Kana Reading Material Resources

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I was asked earlier this week on twitter if I knew of any Kana reading material resources. The question was in reference to materials such as books, magazines, websites, etc that are written in Kana, rather than lots of Kanji, so that beginners like myself have a chance at actually reading some of it. At the time, I had little to say so I’ve gone to work and this is what I’ve dug up!

1. Hir@gana Times

hiragana-times-insideI know that this is a relatively well known magazine, at least by my friends, so I’ve decided to get it in first. Hir@gana Times is a magazine that is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s basically a news magazine that is written in Kana. Well.. that’s not entirely true. It actually does contain a decent amount of Kanji.. BUT, it utilizes Furigana so that you can still make out everything that you need to!

One of the greatest things about this magazine is that it actually comes in one of two forms. You can order a physical copy to be shipped to your house or sign up for the digital edition. Obviously, the digital edition is less expensive so that might be the route to go, unless you ‘d really like to have a copy to carry around on you(not that you can’t do that with a portable PDF reader nowadays 😉 ).

2. Yomo Yomo

yomoyomoYomoYomo is a web tool I found out about from a teacher just the other day(surprisingly soon after I was asked about websites to read that are in Kana). Yomo Yomo allows you to enter the address of a website that, let’s say has far too many Kanji and there is no way you’re going to be able to read the page because you’re a newbie beginner like me! Well, Yomo Yomo is here to rescue you!

Yomo Yomo takes any web address you enter into it and upon clicking the hiragana(ひらがな) button(big red button I pointed to in the picture), translates the page for you! It’ll place the page content inside of it’s own site and now if you take a look at the same content you were trying to read before, each Kanji is followed up with ( ) brackets, with the hiragana of that Kanji in between the brackets(like the word I pointed out in the picture)! That’s not all! If you click on any of the words now, it’ll open a new page that contains the definition of what you just clicked. The one thing I really like about this tool is that fact that I don’t feel like I’m cheating. The entire Yomo Yomo tool is in Japanese, so it’s no different than if a Japanese kid didn’t know enough Kanji to read a web page and wanted to translate it. In fact, maybe it was even designed for that purpose? Can’t say, don’t know enough about it.. or enough Japanese at this point to try to find out.

3. Rikaichan Firefox Extension

rikaichanRikaichan is an extension for Firefox to help translate Japanese text. When you hover over Japanese text that you don’t know, an explanation pops up that gives quite a good deal of information about the item. What is nice is the fact that with a click of a button you can turn Rikaichan on or off, because sometimes you just don’t want that hover effect when looking at Japanese text. If you don’t use Firefox already, you might want to consider installing it just for this purpose. I still currently use Firefox over Chrome mostly for the extensions, but we’ll see where the future leads us.

If you happen to stumble across any other tool that performs this kind of functionality but for more(or other) browsers, let us know!

4. Library/Book Store (Online ?)

discount-kids-books-nashvilleWhile looking around, I happened to stumble upon a link to a few Japanese children books that are hosted on a children library website. If you take a look at the few books they do have on there, you will see that you can read the books and even zoom in on the content if it’s too small. Even though the site doesn’t contain that many books to choose from, or rather there are so few books that you’ll be done with them in no time, they give you at least some practice.

The other point this brings to mind is whether or not you’ve actually checked out what the libraries near you have to ofter. I’m not saying they are going to have a wall full of intriguing selections for you to choose from, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they had a few children books or magazines in all Japanese. Also, be sure to check any used book stores like Half Price, which is where I buy all my used Japanese books from. I rarely find any, but every once in a while they have one or two. I can’t read much yet, but I’ve already started stocking up for when I can(tricking my mind into believing I’ll get there no matter what.. cause I will 😉 ).

5. Breaking into Japanese Literature

breaking_into_japanese_literatureWhile I haven’t actually read this book yet, when I was out shopping at Borders I happened to see it and took a glance through it. I saved this one for last, simply because of that fact. I don’t know if anyone I know has read it and I haven’t read it, so can’t say how good it really is. However, I can tell you that what I saw while looking through it was intriguing.

The idea of this book is to give you short(very short) stories and present the vocab to you down below the stories. On one page is the Japanese text and on the other is the English version. This is for comparison purposes, not to try to read word by word. They don’t include all the words they teach you, below with a definition, but if you’re at an intermediate level then my guess is that it wouldn’t be too hard to pick up the others. One thing they also provide is the Furigana so that you can still read the Kanji even if you.. can’t.

Got something you’d like to add to the list? Let me know and I’ll check it out! 😀

9 thoughts on “Kana Reading Material Resources

  1. Pingback: JapanSoc
  2. Hey! Great post! I’d like to just add to a bit with a small list of games on the Nintendo DS that may be great for foreigners not yet ready to tackle a great amount of kanji, so here it is:

    1. Pokemon. I’m not sure this goes for all the Pokemon games (it most likely does), but Pokemon Platinum is all hiragana. While you probably won’t understand what’s going on unless you already know the words used, it is great to constantly be forced to practice pronunciation. When I was getting used to hiragana and katakana (all Pokemon names are in katakana!) I used to force myself to read out all the dialog before progressing. I think as long as this isn’t too boring for you it could be a great help.

    2. Dora Gana ~ Doraemon Hiragana Study for Nintendo DS. This was actually made for Japanese children to learn their hiragana and katakana. It’s a very famous kid-friendly Japanese cartoon with lots of minigames. It’s pretty neat and definitely worth a try.

    3. Mario (including Kart) and Kirby (and probably some other Nintendo fellows too! Okay, now you’re cheating. You just wanted to take a break from studying, didn’t you? Come on now, there’s barely any language in these games! What is here, however, is very simple (mostly katakana) and good for a beginner when they don’t want to do anything too hardcore.

    4.Puyo Puyo 7. This has a few kanji but they are rare and should be pretty easy. It is a game that doesn’t involve a lot of dialog during gameplay; it’s all in between ‘battles’ and it isn’t really necessary to understand it (from what I’ve seen).

    5. Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. While this may be difficult because sometimes you need to understand the language to understand the problem or puzzle, it is pretty cool for upper beginners. It does have kanji in it, but it has a special feature where you can press down on the kanji you don’t know to see the pronunciation. Plus, Zelda is a ton of fun even in English.

    Well, that’s all for now, folks. I hope this comment comes in handy for someone :).

    1. I don’t know why I happened to forget to mention that since I have Japanese Manga myself that has furigana in it. 🙂

      I guess every thing else came to mind for the main fact that it’s such a “Duh” answer, but somehow I still forgot! 😛

      Within the next few days, I’m going to recompile this and I’ll add Manga and those games Joe went over. 😀

  3. Great list, and some good suggestions from Joe also.

    I have read Breaking into Japanese Literature and throughouly enjoyed it. The format is such that with multiple readings, and gradual exposure to new kanji, you start to assimilate new knowledge.

    Some of the language is a little archaic, but then it is considered classical Japanese literature 😉

    Reading is good for you when it contains vocabulary that is just out of your reach, and you are challenged to make sense of it. You can do it without the help of a dictionary in a seperate volume with this book.

  4. I’ve read Breaking into Japanese Literature and it was ok. The concept is awesome but the stories are a bit dry. Those guys had been reading far too much Edgar Alan Poe (who was actually an enormous influence on Soseki, not as sure about his direct influence on Akutagawa Ryunosuke). I still enjoyed it, but those aren’t the authors i’d personally pick to read if they hadn’t been in that book.
    Another book, similar in concept though quite different in format, that I can HEARTILY recommend is Read Real Japanese Fiction. While it seems like it would be more difficult at first because of how it’s laid out (the definitions are all in the back for example) after a few pages of reading and getting used to the format I very quickly developed a method that made lookups just as quick and easy as the other book. Furthermore, these stories are all contemporary authors, most published since 2000, so the stories were just much more enjoyable to me. They range in difficulty from fairly easy to fairly difficult, but as a beginner who had only JUST finished RTK, I was able to work my way through the entire book in a couple weeks during Tadoku.

    1. the first tadoku, i’ll add. These days I read pretty much whatever the hell I want, though I sometimes run up against my limitations and something is more difficult and frustrating than it is fun to read, mostly if I really want to read it, I can. Especially anything in digital format. The program GoldenDict and these dictionaries make anything with cut-and-pasteable text super easy to read. It’s a bit like having RikaiChan for your entire desktop.

      1. What I really wish is if there was a way to apply this concept on my Android phone! xD

        Thanks for sharing all those details though! I’ll be sure to check out that stuff when I get a chance. ^_^

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