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
I 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
YomoYomo 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
Rikaichan 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 ?)
While 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
While 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! 😀