Japanese Resources

How to Immerse Yourself in Japanese Using Readwise

Jul 26, 2023

Reading is a powerful way to expand your Japanese vocabulary, internalize grammar patterns, conquer kanji, and spot holes in your knowledge. And today's Japanese learner has access to more reading content than ever before: ebooks, blog posts, online news articles, Twitter threads, and on and on.

These digital Japanese resources present many advantages over traditional print materials:

  • The content is usually free (or at least very reasonably priced).
  • You can quickly save content to read later.
  • You can carry a lifetime's worth of reading in your pocket.
  • You can easily search for specific words or phrases.
  • You can highlight text to mark important sections.

But this abundance of diverse, convenient digital reading content can present a few challenges:

  • Overwhelm from too many resources.
  • Forgetting where you saved a given article, PDF, quote, etc.
  • Articles and highlights spread across numerous devices and apps.

Fortunately, the good folks at Readwise have created two elegant ways to save, organize, and review your digital reading content:

  1. Readwise, an app that automatically resurfaces highlights you've saved on Kindle, Instapaper, Pocket, iBooks, and more. Each day, you review the best bits from books and articles you've read via the app or automated email. You can favorite, discard, edit, tag, or share beautifully formatted versions of the quotes, and even use spaced repetition to commit them to memory. You can also manually import quotes from books you've read and connect with with your favorite note-taking tools (e.g. Evernote, Notion, and Roam).
  2. Reader, a powerful read-it-later app that consolidates the functions of multiple apps in one tidy package. With the app and browser extension, you can save and highlight a wide range of digital resources, including online articles, Twitter threads, PDFs, EPUBS, newsletters, YouTube transcripts, and more. You can even highlight directly on the web so you don't have import into Reader first. And best of all, your Reader highlights will are automatically synced with Readwise and will be surfaced within your daily reviews.

So how can Readwise and Reader help you immerse yourself in Japanese? And how can these apps help you master Japanese vocabulary, grammar, kanji, and more?

1) You can save all of your Japanese reading content in one convenient place

Instead of reading and highlighting Japanese content across multiple apps (your browser, a read-it-later app like Instapaper or Pocket, the Kindle or iBooks app, a PDF reader on your computer, etc.), Reader makes it easy to save and read all of these disparate formats in one place. That way, you always know where to look and you have all of your highlights and tags in one convenient, consistent, searchable place.

2) You can highlight, tag, and comment on useful Japanese words, phrases, idioms, etc.

Readwise Reader lets you highlight any text you save in the app or encounter on the web. But the app also gives you the power to add tags and comments to each highlight (in addition to document-wide tags and comments). Use this feature to better organize your highlights, help you find content later with contextual clues not present in the text, and jot down questions to ask your Japanese tutor.

3) You can better understand Japanese YouTube videos by importing the transcript

YouTube is a great place to watch short, entertaining, authentic Japanese content. But with rapid speech and colloquial language, it can sometimes be tough to understand what is being said. The good news is that most YouTube videos now have transcripts. And these transcripts can be saved and read within the Readwise Reader app!

4) You can improve your Japanese listening skills using text-to-speech

Reading may be an important skill, but it rests upon an equally essential language skill: listening. In general, try to listen to any content you read, either before, during, or after you go through the text. This provides more well-rounded language skills and also reveals any false assumptions you may have about how a given character or compound is pronounced.

For example, you may assume that "1日" is pronounced ichi-nichi in a given sentence but discover while listening via text-to-speech that it's actually pronounced tsui-tachi when referring to the first day of the month.

Readwise Reader has excellent text-to-speech (TTS) tools with surprisingly human-like voices. Once you hit play, the active text will be highlighted karaoke-style, which has the added benefit of helping you read faster in Japanese than probably would otherwise.

5) You can use "Ghostreader" to get an AI-generated English summary of a Japanese article

One of the most impressive features in Readwise Reader is an AI (GPT-3) reading assistant they call "Ghostreader." You can use it to create a helpful English summary of your Japanese articles to create context and increase comprehension. You can also ask Ghostreader to simplify the language in article or define any terms you don't know.

As linguist Stephen Krashen argues:

“We acquire language in only one way: when we understand what people say and when we understand what we read”

If you are looking for the best read-it-later app ever created, look no further than Readwise Reader. Here are some useful links to get started:

  1. Sign up for the Reader beta
  2. Install the Reader browser extension (Chrome or Firefox)
  3. Get the Reader app for iOS or Android
  4. Learn the basics of using Reader (e.g. highlighting, keyboard shortcuts, etc.)