By study beginners Japanese with science, I don’t mean Matrix-level download the language to your brain (although I wish I did!) I mean, using science books aimed at young Japanese people to learn a wide variety of general knowledge and Japanese vocabulary.
The science books I’m talking about in particular are なぜ？どうして？科学のお話 or “Why? How? Science Stories”.
Here’s a review of these science books aimed at children and how you can use them to boost your Japanese!
(Why? How? Science Stories)
Genre: science, textbook, for children
Great for: Beginners (JLPT N4-N3)
Length: about 180 pages per book (total of 6 books for grades 1-6)
Amazon (available in paperback AND Kindle):
Why You Should Read なぜ？どうして？科学のお話
You might think a science textbook is going to be dry and boring, but it’s actually a surprisingly enjoyable read!
Hear me out. Because these books are written for children they’re made to be engaging. You learn facts quickly with each topic only covering about two pages. Then move onto the next topic.
Each book covers a wide range of topics too, and you may find yourself learning something new! Or perhaps even things you studied at school but had quickly forgotten.
Another great thing about these books is they’re written from a Japanese perspective. Which means science from a Japanese perspective. Which means learning about Japan-specific subjects. Such as why natto has that slimy, stringy ねばねば texture!
Why Japanese Learners Should Read なぜ？どうして？科学のお話
First, these books are fantastic for beginner level Japanese learners.
The font is large and easy to read, with furigana readings for all the kanji. Also, the grammar is around JLPT N4 level with ます・です in short and clear sentence.
However, because these are science textbooks, they cover a range of topics, including: animals and insects; anatomy; illnesses and health; food; fuel; math; the earth; etc. This means a HUGE range of everyday vocabulary that you don’t normally see in Japanese language textbooks.
This may also result in you learning more “advanced” vocabulary, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing when the way it’s presented is so easy to understand. I suggest creating and studying your own vocabulary lists!
Each topic also comes with at least one question or problem for you to solve. This is great for Japanese learners because you’re forced to think about what’s being said. Similarly to the questions in the JLPT. (Obviously this is a little different from a language exam, but it’s great practice!)
One thing you might find difficult at first is the writing is top down, rather than left to right. But this is a great time to start getting used to top down writing, especially if you want to read Japanese novels in the future.
I confess I have the Professor Layton version of this series, but these are no longer in print so you can only find them second hand. However, these books tend to cover the same materials.
What I love about these books is that they cover a wide range of complex subjects but are presented in a way that makes them easy and engaging to read.
I thought that at my advanced level of Japanese I’d find these books really boring, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed them!
Highly recommend them if you find yourself in need of a challenging read as a beginner.
If you would like another challenge after this one, try the romance novel 放課後美術室 (After School Art Room). This novel is great for JLPT N3 levels.