Learning vocabulary, kanji and (to a point) grammar, can be easy to do by yourself. But reading, speaking, listening and writing can be more of a challenge. I recently asked Patreon supporters what kind of challenges they would like to try to improve these Japanese skills. The most voted on was Japanese reading.
The following is a 2 week challenge of my own design which I am testing out myself. I’m going to record my daily progress on the Japanese Talk Online Twitter and then discuss the results at the end. I encourage people try this along with me and tweet your progress at #JPReadingChallenge.
The Basic Concept Behind This Challenge
The basic concept is to see if you can read at least something everyday for 2 weeks.
The idea is that you should see an improvement in your reading comprehension (including vocabulary, kanji and grammar). As a bonus you might pick up some good habits or realize something about yourself you didn’t notice before.
There are optional questions you can ask yourself to reflect on what you’ve been reading and how/if the challenge is helping you!
The Basic Daily Layout (for 2 Weeks)
- Read 1-2 articles a day (news/blogs).
- Read at least 1-2 pages of a novel a day.
- Add just 5-10 new words/kanji to your flashcards (like Anki)
- Study these vocabulary before the end of the day.
- Review the vocab/kanji the next day.
- Optional: Track your daily progress time with Toggl
- Optional: Reflect on your readings.
Improve Japanese Reading Challenge
Practice Reading Everyday
1) Read without stopping and without marking vocabulary.
Try and read this article within 10-15 minutes (depending on the length of the article).
A great tool to use for this (which I always use) is Toggl. You can create a project and track the amount of time you spend on that project. (See bonus for more info)
Bonus: Try and read aloud. This will force your brain to focus on kanji readings and on the content.
2) Read the piece again.
Read the piece again, this time trying to increase your reading speed and pick up on words you didn’t get the first time.
Bonus: Ask yourself “what was this paragraph saying?” Sometimes when you’re reading you’re trying to get through the article and pick out vocabulary. It’s important to understand what’s being said to improve your comprehension. If you can’t answer that question, then go back and read it again.
Studying a Little Vocabulary Everyday
3) Enter 5-10 vocabulary into a flashcard program or make your own flashcards!
When you read through the article the 2nd (or maybe 3rd) time, pick out just 5-10 vocabulary that you want to study.
This can be harder than you think but only pick out a few! If you try to pick out too many you’ll spend too much time trying to enter everything and then learning it.
4) Then study these vocabulary before you sleep!
Study these new words before you sleep. It doesn’t have to be right before you sleep but any time during the day before the end of day!
5) Study the vocabulary you previously learned when you wake up!
When you wake up (ideally before you read your daily article), study the vocabulary you learned previously.
Reviewing is incredibly important to retain information. It also means that when you come across the same word in a new article you’ll know what it says!
This should all take about 1 hour, but you can break each task up throughout the day.
I suggest you do three things to make this challenge easier and more beneficial to you.
The first is track your time. I personally prefer tracking my time using Toggl an app that lets you track project times. This isn’t just great for tracking your speed but at keeping you on track.
I personally get distracted… very easily. But when I’m tracking my time on Toggl I’m aware of the time and am able to focus better.
The second thing I suggest is reflect on your progress. This doesn’t have to be daily but if you have time it can be greatly beneficial to yourself to reflect on your progress during this challenge.
What did you read?
No. of Pages/Characters/How long was it?
Type of Text?
Time for first read?
Time for second read?
Did you study the vocab? Y/N
You could even share this on social media if you wanted to!
Choosing Reading Resources
You want to pick reading practice that will:
- Be interesting.
- Be the right level for you (but not too easy).
- Pick variety.
Finding topics that interest you are incredibly important! If you don’t find it interesting then you will get distracted and find it harder to understand.
What you find interesting is not what other people find interesting!
I recommend you read news articles and blogs rather than a novel. This is just because you have a definitive end to an article so finishing them is more rewarding. You can also get access to more variety in terms of terminology and style of writing. But it’s entirely up to you!
Macha Easy (travel blog for Japanese kids)
Ikki ni Yomeru (graded reading books for Japanese kids – need to buy physical copy)
Aoi Tori Kodansha Books (novels for Japanese kids – can buy or read novel previews through website)
Nikkei Style (fashion news for adults but has economics thrown in too)
Macha (travel blog)
Shosetsu ni Narou (website where people write light novels of varying varieties)
Novels – You can use any novels. If you don’t have any you can buy digital light novels in Japanese through Book Walker.
NOTE: You don’t have to do this challenge just once! You can do it multiple times and even do it for longer than 2 weeks and see how long you can do it for!
P.S This challenge was inspired by Koipun’s interview with Bryan from KuroPixel. Bryan was able to pass JLPT N1 through news articles everyday. I have also spoken to other learners who have gotten 100% on the reading section from JLPT N1 because they read and read and read.