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A Assessment of Todai Simple Japanese Information App

These of us who’re studying Japanese are spoiled immediately by the wealth of instructional sources accessible. Nevertheless, sooner or later a scholar has to look past all of the textbooks, apps, and movies, and begin getting publicity to actual Japanese. In spite of everything, is not that why you began finding out within the first place? Nevertheless, figuring out the place to look is a bit more difficult. For a lot of, this is among the first roadblocks they arrive throughout. Discovering materials that’s attention-grabbing sufficient that you simply wish to work together with it, however easy sufficient to nonetheless be understandable isn’t any straightforward 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. Nevertheless, I used to be nonetheless on the lookout for one thing so as to add to my research habits that supplied all kinds of various texts, however nonetheless used customary grammar and vocab.

That is the place the Todai Simple Japanese app is available in. Much like the NHK Internet Simple web site, Todai Simple Japanese is an internet site with an iPhone and Android app that aggregates Japanese information articles from a variety of sources and over plenty of completely different subjects, 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 Simple Japanese has a strong dictionary and grammar useful resource, instruments to observe talking and translation, JLPT observe exams, and enjoyable movies to broaden outdoors 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 after they get caught; although the app shouldn’t be with out its tough edges.


The primary draw of Todai Simple Japanese is in fact the information articles. In contrast to NHK Internet Simple, Todai Simple 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 “straightforward” and “laborious” problem ranges, the built-in dictionary, a JLPT observe part, and a video participant.

screenshot of todai easy japanese news app

Articles in each the “straightforward” and “laborious” tabs are proven in the identical manner. They show as playing cards, with the headline, the article’s header picture, the supply of the article and date it was printed, 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 degree, displayed in a stacked bar chart. This offers learners a fast and extra nuanced method to decide the problem of an article past the binary “straightforward” and “laborious” classes. For instance, blue corresponds to N5, inexperienced for N4, yellow for N3, orange for N2, and purple for N1. So an article the place the yellow bar is bigger than the blue bar goes to have extra advanced vocabulary.

Simply above the navigation bar, there’s a button that takes you to a “pocket book” web page. Right here, you can also make a brand new “pocket book” (like a folder) to kind a number of the phrases you’ve got come throughout into, for additional research inside the app within the flashcard software. 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 record of audio you’ve got saved from articles, or entry the settings. Lastly, just under that there are filters to point out solely articles on a particular subject or from a particular supply, a button to entry your person 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 Simple Japanese to parse utilizing its instruments.

The Article Reader

Provided that studying articles is the first operate of Todai Simple Japanese, you’d hope that a whole lot of thought has been put into the article reader, and it has! If 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 at last 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, just under the headline there is a button to toggle between utilizing the system default font, or Yu Kyokasho, a typical 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 just under that’s the headline. You will discover instantly 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 coloration similar to their JLPT degree. 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 primary 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 Simple Japanese. Lastly, beneath the pre-selected vocabulary is a listing of various grammar factors used within the article, with little icons to point which JLPT degree they correspond to.

In any other case, issues largely work right here as you’d anticipate. In case you press play on the backside, a machine-generated voice will learn the article, a characteristic I used to be pleasantly shocked with. In case you develop into fully stumped on a sentence, highlighting it in its entirety will present a translation once more by Mazii. The app lets you make lists of all of the unfamiliar phrases you come throughout, and has a flashcard part to assist drill their which means and studying into your thoughts. I appreciated the straightforward copy characteristic to let me make my very own lists outdoors 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 effectively. In fact, I want this have been precise recorded native audio, however it could 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, providing you with generated audio for every line, after which the power to file your self after which play again these recordings to listen to your individual pronunciation. I’ve discovered recording myself talking to be a vastly worthwhile observe in bettering my very own pronunciation of Japanese, and ended up spending a whole lot of time utilizing this software for any article I learn.

Equally, there is a translation part that lets you try to interpret every sentence into your native language, and examine 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 critical observe, however I used it now and again nonetheless.


screenshot of todai easy japanese news app dictionary

Subsequent is the dictionary operate. Like I discussed earlier, while you spotlight a phrase or phrase, you are given a dictionary entry in both Japanese to English or Japanese to Japanese, relying on what choice 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 straightforward to know, and shortly converted to that choice 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 a couple of stand out options. For one, the handwriting enter works very well. I’ve at all times struggled to get good outcomes from the Jisho.org handwriting enter, however utilizing the built-in dictionary in Todai Simple Japanese, I had no bother discovering every kanji I drew.

Lastly, there is a built-in flashcard software that generates flashcards from the phrases you’ve got saved right into a pocket book. These flashcards will likely be very acquainted to anybody who’s used Anki earlier than. On one facet, 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 evaluate the cardboard, you’ll be able to press one in all three buttons to price how effectively you remembered, which helps kind when to evaluate them once more. In fact, that is nowhere close to as versatile or extensible as Anki, but it surely’s a pleasant choice for individuals who wish to hold issues in a single place, or to evaluate solely a handful of phrases particular to articles in an informal manner.

Lastly, there’s a picture search choice. 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 out 傘 will get you footage of umbrellas, however looking one thing extra summary just like the expression 日に日に (which implies “day-to-day”) will largely return footage of textual content that embrace the phrase or just the kanji 日. Previously, I’ve often used picture search to assist study the distinction between two comparable phrases (like 鐘 and 鈴 — each of which get typically translated as “bell,” for instance) and I am positive you may use this in an analogous manner.

JLPT Research

I want there was higher integration with the remainder of the app, maybe letting you realize while you’ve come throughout grammar constructions or phrases from a particular degree plenty of instances, or retaining observe of the content material you’ve got learn.

The following tab over is a JLPT research part. All 5 JLPT ranges are listed, from N5 to N1, with plenty of completely different exams in every class. These exams are timed, and similar to different JLPT observe exams, with sections matching these on the check. 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 coated 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 will be cool if these lists counted down as you realized phrases by 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 record as soon as you’ve got realized them.

General, this part is beneficial, however a bit misplaced. I want there was higher integration with the remainder of the app, maybe letting you realize while you’ve come throughout grammar constructions or phrases from a particular degree plenty of instances, or retaining observe of the content material you’ve got learn. I do not personally wish to sit down and take a observe check for upwards of two hours on my telephone, and located solely restricted utilization in wanting over the lists of phrases from every degree. However maybe if somebody wished to focus most of their research in Todai Simple 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 plenty of movies, primarily music movies, however some fluff viral-esque movies as effectively. If 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 mentioned. Once more, it is a bit random for a news-focused app, however I really loved this part greater than I anticipated to. Music generally is a troublesome however rewarding part to check in one other language, and having the lyrics damaged down into phrases could make it simpler to parse what’s mentioned, particularly since music tends to make use of non sequiturs or unconventional speech.

Clicking one of many traces will soar to the a part of the video the place it is mentioned, and there is a small magnifying glass icon which can robotically seek for the road within the dictionary part. That is nice in the event you’re having bother determining what one thing means, or wish to evaluate a line additional.

It is a bit sudden, however a welcome addition, as I discovered it helped present me one other manner the place my abilities carried over, permitting me to know far more of songs and varied movies than I’d have anticipated. It is a lot simpler for me to know Japanese in writing relatively than spoken proper now, however having the transcript accessible helped me parse some in any other case tough traces in actual, in style songs that I used to be listening to in any case.

Settings and Paid Person Account

Past all of the instruments accessible, I actually respect the extent of management supplied over how the varied instruments are utilized within the settings. Most of all, I like with 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 wished to concentrate on, 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 comparable knowledge.

There’s a couple of different settings of word, permitting you to toggle between gentle and darkish mode, configure the way in which textual content shows with font measurement and spacing, and the default voice for the generated audio (there actually are a whole 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 provides a couple of bonus options like the power 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 in all probability may have gotten as a lot worth out of the app even with out paying.

I am additionally somebody who responds effectively to gamification and knowledge 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 comparable knowledge. These profiles aren’t restricted to the paid model of the app, but when this knowledge is necessary to you, you may want to have the ability to sync it throughout units by the paid app.

The Dangerous

In fact, with the entire good comes some unhealthy, and Todai Simple Japanese shouldn’t be good. Largely, 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 attempting 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 might take you to a different part of the app completely, like with the flashcard viewer which is a bit opaque to find. It may be troublesome to inform “the place” you’re within the app. General, it simply feels prefer it’s attempting to do an excessive amount of, relatively than simply concentrate on the admittedly good news reader.

Conclusion: An Glorious Information Reader App with Bonus Options

There’s additionally a wealth of various subjects coated, so there’s at all times one thing to maintain you studying.

General, Todai Simple 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 advanced sufficient to stay partaking. Actually, I heard about a couple of information tales by Todai Simple Japanese first, particularly occasions or happenings in varied Japanese prefectures that did not get worldwide protection. There’s additionally a wealth of various subjects coated, so there’s at all times 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 coated Ohtani Shohei’s historic 12 months, 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 might or might not use, and a bit untidy general. However I hardly ever felt just like the instruments I did not wish to use received in my manner. It will be straightforward to critique the surplus if the principle operate was uncared for, however that is not the case right here. The article reader is responsive and actually helpful; the remaining to me was only a bonus. With the movies and music, Todai Simple Japanese can develop into one in all your main sources for native Japanese content material throughout a particular stage in your research journey.

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Ian’s Assessment