When you get to a certain point in your Japanese studies, you’ll begin to look towards authentic material to aide your progress. Not only is it a fun alternative to the standardized textbooks, you get a glimpse into the culture and thought process of native speakers.
At the same time, you don’t want to jump into to your local Hikone newspaper and undoubtedly be discouraged by the sheer amount of Kanji.
That being said, what sorts of material should you use to help your studies? This quick list may give you some suggestions on what you could be using.
Children’s Books & Manga
Children’s books are a great resource for any level learner and can aide you in numerous ways. Since these books are designed for children, the vocabulary and grammar used is not too hard, but not easy enough to simply breeze through. It’s a healthy medium in which you can learn about some of the cultural themes expressed through the literature as well as some tango (vocabulary) you may not have known.
If you’re feeling drained reading books meant for 5 year olds all day, as a substitute try reading your favorite manga (Japanese comic book). The pictures included help guide the story in case you don’t understand everything. Assuming your manga of choice is one you’re familiar with, following the plot shouldn’t be an issue either.
I recently started playing through the newly released Pokémon Sword on my Nintendo Switch. It has options for kanji text or simply hiragana. Although it’s a slow, note filled process, playing through on one my all time favorite series in another language is a fulfilling activity.
Other games I’d recommend you try out are the Persona games, Earthbound, and any other text-heavy RPG.
Anime (Japanese cartoons) and reality TV shows give you unfiltered, native speed Japanese to help your listening skills.
The drawback to anime in particular is that the Japanese used may not always be conversational or grammatically ‘correct’. For example, a character in One Piece or Naruto may have a catch phrase that might garner some stares if said in normal conversation. As such, this method isn’t recommended for you if you’re a beginner as you may pick up bad habits.
My suggestion is to watch with Japanese subtitles, allowing you to read and process what you hear. Netflix’s Terrace House and other original Japanese-Netflix series have the option for both Japanese audio and captions.
I hope you’ve been able to expand your approach to language learning and realize that the experience is what you make it. Take it slow and have fun! がんばってくだい (ganbatte kudasai)! Do your best!