Regular reading is an important part of learning Japanese. This is especially true since there are up to four different forms of the written language!
- Rōmaji (primarily for beginners)
An incredibly supportive habit to have when reading Japanese is to simply read everything out loud. This is the basis for the declaration: WHAT I READ, I READ OUT LOUD. If you’re not sure what a declaration is, click on the link below to find out.
What Goes In vs. What Comes Out
When you watch TV or read a book, a lot of information goes into your mind. Usually you are focused on it for a little while, but then the story continues and you store that initial information away.
The question then becomes, can you retrieve that information? If it was memorable, then probably yes. However most of the details, like what someone did or said, will tend to fade away in your memory and you won’t be able to recall it.
This can be a bit of a problem when it comes to learning Japanese. Actually, it’s a huge problem! Speaking and writing a language is all about recall! If you don’t remember how to say something, then you can’t!
However, on the flip side of that coin is that when you CAN recall a word or phrase, then you are able to use it in that moment. And hopefully at any moment after that.
So what’s the point I’m trying to make? The point is that just taking in information is not enough. You must also be able to reproduce that same information. When you read out loud, you reproduce the information immediately. You also hear it when you speak it, so it goes back into you mind a second time.
Pretty cool, huh?!
Listening Skills and Training Your Mouth
One of the things I look for are ways to compound learning. For example, if you listen to a Japanese radio station, then you train your ears. But if you use The Shadowing Technique while listening to that same Japanese radio station, then you train your ears AND your mouth at the same time.
When you read quietly to yourself, you improve your reading and comprehension skills. However, when you read out loud you also improve your speaking and listening skills at the same time.
You see, there is a rhythm to speaking. When you read out loud you naturally try to find the right rhythm for each sentence that you speak. Once you’ve got yourself into that nice rhythm, then you know you’ve got it down.
In order to produce a smooth rhythm while speaking, your mouth has to be familiar with Japanese. There are combinations of sounds in Japanese that are rare in English and you’ve got to train the muscles in your mouth to get used to them. You want your mouth to have muscle memory and reading out loud is a great opportunity to build that.
Also, since Japanese is not your native language (I’m guessing), there will be a tendency to see the Kanji and to only think of their meaning and not their Japanese pronunciation too.
However, when you read out loud it forces you to use the Japanese pronunciation of the word. This will then cause you to think in Japanese. And the more often you can think in Japanese, the better you will understand it!
Emotion – The Fuel of Life
Another great reason to speak out loud when you read is that it is much easier and more natural to add emotion to words when you speak them versus when you just read them.
Why is injecting words and phrases with emotion so important you might ask?
Because emotions make everything come to life! I’m sure you’ve all heard someone talk about a subject in school with no passion or enthusiasm. How was it? Did you enjoy it? No way! It was boring!
Being bored is for sure the opposite of having joy in life. When someone talks about a subject with passion and enthusiasm, you become enthralled! And when you enjoy something, you have a much better time remembering it later.
When you read something happy, feel and speak like you’re happy! When you read something that’s sad, feel and sound sad when you speak it. This will cause both the left (logical) and right (emotional) sides of your brain to get involved in the learning process. Can you say “twice as nice”?
So be sure to add the magic of emotion to the words and phrases that you read out loud.
How to Do It
Here’s a simple way to apply it all:
- Read a sentence quietly in Japanese to get the meaning
- Figure out the rhythm of the sentence and the emotion of the words
- The read it again, this time out loud using emotion to give it life
It might take a little longer at first, but you will understand and remember what you read at a deeper level. Once you’ve gotten pretty good at it, you can probably skip steps 1 & 2 and just read it out loud with a good rhythm and the right emotions.
It’s up to you now! Are you willing to read out loud for a better understanding? Do you think this method can help you to remember more easily?
Leave a comment and let me know!