Anime: check. J-dramas: check. Variety shows: check. News: …
Does this sound like you? If you are in your mid to high levels, this is a frustration you know way too well. The news is that high level dungeon that you want to hunt because of the great loot you can get, but you die as soon as you walk in. You can’t understand the news and you don’t know why.
You can’t understand the news because you aren’t watching the news.
You should be familiar with the concept. It’s something you already faced with all other forms of media. You can read all the textbooks you want, and finish an infinite number of flash cards, but until you get into the habit of actually watching casual TV, you can’t understand it. You experienced the transition of your brain connecting those 2 worlds.
While that phase was also challenging, it was nothing compared to what the news brings to you. And rightfully so.
You’ve gotten spoiled
You worked your ass off to understand TV, and you’ve gotten used to it feeling good and enjoyable to some extent. You’ve earned it. So you expect to have it carry over to your newest challenge. And when it doesn’t carry over, the hopelessness begins. It’s like you are starting the phase from zero, despite possible years of work already. There is nothing worse than feeling you deserve something and getting nothing.
But why are you starting at zero?
1. Newscasters Talk
News is spoken in a different tone, speed, and cadence than normal language. It’s news talk. People only talk like the news on the news.
2. New realm of advanced terminology
The news is full of intense terminology you’ve never heard of before. You are under a constant barrage of words you most likely have no experience with.
3. News politeness level
It’s not just the vocabulary of topics you don’t know, but the news uses a specific politeness level, one that you aren’t used to hearing as much, and has its own specific lingo you need to learn.
4. It’s fast and continuous
Conversations have pauses and breaks, are slower paced and give you time to think. Once a news segment starts, it goes and goes until it ends.
The news is boring if you don’t know what’s going on
When you stepped up to casual TV, you didn’t need to understand everything to enjoy a series. Even at a low comprehension, the music, visuals, action, characters, and story were all substitutes.
The news doesn’t usually have these substitutes. There are visuals but oftentimes they don’t help. News stories are usually brief. A few to several minutes a piece. The information is jam packed. And if you miss something it is very hard to keep up with what is going on. Gaps in understanding destroy news stories.
Everyone feels like the news is this impossible demon. The higher the level you are, the worse it feels. Just like being able to understand the news in your native language feels like a transition from childhood to adulthood, it has that maturing feeling in Japanese. And you don’t want to be missing out on it.
With all of the problems above, you can see why it’s easy to avoid the news. You hope that just by improving your Japanese, continuing to watch TV, continue your flash cards, you’ll get it.
The only way to understand the news is by watching the news. Watch more. And then watch even more than that. Everything makes you not want to watch the news, but if you ever want to watch the news and enjoy it, you are going to have to start off watching it and not.
Not all is lost
Assuming you are high level going into the news, the adjustment period is quicker than you imagine. It’s not more enjoyable, but if you steadily challenge it every day, you will get it. You can try starting with simpler news programs, especially those that target children, or news programs with a more casual touch to them.
Always remember this: if you ever want fluency (and beyond) in Japanese, understanding the news is a major part of that. And the rewards know no bounds.
Share some techniques
The challenge into the foray of news doesn’t have to be terrible. But let’s hear from you. What was your technique for getting used to the news?
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.