‘Appy Mondays – NHK News Reader Review

Hello and Happy New Year! I hope 2017 will be a great year for all 🙂

Today’s post is the first of a new series called ‘Appy Mondays, where I will be reviewing some of the many Japanese language learning apps to see if they are worth using. This series will focus on apps available on Android as I do not own any Apple devices at present. I am also all about free or low cost apps whenever possible, and the cost will be factored into these reviews.

Today’s review is of NHK News Reader (AOVILL team, free)

 

How NHK News Reader works

This app provides access to the latest NHK articles, with additional functions suited for Japanese language learners. Articles are split by topic, but the main landing page will always show the main headlines.

Each article has the option to show furigana above kanji. Articles are accompanied by a video showing the corresponding item as read on Japanese TV, which is generally identical to the text (the text differs sometimes when people are interviewed and their speech has been paraphrased).

  NHK News Reader with Furigana- screenshot

As these videos are from Japanese TV, the speed is at a natural speed (ie. fast), so it is good for testing your comprehension of real Japanese. Article lengths do vary but the articles are for the most part not too long, and are best suited for a 15-30 minute reading session.

 

My thoughts on NHK News Reader

The option for furigana is always helpful for learners, but there is no integrated dictionary within the app. This would not be much of a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that the app does tend to freeze. I found that this always happened when I tried to switch apps to look a word up in the dictionary whilst in the middle of reading an article, the app screen would go blank when I returned to the app.

This is a shame because unless you have a physical dictionary to hand, you would, of course, be switching apps frequently. I often use my journey to work for studying Japanese for example and so this app would not be easy to use on my commute. Your device has to be connected to the internet to use the app, which makes sense as there are integrated videos, but it would have been nice to have the option to view the articles themselves offline.

I should say that the app is free, but there is a paid version for £3.99. However looking at the reviews for the paid version, the extra cost does not add functionality that I would be expecting, namely the ability to view articles offline and an integrated dictionary.

Overall, I think that as a free app it may be worth trying out if you are around JLPT N2 level and looking for authentic news articles and video to work on your newspaper reading comprehension. It is a decent free app, but I could not recommend it or its paid upgrade app as an essential resource for intermediate/ advanced learners with the bugs it currently has.

Update: if you are interested in other reading apps, I recommend TangoRisto or Mondo – both are free and improve upon a lot of the issues I had with this app!

Manga Recommendation: Cooking Papa

On the blog, I’m planning to introduce plenty of manga that Japanese learners may be interested in reading. The recommendations I make will usually be based on the difficulty of Japanese used, or the fact that it offers an interesting insight into Japanese culture. Generally, manga is best tackled when you reach about JLPT N3, although this can vary depending on the genre.

Today I would like to introduce Cooking Papa (クッキングパパ), a long-running manga series created by Tochi Ueyama.

Quick Facts

Author: Tochi Ueyama (うえやまとち)

Genre: Shounen, food

No. of volumes: 144

Recommended for: JLPT N3

Furigana: No

Anime/ drama/ film adaptations?: Yes, anime and drama adaptations

Plot Overview 

The main character is Kazumi Araiwa, a senior member of staff at a food business. At work he manages to strike a balance between getting work done and caring about the well-being of his colleagues, but what really catches his boss Higashiyama’s eye is his delicious homemade lunches, or bento (弁当)!

It turns out Kazumi’s wife is busy working as a journalist and is a terrible cook, so Kazumi is responsible for making his own bento. The manga spends a lot of time focusing on how Kazumi makes a series of amazing meals and lunches to treat his coworkers and family. 

Why do I recommend the manga?

Each volume contains a number of real-life recipes with hints and tips on how to bring out the best flavors. For example, the recipe for おにぎらず (Onigirazu, a kind of rice sandwich), has recently become a lunchtime favorite and there are plenty of videos on how to make it for yourself. This dish was first popularised in Japan after being published in Cooking Papa.

If you want to learn more about cooking in Japanese, this manga is a good way to familiarise yourself with relevant vocabulary such as:

煮る (にる/ niru) to boil, simmer

揚げる (あげる/ ageru) to deep fry

Handy recipes aside, I like how the manga has Kazumi (and his wife) somewhat breaking traditional gender stereotypes, whilst keeping a fun and lighthearted tone.  In addition, whilst there are over 130 volumes, each volume is episodic so you do not need to start from volume one. This also makes it a good choice for shorter reading sessions.

Recommended Japanese language level

 I would probably recommend this to someone about JLPT N3 or intermediate level. Having a fair bit of dialogue, it helps to be familiar with casual forms of Japanese. As the manga takes place both at Kazumi’s home and workplace, you get to learn more about the contrast in how Japanese is spoken in the office and when at home with family. 

The best way to get a feel for the manga is to try reading a sample. Fortunately, a lot of manga including Cooking Papa is available digitally.

You can read a sample of this manga on the EbookJapan website by clicking the blue ‘無料立ち読み’ button.

If you do try reading any of the recommendations, please let me know how you get on the comments. I am always on the hunt for beginner friendly manga, so if you have any suggestions please let me know!

If you like Cooking Papa, you might also like my other food-related manga recommendations:

Happy Reading!

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