I have decided to try something new this week and start a “reading the news in Japanese” challenge.
I will read and translate one news article per day this week, starting today and ending on Sunday. I think that the more often you read the news, the easier it gets. Not only because you improve your reading skills in general, but because you get familiar with a certain vocabulary and know what the main topics of the moment are.
I like reading the site Mainichi.jp, so this is the news website I will choose. To avoid losing time every day in looking for articles worth studying and to be sure to pick a topical issue, I will choose mainly the editorials. As you can see on their website, they usually write two editorials per day so I can choose the topic that interests me the most (or even study both if I am motivated).
I also like the editorials because I find that they are the most interesting articles. The others tend to relate only the new facts concerning this or that topic. The editorials convey opinions and sometimes critics and I like the way they are written.
I might also pick political news, especially the ones concerning the LDP election.
I will read and also loosely translate the articles in French. I will try to translate the whole article to be sure that I understand everything and to force me to look up words or study a particular sentence pattern if there are passages I don’t understand well. But I will not try to make a beautiful translation, I don’t care if the French result looks weird, conveying the meaning is what counts.
I am reading the articles on my iPhone, using the Mainichi app. I don’t know how it works with other devices, but you can use the dictionaries on the iPhone to read easily in Japanese. I have downloaded a Japanese-Japanese one and a Japanese-English one. Also, it is easy to look up words on the Internet or access the Wikipedia page of persons and places.
I will add to Anki the words I want to remember too.
I have started using Tsubame notebooks to take notes while reading the news and I think that I will stick to it. I use the 30 pages A5 format. They are fountain pen friendly and I can usually hold my notes on a page or a double-page. I already finished one notebook that I use to study the news since I don’t do it anymore on my blog. I usually write a summary of the article, some useful words or names of people, and add citations when I find a passage is worth writing down. For this challenge, however, I will certainly use more pages per article as translating it will take more place than usual.
It is very encouraging to finish a notebook, this is why I like the 30 pages format. I also think that it would be nice to have a bunch of these carnets lined up on my shelves. I also think of indexing them to be able to find a topic easily later on.
I will update this post every day to add the article I chose! If you want to do something similar or even work on the same articles, please let me know in the comments!
障害者の不妊手術調査 記録なしでも救済対象に (editorial): A very interesting article on the difficulty to find records concerning the forced sterilisations that took place in name of the Eugenic Protection Law. Only 12% of the victims could be clearly identified because their names were found on official records. The article underlines the necessity to help also the victims whose name does not figure anywhere and shows that it is hard to identify them after so many years.
安倍首相と石破氏の論戦始まる: This is a short article about the speeches and press conference given by Abe and Ishiba. I found this article relatively easy to read. I don’t know what “参院選の合区解消” exactly is (for Ishiba, this is the priority topic) and I couldn’t find information in English (and I was too lazy to read about it in Japanese).
大坂なおみ選手の快挙 さらなる成長が楽しみだ (editorial): An article about Naomi OSAKA’s victory at the US Open. The article is not particularly interesting because it does not bring anything new: it mainly was about the finale and Naomi OSAKA’s reaction to it. The article says she gives a new image of the Japanese: ”人種や言葉の共通性だけではくくれない、新しい日本人像を大坂選手は示している”.
自民総裁選の論戦始まる もっと突っ込みがほしい (editorial): as I didn’t find the article on Naomi OSAKA challenging, I tried this one too. It looks at the two candidates’ speeches and press conference for the LDP election with a critical eye: neither Abe nor Ishiba made a speech powerful enough to attract people’s attention. Both candidates’ propositions lacked concreteness. The author regrets that there is no real political debate that could really go deep in questioning each candidate views and strategies. I can understand the article as a whole but there are some passages difficult to translate because I don’t know what it refers to exactly. For example, one should know a little about the political factions inside the LDP to understand what is meant by ”石破氏の腰が引けているように見えるのは、石破氏を支持する参院竹下派が対立の先鋭化を望んでいないことへの配慮もあるのだろう。” 🤔
北海道で電力不足が長期化 政府の責任で危機管理を (editorial): This article was a little difficult to read in Japanese and I had to do a lot of work on vocabulary (all the words relative to electricity supply were challenging). The article is about the problems of electricity shortage due to the earthquake in Hokkaido. The earthquake damaged the main source of electricity supply of the island: Tomato-Atsuma station. HEPCO (Hokkaido Electric Power Company) said that we still have to wait until the station can work properly. Until then, the population is asked to reduce its consumption, which is a heavy burden on factories that are just starting producing again after the earthquake. I don’t understand the things relative to supply-demand imbalance and why it can lead to a further shortage, but the article does not go deep into these details anyway. The article calls for a distributed generation system which would have prevented such a problem.
The other editorial was about Russia, and I must admit that I am more interested in and more used to reading articles about politics and society than international relations. So I didn’t study it.
安倍政治を問う アベノミクス 勘定を回されるのは誰だ (editorial): There was only one editorial today and it was about Abenomics. Economy is really not my area, I must admit that I lack some basic knowledge to understand articles on Economy in general (no matter the language.)
I really tried to translate this article but I ended up skipping more and more sentences and finally gave up. It was the pattern “I looked up every single word (even the ones I knew, I mean) and I still don’t understand this sentence”…
Still, I think I more or less grasped the essence of the article: Abenomics might have allowed economic growth, but it will have bad results in the end (I don’t understand why or how). It is important to take the opportunity of the election to thoroughly question Abenomics: we must look at the whole picture, including the repercussions in the future and not just look at the present results. Unfortunately, people will start to focus on the negative side effects after the Abe era is over (in three years).
経済、憲法などで舌戦 討論会: I didn’t study the editorials today because I wanted to read an article about the debate Abe-Ishiba that took place this morning. I can’t believe that I watched the debate, understood nothing, read this article, understood most of it without looking up words. There really is a gap between my reading and my listening level. The article is mainly about Abenomics and the Constitution, two points where the candidates disagree.
The article is just reporting what was said during the debate. I am looking forward to reading tomorrow’s editorial which will certainly be about the debate. Articles that convey opinions are more interesting than simple reports, I think.
安倍政治を問う 統治手法 なぜ不都合に向き合わぬ (editorial): This article was not very difficult but it was extremely long. It is by far the most interesting article I have read this week. I thought that today’s editorial would be about the debate Abe-Ishiba that took place yesterday. This is why I was surprised to read a very critical article about Abe only. It starts by saying that Abe’s response to the scandals Moritomo and Kake was not satisfactory. It goes on saying that some people think that Abe is covering up cronyism in both cases. It then gives the results of a recent survey: it shows that a lot of people do not trust or esteem Abe.
The article then says that Abe’s reaction to the scandals looked like an attempt to manage the situation in order to avoid unfavourable documents to be made public. Abe is so anxious to avoid any unfavourable article about him, that he refuses to give interviews to newspapers that would criticise him (like Mainichi). The article says that this attitude amounts to dividing the population into two groups: the ones who support Abe and the ones who are against him. Abe chooses to speak only to the ones who support him, ignoring the opposition and the people behind it. This is not the role of the politicians, who should try to unify rather than divide.
安倍政治を問う 対トランプ政権 懐に入っての成果は何か (editorial): I now understand that today’s editorial and yesterday’s are part of the same series called “安倍政治を問う”. Mainichi reflects on the characteristics of these (almost) 6 years with Abe as Prime Minister.
Today’s editorial is about the relations with the United States and it critics Trump rather than Abe. I think that, even if the article wishes that Abe had spoken more about the future relations between the two countries, it does not critic Abe’s choices and position. The general idea is that Abe did the best he could with the new American President and the different threats he uttered. The article mainly focuses on the military and commercial aspects, two topics where Trump raised justified concern and worries in Japan.
This article was interesting, challenging but not too difficult but a little too long to translate for a one-time study session. Still, I hope they will continue this series, it is a good way to get a panorama of the last few years!