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A Assessment of Todai Straightforward Japanese Information App


These of us who’re studying Japanese are spoiled at present by the wealth of academic assets out there. Nonetheless, in some unspecified time in the future a pupil has to look past all of the textbooks, apps, and movies, and begin getting publicity to actual Japanese. In any case, is not that why you began finding out within the first place? Nonetheless, understanding the place to look is a bit more sophisticated. For a lot of, this is without doubt one of the first roadblocks they arrive throughout. Discovering materials that’s fascinating sufficient that you simply wish to work together with it, however easy sufficient to nonetheless be understandable isn’t any simple feat! As my very own Japanese has improved, I’ve began to learn books, play video games, watch movies, and work together with extra native materials. Nonetheless, I used to be nonetheless searching for one thing so as to add to my research habits that provided all kinds of various texts, however nonetheless used commonplace grammar and vocab.

That is the place the Todai Straightforward Japanese app is available in. Just like the NHK Internet Straightforward web site, Todai Straightforward Japanese is a web site with an iPhone and Android app that aggregates Japanese information articles from a variety of sources and over various completely different matters, and presents a complete set of instruments to assist learners maximize what they’ve simply learn. On this piece, I will be particularly referring to the Android app, because it’s what I’ve used most, although this must be relevant to each variations of the app. The web site itself is a little more bare-bones.

Along with the articles, Todai Straightforward Japanese has a robust dictionary and grammar useful resource, instruments to observe talking and translation, JLPT observe exams, and enjoyable movies to develop exterior of simply curated information articles. All of those mix to make a really complete app for experiencing Japanese content material, whereas nonetheless giving learners assist once they get caught; although the app just isn’t with out its tough edges.


The principle draw of Todai Straightforward Japanese is in fact the information articles. Not like NHK Internet Straightforward, Todai Straightforward Japanese pulls from quite a lot of completely different information organizations, together with The Asahi Shimbun, CNN, BBC, and Chunichi Shimbun, amongst others. The app has 5 navigational pages on the underside of the display screen, for articles categorized by “simple” and “laborious” issue ranges, the built-in dictionary, a JLPT observe part, and a video participant.

screenshot of todai easy japanese news app

Articles in each the “simple” and “laborious” tabs are proven in the identical means. They show as playing cards, with the headline, the article’s header picture, the supply of the article and date it was revealed, and a small icon to point whether or not or not somebody has submitted a translation but. Alongside the underside row of the cardboard is a bar with completely different colours. These colours point out the problem of the phrases included, as decided by their JLPT stage, displayed in a stacked bar chart. This provides learners a fast and extra nuanced method to decide the problem of an article past the binary “simple” and “laborious” classes. For instance, blue corresponds to N5, inexperienced for N4, yellow for N3, orange for N2, and pink for N1. So an article the place the yellow bar is bigger than the blue bar goes to have extra complicated vocabulary.

Simply above the navigation bar, there’s a button that takes you to a “pocket book” web page. Right here, you may make a brand new “pocket book” (like a folder) to kind a few of the phrases you’ve got come throughout into, for additional research throughout the app within the flashcard instrument. Subsequent to the pocket book button, there’s additionally a button to toggle on and off furigana globally all through the app, although there are alternatives to fine-tune the app’s furigana utilization within the settings.

Alongside the highest of the app, you’ll be able to seek for articles, view the historical past of articles you’ve got learn, toggle between displaying all articles or solely those you’ve got favorited, view the listing of audio you’ve got saved from articles, or entry the settings. Lastly, slightly below that there are filters to point out solely articles on a selected subject or from a selected supply, a button to entry your consumer profile the place you’ll be able to view statistics about your app utilization, and buttons to stick in both a hyperlink or Japanese textual content by itself for Todai Straightforward Japanese to parse utilizing its instruments.

The Article Reader

On condition that studying articles is the first operate of Todai Straightforward Japanese, you’d hope that quite a lot of thought has been put into the article reader, and it has! Whenever you click on on an article, you are taken into the complete textual content. There is a row of various instruments on the high of the web page. These embrace a talking observe part the place you’ll be able to file your self studying the article, a web page itemizing a dictionary entry for all of the phrases used, a spot to submit a translation for every sentence or view different customers’ translations, a button so as to add the article you are studying to your favorites, a button to view your article historical past, and eventually one to entry the settings.

screenshot of todai easy japanese news app article reader

On the backside of the web page right here, there’s two buttons to entry the pocket book and toggle all furigana very similar to on the house web page, in addition to an audio participant that generates audio for the article. Lastly, slightly below the headline there is a button to toggle between utilizing the system default font, or Yu Kyokasho, a standard Japanese font utilized in textbooks. I am going to speak about these instruments in additional element later.

Within the article itself, you are proven the identical header picture or video as on the small card, and slightly below that’s the headline. You will discover straight away that each the headline and the physique of the article make the most of the JLPT highlighting that is proven on the cardboard, placing a small underline beneath phrases within the colour akin to their JLPT stage. As well as, sure phrases are written in orange. These phrases are the vocabulary phrases for a given article, and listed beneath the physique of the article and outlined utilizing a fundamental Japanese to Japanese dictionary entry.

Past these predefined phrases, any phrase or phrase within the article could be highlighted, and a small window will pop up defining what was chosen in both a Japanese to English or Japanese to Japanese dictionary, relying on what you picked within the settings (although both is selectable on this window). These dictionary entries come from Mazii dictionary, which is made by the identical firm that makes Todai Straightforward Japanese. Lastly, beneath the pre-selected vocabulary is an inventory of various grammar factors used within the article, with little icons to point which JLPT stage they correspond to.

In any other case, issues largely work right here as you’d anticipate. When you press play on the backside, a machine-generated voice will learn the article, a characteristic I used to be pleasantly shocked with. When you grow to be utterly stumped on a sentence, highlighting it in its entirety will present a translation once more via Mazii. The app means that you can make lists of all of the unfamiliar phrases you come throughout, and has a flashcard part to assist drill their that means and studying into your thoughts. I appreciated the straightforward copy characteristic to let me make my very own lists exterior of the app, the place I log all new phrases I come throughout no matter supply.

screenshot of todai easy japanese news app audio player

One characteristic I used to be actually impressed with right here is the aforementioned audio participant. Utilizing the playhead on the backside, the app will generate audio for any article, with a big selection of obtainable voices to select from. This works surprisingly properly. In fact, I want this had been precise recorded native audio, however it will be troublesome and costly to create actual audio for each article.

One of many buttons on the high of the web page whereas viewing an article takes you to a talking part. Right here, the article is damaged down sentence by sentence, supplying you with generated audio for every line, after which the flexibility to file your self after which play again these recordings to listen to your personal pronunciation. I’ve discovered recording myself talking to be a vastly useful observe in enhancing my very own pronunciation of Japanese, and ended up spending quite a lot of time utilizing this instrument for any article I learn.

Equally, there is a translation part that means that you can attempt to interpret every sentence into your native language, and verify it in opposition to a machine translation. I discovered this most helpful as a method to confirm my understanding of a sentence extra so than severe observe, however I used it infrequently nonetheless.


screenshot of todai easy japanese news app dictionary

Subsequent is the dictionary operate. Like I discussed earlier, if you spotlight a phrase or phrase, you are given a dictionary entry in both Japanese to English or Japanese to Japanese, relying on what possibility you select to default to within the settings. And for the reason that firm makes its personal dictionary, these entries are actually prime quality. As somebody who nonetheless makes use of a Japanese to English dictionary more often than not, I discovered the Japanese to Japanese dictionary to be very simple to know, and shortly converted to that possibility as one other method to observe.

As you would possibly anticipate, you are not simply restricted to wanting up phrases from the articles, however utilizing the dictionary tab, you’ll be able to lookup any phrase. This works very a lot the identical as most different dictionary apps, with just a few stand out options. For one, the handwriting enter works very well. I’ve all the time struggled to get good outcomes from the handwriting enter, however utilizing the built-in dictionary in Todai Straightforward Japanese, I had no bother discovering every kanji I drew.

Lastly, there is a built-in flashcard instrument that generates flashcards from the phrases you’ve got saved right into a pocket book. These flashcards can be very acquainted to anybody who’s used Anki earlier than. On one aspect, they present the character you’ve got saved, and with a faucet, you’ll be able to flip to point out the definition. After you assessment the cardboard, you’ll be able to press one in all three buttons to price how properly you remembered, which helps kind when to assessment them once more. In fact, that is nowhere close to as versatile or extensible as Anki, nevertheless it’s a pleasant possibility for individuals who wish to preserve issues in a single place, or to assessment solely a handful of phrases particular to articles in an informal means.

Lastly, there’s a picture search possibility. It is a bit uncommon, and never one thing I’ve seen in different dictionary apps. In observe, the outcomes are a bit scattershot. Looking 傘 will get you footage of umbrellas, however looking one thing extra summary just like the expression 日に日に (which suggests “daily”) will largely return footage of textual content that embrace the phrase or just the kanji 日. Prior to now, I’ve often used picture search to assist study the distinction between two related phrases (like 鐘 and 鈴 — each of which get typically translated as “bell,” for instance) and I am certain you can use this in an identical means.

JLPT Examine

I want there was higher integration with the remainder of the app, maybe letting you realize if you’ve come throughout grammar buildings or phrases from a selected stage various occasions, or protecting monitor of the content material you’ve got learn.

The subsequent tab over is a JLPT research part. All 5 JLPT ranges are listed, from N5 to N1, with various completely different exams in every class. These exams are timed, and similar to different JLPT observe exams, with sections matching these on the take a look at. When you’re completed, you’ll be able to press a submit button and get immediately graded.

Moreover, on the backside of this web page, there are buttons that take you to lists displaying numbers for the completely different phrases lined by every JLPT lesson. Right here too you’ll be able to click on to be taken to a dictionary entry for the phrase, or log it to a pocket book or your favorites lists for additional research. It could be cool if these lists counted down as you realized phrases via the flashcard part, however so far as I can inform, they keep the identical, with phrases getting a inexperienced circle subsequent to them on the listing as soon as you’ve got realized them.

General, this part is beneficial, however a little bit misplaced. I want there was higher integration with the remainder of the app, maybe letting you realize if you’ve come throughout grammar buildings or phrases from a selected stage various occasions, or protecting monitor of the content material you’ve got learn. I do not personally wish to sit down and take a observe take a look at for upwards of two hours on my telephone, and located solely restricted utilization in wanting over the lists of phrases from every stage. However maybe if somebody needed to focus most of their research in Todai Straightforward Japanese, this and the flashcard research would assist facilitate that.


screenshot of todai easy japanese news app video player

The ultimate tab is a video participant. Right here, the app curates various movies, primarily music movies, however some fluff viral-esque movies as properly. Whenever you click on on a video, you are taken to a web page with an embedded YouTube video, and the underside of the web page turns into a karaoke-style scroll, highlighting the lyrics or transcript as they’re stated. Once more, it is a bit random for a news-focused app, however I really loved this part greater than I anticipated to. Music is usually a troublesome however rewarding part to review in one other language, and having the lyrics damaged down into phrases could make it simpler to parse what’s stated, particularly since music tends to make use of non sequiturs or unconventional speech.

Clicking one of many traces will bounce to the a part of the video the place it is stated, and there is a small magnifying glass icon which is able to routinely seek for the road within the dictionary part. That is nice in case you’re having bother determining what one thing means, or wish to assessment a line additional.

It is a little bit surprising, however a welcome addition, as I discovered it helped present me one other means the place my expertise carried over, permitting me to know rather more of songs and numerous movies than I might have anticipated. It is a lot simpler for me to know Japanese in writing fairly than spoken proper now, however having the transcript out there helped me parse some in any other case difficult traces in actual, standard songs that I used to be listening to anyhow.

Settings and Paid Consumer Account

Past all of the instruments out there, I actually respect the extent of management provided over how the varied instruments are utilized within the settings. Most of all, I like having the ability to disable furigana and underlining for phrases beneath N3, the extent of content material I am finding out primarily now. This helped me actually hone in on the extent I needed to deal with, and keep away from “dishonest” on the readings of phrases I ought to already know.

I like having a profile the place I can see how a lot time I’ve spent utilizing the app, what number of consecutive days I’ve used it for, and different related information.

There’s just a few different settings of word, permitting you to toggle between gentle and darkish mode, configure the way in which textual content shows with font dimension and spacing, and the default voice for the generated audio (there actually are quite a lot of them!).

Vital to notice is that the app is technically free with advertisements, and has a paid tier starting from $2.99 to $25.99 relying on the size of your subscription that removes advertisements and offers just a few bonus options like the flexibility to learn articles and use the dictionary offline, and to sync between completely different variations of the appliance. I opted to go for a membership, as I did not wish to be distracted by advertisements, however I believe I most likely might have gotten as a lot worth out of the app even with out paying.

I am additionally somebody who responds properly to gamification and information monitoring, so I like having a profile the place I can see how a lot time I’ve spent utilizing the app, what number of consecutive days I’ve used it for, and different related information. These profiles aren’t restricted to the paid model of the app, but when this information is vital to you, you may want to have the ability to sync it throughout units via the paid app.

The Dangerous

In fact, with all the good comes some dangerous, and Todai Straightforward Japanese just isn’t excellent. Principally, it is just a bit tough across the edges. In design and utilization, it is not very smooth or cohesive in the way in which we have come to anticipate with fashionable purposes. It is clear it is not made by an English-native firm, as there are unusual translations right here and there, like with one of many classes of article you’ll be able to filter by listed as “Anatomize” (clicking on this filter would not precisely make it clear what it is making an attempt to convey, both).

The JLPT and video instruments have their upsides, however really feel extra tacked on than cohesively built-in into the remainder of the expertise. Clicking a button could take you to a different part of the app totally, like with the flashcard viewer which is a little bit opaque to find. It may be troublesome to inform “the place” you might be within the app. General, it simply feels prefer it’s making an attempt to do an excessive amount of, fairly than simply deal with the admittedly good news reader.

Conclusion: An Wonderful Information Reader App with Bonus Options

There’s additionally a wealth of various matters lined, so there’s all the time one thing to maintain you studying.

General, Todai Straightforward Japanese is a extremely complete app for locating materials to immerse your self within the Japanese language with. The content material is straightforward sufficient that the majority upper-beginner or intermediate learners will be capable to comprehend what they’re studying, whereas nonetheless being complicated sufficient to stay partaking. Truthfully, I heard about just a few information tales via Todai Straightforward Japanese first, particularly occasions or happenings in numerous Japanese prefectures that did not get worldwide protection. There’s additionally a wealth of various matters lined, so there’s all the time one thing to maintain you studying. I am a giant fan of baseball, and it was cool to have the ability to see how the Japanese press lined Ohtani Shohei’s historic yr, in native reporting, past simply what was being written about him in America.

As an app, it’s a bit hit-or-miss, stuffed to the brim with options you could or could not use, and a little bit untidy general. However I not often felt just like the instruments I did not wish to use bought in my means. It could be simple to critique the surplus if the primary operate was uncared for, however that is not the case right here. The article reader is responsive and really helpful; the remaining to me was only a bonus. With the movies and music, Todai Straightforward Japanese can grow to be one in all your major sources for native Japanese content material throughout a selected stage in your research journey.

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Ian’s Assessment