Hello and Happy New Year! I hope 2017 will be a great year for all 🙂
Today’s post is the first of a new series called ‘Appy Mondays, where I will be reviewing some of the many Japanese language learning applications that are about. This series will focus on apps available on Android as I currently only own Android devices at present. I am also all about free or low cost apps whenever possible, and the cost will be factored in to all reviews.
First up is NHK News Reader (AOVILL team, free)
This app provides access to the latest NHK articles, with additional functions suited for Japanese language learners. Articles are split by topic, but the main landing page will always show the main headlines. Each article has option to show furigana above kanji, and each comes with an accompanying video showing the corresponding item as read on Japanese TV, which is generally identical to the text (the text differs sometimes when people are interviewed and their speech has been paraphrased). As these videos are from Japanese TV the speed is at natural speed (ie. fast), so it is good for testing your real world Japanese comprehension. Article lengths do vary but the articles are for the most part not too long, and are best suited for a 15-30 minute reading session.
The option for furigana is always helpful for learners, but there is no integrated dictionary within the app. This would not be much of a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that the app does tend to freeze. I found that this always happened when I tried to switch apps to look a word up in the dictionary whilst in the middle of reading an article, the app screen would go blank when I returned to the app. This is a shame because unless you have a physical dictionary to hand, you would of course be switching apps frequently. I often use my journey to work for studying Japanese for example and so this app would not be suitable for using on the commute. Your device has to be connected to the internet to use the app, which makes sense as there are integrated videos, but it would have been nice to have the option to view the articles themselves offline.
I should say that the app is free, but there is a paid version for £3.99. However looking at the reviews for the paid version, the extra cost does not add functionality that I would be expecting, namely the ability to view articles offline and an integrated dictionary. Overall, as a free app it may be worth trying out if you are around JLPT N2 level and looking for authentic news articles and video to work on your newspaper reading comprehension. It is a decent free app, but I could not recommend it or its paid upgrade app as an essential resource for intermediate/ advanced learners with the bugs it currently has.
Rating: 3/5 stars
Update: if you are interested in other reading apps, I recommend TangoRisto – which is free and improves upon a lot of the issues I had with this app!