped.”
(REMEMBER: This is NOT the famous nuclear power plant that melted down. It’s a totally different plant in a different part of Japan.)
And why is the power plant’s operations going to be stopped? Volcanic activity nearby is threatening operations.
This is the same exact news story, but written at a more difficult level. This is the newspaper for junior high students.
You can clearly see that there is NO furigana. Nothing helps the reader to figure out the pronunciation of the characters. If the reader does not know how to pronounce a character, he or she will have to look it up.
This newspaper assumes the reader has a grasp on the characters in the article.
Does Japanese look FUN and EXCITING!!!!!???? One person explained to me that she likes studying Japanese because it is like a puzzle. I agree that it is like a puzzle, and sometimes it can be fun if you figure something out, but honestly I also find Japanese to be quite a frustrating language! Oh, well.
Good luck with whatever languages you choose to learn.