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Extra! Extra! Learn Japanese Through the News with Over 25 Resources

Do you want to know the latest about what’s happening in Japan? 

Want to learn how your country is perceived by the Japanese or which breaking global news makes it to Japan’s headlines?

Do you want to simply learn more about the culture of Japan… while also learning the language?

Then you might want to learn Japanese with the news.

Watching and reading the latest news from Japan won’t just help you get a handle on formal, proper Japanese, but it’ll also help you learn more about its culture, values and current events.

The good news is that you don’t have to live in Japan to access the local news. There are plenty of apps, websites and even books on the topic of the news in Japan. 

Read on to get the scoop on the best options available to you!
 


 
Learn a foreign language with videos

Why Learn Japanese with News?

By looking at what’s included in and what’s left out of Japanese news, you can gain a sense of what’s considered a priority in Japanese society. News also teaches how delicate or controversial subjects are discussed in Japanese and how people politely navigate complex tasks such as debating, summarizing or handling unexpected information in evolving situations.

You’ll also pick up on non-verbal cues, which are essential to achieving fluency in Japanese.

Learning Japanese through the news will allow you to reap a huge number of other benefits, many of which can’t be gained elsewhere.

Catch Cultural Cues

As you expose yourself to Japanese news, you’ll grow to understand what the concerns of a Japanese audience are, which subjects are taboo, what causes scandals and how organizations behave when celebrating their successes or ruing their failures.

You can gain insight into Japan’s cultural priorities by seeing how much news coverage is allocated to different events and how long news stories remain in the press.

News graphics and illustrations on TV or in papers can help you understand how to present information in a familiar and accessible way to a Japanese audience.

All of this can be an excellent primer for the Japanese workplace and give you valuable social skills that reach well beyond what textbooks typically cover.

Perfect Pronunciation

TV and radio news will give you lots of exposure to polite Japanese with immaculate pronunciation.

Broadcast media in Japan is made using hyojungo (standard Japanese). Textbooks are also written in standard Japanese, so you’ll no doubt be familiar with it already. It’s considered the most desirable form of Japanese when seeking employment and is definitely the most versatile.

Other media such as anime, movies and manga will expose you to different dialects and levels of formality, which are a really rich and fascinating part of Japanese culture, but the news will help you to communicate in a way that’s perfect for any kind of formal situation. In other words, if you only learn one form of Japanese, you should learn the kind used on the news.

Vary Your Vocabulary

You can get exposure to advanced vocabulary through the news. New words and terms will pop up daily and you’ll also get repeated real-life examples of how those terms are used.

Seize Sentence Structures

The news will introduce you to set phrases and filler words. It can also help you master common grammar concepts such as direct or indirect quotations and the use of prefixes and suffixes.

Video and radio news will be especially helpful: News broadcasters tend to speak clearly and slowly compared to conversational speech, making it easier to catch unfamiliar grammar and vocab.

Peg Down Politeness

Honorific Japanese, or keigois often used by people making press statements, such as when someone makes a public apology. Keigo is used daily in business Japanese, so if you plan to work using your language skills, it’s an essential facet of the language to master.

Get to Grips with Group Conversations

Ready to move on from monologues and dialogues? Just watch some discussion panels in the news. Group conversations are rarely covered in traditional textbooks but they’re part of daily life.

Training yourself to follow fast-paced group conversations can help you to feel less overwhelmed in real-life situations and boost your comprehension, as well.

Vary Your Viewpoint

One of the best things about the news is that the same topics are covered in so many different ways: short- and long-form writing, video and audio reports, opinion pieces or reports that merely state the objective facts.

There are even news sources for children that provide simplified summaries of major stories. The versatility of news as a free source of Japanese for study is unparalleled, as you’ll see from a quick glance at the resources below.

Gain Insight Through Immersion

News provides immersive learning, with most resources being exclusively in Japanese. Immersing yourself in the language will help you pick up the essential vocabulary and contextual information that you need to get into deeper discussions with native speakers.

If you’re not ready for those yet, fear not! We’ve selected the best resources for learners to develop their skills.

Read on!

Techniques for Learning Japanese with the News

  • Use sentence mining to break down sentence structures, kanji, vocabulary and pronunciation.
  • Learn to set good goals to help you get the best out of all of your learning activities like the news.
  • Make it a habit to watch Japanese news regularly, which will naturally give you repeated exposure to new key terms and help record them in your long term memory.
  • Use various learning methods such as the Pomodoro technique, active learning strategies and more to ensure that you study in the most efficient way possible.
  • Find news that’s relevant to your interests to keep your motivation high and pick up key terms to socialize in Japanese with others who have similar interests.
  • Choose good quality sources that are well suited to your learning level. (We’ve done the hard work for you and have rounded up the best below!)
  • Learn actively and stay focused by producing language, not just absorbing it. Use the shadowing technique with video or audio sources and read aloud from text-based news. If you always engage your voice, you’ll have beautiful pronunciation and intonation in no time!
  • Target multiple skills and take notes to maximize efficiency and recall.

For example, read the news out loud and note new vocabulary. Continue reading to the end and try to infer the word meaning from context. If you’re using video, replay the snippet containing the vocabulary you don’t know and listen carefully to the pronunciation, noting it down.

At the end of the article, check all the words you noted down in a dictionary. Remember to review new words regularly to perfectly recall them!

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If that all sounds like a lot of work, FluentU offers interactive Japanese subtitles and video quizzes, with built-in reviews that’ll help you master new words and grammar concepts in no time.

FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons. If you’re looking for a method to familiarize yourself with Japanese as well as deepen your knowledge of the culture, FluentU is the best way to go!

We talk a bit more about FluentU and many other resources more below, so stick around.

Learn Japanese Through the News with Over 25 Resources

Helpful Japanese News Reference Tools

Rikaikun for Chrome and Rikaichan for Firefox

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These awesome pop-up dictionaries work with Japanese text in your browser, defining any word with a click. Available for free, the easy-to-use plugins give you the option to make the dictionary text all Japanese or to show English definitions. There’s also the option to display kanji characters either with or without furigana.

RNN News dictionary

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This online dictionary is updated daily with key words that appear in that day’s news. It’s designed for Japanese speakers studying English, but can easily be used the other way around, too.

It’s perfect for kanji practice or used in conjunction with a pop-up dictionary plugin for less advanced learners.

Learnjapanesedaily.com

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This website has lots of articles going over key vocabulary and phrases for various kinds of newspaper articles, covering topics like economics, sports, politics and more.

“News Nihongo: 1000 Vocabulary Words from TV News and Newspapers”

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This book, called 新聞・テレビ ニュースの日本語 (しんぶん・てれびにゅーすのにほんご) in Japanese, will help you get to grips with 1,000 vocabulary words for understanding the news. It’s perfect for those intermediate and advanced learners who’ve set their sights on total fluency!

Japanese News Vocabulary on Memrise

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This Memrise deck of news vocabulary items is perfect for learners who want to master a lot of specific vocabulary that they’re likely to encounter in Japanese news. There are 660 terms broken up into 12 lessons.

Pronunciations aren’t given, so this deck may be best for more confident learners to review news terms that they need to brush up on.

“How to Sound Intelligent in Japanese”

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Charles de Wolf ‘s book is an excellent vocabulary resource for a range of advanced subjects. While it’s not specifically aimed at understanding the news, many of the terms explained will help comprehension of current affairs and engagement with more complex themes like those often covered in the news.

Topics covered include ideas and theories, philosophy, religion, politics, fine arts, humanities and social sciences, science, law and justice, technology, business and economics. Sample sentences help to give context.

Digital Japanese News Sources

The news resources introduced in this article are suitable for beginner, intermediate and advanced learners. They involve various linguistic skills and learning styles:

  • Beginner level resources are well suited to new learners, those who are studying book one of the “Genki” learning series or those who are at around Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) level N5.
  • Intermediate resources are perfect for learners working through the second level “Genki” book, have started “Tobira” or are at around JLPT level N4 or N3.
  • Advanced resources should be useful for those who are working at JLPT N2 or N1 level, are confident with monolingual Japanese resources and want to deepen their already solid knowledge of Japanese.

Use these basic level guidelines to find the perfect Japanese learning tools for you!

SmartNews

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Recommended level: Intermediate and advanced.

This free news aggregation app is really popular with native speakers. It allows you to customize your feed so you only see news specific to your interests.

There are lots of fun, lighthearted stories, which are perfect for when you want a break, and it works even offline.

FluentU

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Recommended level: Beginner, intermediate and advanced.

FluentU, as we mentioned earlier, is a learning program that uses authentic and engaging videos from native Japanese speakers, including the very best of the news. Videos are organized by genre and level, making them easy to find.

The platform creates interactive language learning lessons from the best content, taking your progress into account and adapting to your level. Everything can be accessed with just a few clicks on the website, or you can learn on the go by downloading the FluentU app for iOS or Android.

NHK News Web

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Recommended level: Intermediate and advanced.

You’ve probably heard of this major Japanese news source, designed for native speakers. Similar to NBC in the US or the BBC in the UK, NHK offers a wide range of TV and radio broadcasting, including news, drama and documentaries.

The NHK News Web site is free, regularly updated and offers a clean, advertisement-free interface with videos and written articles.

NHK News Web Easy

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Recommended level: Beginner and intermediate.

If you’re not quite ready for News Web, then News Web Easy is probably perfect for you. This free site, designed for native Japanese speaking children, is regularly updated. It offers an integrated pop-up dictionary and options to toggle kanji and furigana on or off.

There’s a helpful video about how one learner uses the site which covers the main features.

NHK Radio News

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Recommended level: Intermediate and advanced.

NHK’s free radio streaming website is great for listening practice. There are multiple broadcasts throughout the day, allowing you to get the very latest updates on developing stories.

NHK World TV and Radio Apps

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Recommended level: Intermediate and advanced.

Our last NHK offering is their world news multilingual apps. Available on iOS, Android, Kindle and Apple TV, these free applications offer another way to access the latest news from Japan on the go.

Nippon.com

Recommended level: Beginner, intermediate and advanced.

One of the nicest features of this smaller news site is that it has many articles written by Japanese journalists, ensuring a native eye on the news rather than seeing it through a Western filter. This site employs a team of translators to ensure that their articles retain their original nuance once translated.

Nippon.com regularly posts on YouTubeFacebook and Twitter, so it’s easy to integrate into your social media feed. Best of all? All the content is free.

Mainichi Shinbun

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Recommended level: Intermediate and advanced.

This widely read newspaper is a major Japanese news source designed for native speakers. It’s free and regularly updated.

Some stories have bilingual versions available. Check on The Mainichi English page, where articles which have English translations will be marked with “Japanese version” just under the headline (this option doesn’t currently seem to be available on the Japanese Mainichi page, so you’d need to navigate through their English homepage).

Maisho and Maisho 15

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Recommended level: Beginner and intermediate.

Easier versions of news from Mainichi Shinbun include their offerings for young native Japanese speakers, Maisho 15 and Maisho. Maisho 15 is aimed at 15-year-old high school students, while Maisho has articles designed for elementary school students (scroll down a little on their homepage, past the ads, for the article links).

These free websites offer simplified news at two levels of difficulty, making the perfect stepping stones toward reading adult newspapers.

Mainichi Shinbun also publishes 月刊Newsがわかる (げっかんにゅーすがわかる) — Understanding Monthly News, a news roundup magazine, with easy-to-understand coverage of the biggest stories, which you can buy reasonably priced monthly editions of on Kindle.

Yomiuri Shinbun’s Kids Newspaper

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Recommended level: Intermediate and advanced.

This website from another Japanese media giant has lots of free up-to-date content to read as well as a very active Facebook feed.

TBS News

Recommended level: Intermediate and advanced.

Watch and read online using the TBS website or their YouTube channel, which is updated regularly. Alternately, tune into their complimentary podcast, TBS radio news, to get the latest bulletins.

News in Slow Japanese Podcast

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Recommended level: Beginner and intermediate.

This wonderful podcast is regularly updated with episodes about world news in slow, clear Japanese and has been running for a long time. There are over 340 episodes available in their archives!

Use the built-in player to stream through their website and get features such as variable speed, making your experience really customizable. Shadowing will really help you get the most out of this program and make your learning more active.

Japanese News Reading Apps

Mondo, Tangoristo and Satori Reader

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Recommended level: Beginner, intermediate and advanced.

All three of these are Japanese reading apps that include some news content at a variety of levels. They have the advantage of being specifically designed for learners with a focus on text learning.

Kaho Pyon Press

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Recommended level: Beginner and intermediate.

This weekly free one-page PDF designed for Japanese children offers an unintimidating entry point to Japanese written in a newspaper format.

Kanji are written with furigana for easy reading. Text is presented in the traditional Japanese format, meaning that lines are read from top to bottom, starting at the top right of the page and moving left.

You can download it for free, and the online archive has about 400 totally free back issues available.

Asagakueye

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Recommended level: Intermediate.

This all-Japanese publication is a monthly summary of news vocabulary, aimed at native Japanese speaking junior high school students.

Each term is broken down with a simple explanation relating to recent news. Beginners would benefit from using a pop-up dictionary such as Rikaikun, as there’s no furigana on this website.

Japanese News (on Android) and Easy Japanese News (on iOS)

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Recommended level: Beginner and intermediate.

These Japanese news curation apps are both very similar to NHK News Web Easy but are unaffiliated with NHK. They both boast a pop-up dictionary, narration of articles, vocabulary learning and more.

Buzzfeed

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Recommended level: Beginner, intermediate and advanced.

For a lighter news source, complete with lots of lifestyle and entertainment news, as well as the comedic listicles we know and love, check out the Japanese Buzzfeed website.

It hosts original articles aimed at a Japanese audience, so it’s not just a translation of an international Buzzfeed site. This means that you can gain the kind of granular and quirky cultural insight into Japan that your local Buzzfeed site provides into your own culture.

The site boasts the typical nostalgia, memes, opinion pieces and news in Japanese culture. You can catch up on Buzzfeed’s daily news in a synopsis on Twitter, skim the headlines on Instagram or read full stories on Buzzfeed Japan.

It’s great for finding topics to start casual conversations and staying up to date with the latest online and pop culture trends. Meme roundups and photo lists mean that even beginners can enjoy Buzzfeed with a little help from a pop-up dictionary plugin on their browser.

The Rising Wasabi

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Recommended level: Intermediate and advanced.

The Japanese equivalent of The Onion, The Rising Wasabi hails as Japan’s premium satirical news publication, covering the latest from the land of the rising sun and current events from around the globe.

Beloved by many English speakers in Japan, it offers a lighthearted take on familiar tropes and is also available in Japanese. The Japanese content is limited, as their primary audience is English speakers, but that means all Japanese content has been translated from English, so Japanese articles can be read in English to check comprehension.

This is simply perfect for when you need a laugh or for combining studying with something a bit less intense than reading about the latest global crisis.

Japanese Physical Books About News

If you prefer to study with physical books or want to avoid long hours of screen time, then the following books (and magazine) might be worth checking out for you.

They’re available cheaply in Japan, so they make great items to pick up if you take a trip there, but there are some copies available through Amazon if you want to buy them in your home country.

“News no Nihongo Listening Comprehension”

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Recommended level: Beginner, intermediate and advanced.

These textbooks come with CDs to help you learn the skills needed to understand Japanese news. Two versions of the book are available: a beginner to intermediate version and an intermediate to advanced version.

“Japanese Through Newspaper Articles”

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Recommended level: Intermediate.

This textbook, titled 新聞で学ぶ日本語 (しんぶんでまなぶにほんご) in Japanese, offers vocabulary lists, conversation topics and quizzes. Despite being a few years old, it’s well suited to those learning Japanese in a traditional classroom setting.

Hiragana Times

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Recommended level: Beginner and intermediate.

This magazine is specifically aimed at language learners and offers furigana support, making it possible for beginners to read articles that they’d otherwise find inaccessible. You can use a red acrylic filter to hide or reveal text on some pages of the magazine.

It’s available through larger bookshops in Japan, especially in large areas with significant English speaking populations such as Tokyo and Osaka. You can also buy it internationally through a subscription or through outlets like OMG Japan.

 

Current affairs are covered in a wide variety of formats, allowing you focus on listening, reading, shadowing from videos, understanding short pieces or headlines quickly or doing a deep dive into long-form articles or debates. Whatever your learning style and interests are, there’s something to suit you.

Learning Japanese with the news can be a great method for mastering advanced listening and reading skills and language points. With fresh content every day, much of which is just a few clicks away, you can have unhindered access to endless new content.

So add Japanese news to your study routine!

If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Japanese with real-world videos.

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