Extensive Reading + Intensive Reading, The Ultimate Combo!

When it comes to learning Japanese through reading text, you may have heard about two opposing ideas that I’ve talked about a bit before. (My LWT Guide). At the risk of repeating myself, here they are:

  • Extensive Reading is reading a lot of text in your target language, at a level that is in your comfort zone, preferably with visual aids. The idea here is the pure volume of your active exposure to the language.
  • Intensive Reading is reading a smaller amount of text, stopping to look up each word that is unknown. Here the idea isn’t volume, but understanding.

These are often seen as opposite methods. Extensive reading says you can learn everything through massive exposure with nothing more being needed, and intensive reading says it’s more important to completely understand one smaller body of text than just some of a large amount. As you might imagine, I’m going to tell you that it’s not one or the other, but both together that are super effective. And as you might also imagine what the solution is… Indeed, Learning With Texts. It can bridge that gap between these two methods, expanding the territory of your Japanese learning. You may have noticed I like to keep it simple, using only the most effective tools in a variety of ways, rather than spread my efforts too thin with too many different programs and methods.

Now most users of LWT may say that it’s primarily an intensive reading tool, designed to look up unknown words as you go. Yes it is, at first. You read text you’ve entered, look up unknown words, and have LWT store your findings for later reference. This is effective intensive reading at its finest. Where its power for extensive reading comes in is when you hit the print button. It’s a little misleading because it’s useful for so much more than making paper copies of your texts.

Without getting into the specific sites I use for materials, suffice to say the most important thing is to be sure it’s all relevant to your interests. For extensive reading, things with visuals such as manga and games are perfect. If you’re just looking at text you don’t understand with no context it isn’t very enjoyable. But for intensive reading, where you’re able to reference anything, websites with news about stuff you like, Wikipedia topics and kids sites with colourful layouts can be a great way to progress in Japanese.

For extensive reading, it’s just as much as possible however possible with no real order on things. With intensive reading, I do have an order that I’ve found to be effective. It’s like this!

  1. Starting fresh on the weekend (whenever that happens to be for you!) I enter text into LWT, usually not too much so that I can reference all unknown words in a single sitting. When I gather more text later, I’ll just add it in the existing entry.
  2. Throughout the week, I enter more text and also review as I go on phone and PC. At this point, I don’t print anything out, since reading it right off the server means it’s up to date.
  3. After the week is over, I export all new terms to Anki (which would have a score of 1 at this point on LWT).
  4. I then give all these exported terms a score of 2 to move them up the ladder, since they’re no longer new terms at this point.
  5. I now make a few printouts of the text. One includes translations and kanji readings, to be left lying around the house for casual review. The other includes only readings, to practice reading without the use of English. I sometimes post these up within sight while doing other things, so I can review “yesterday’s news” at times where I might not otherwise have exposure to Japanese text.
What sort of reading materials do you enjoy the most in Japanese? Let me know in the comments below!

Media Recommendation: Hungry! (Drama)

A drama series about a guy who leaves behind his rock-star dreams to take on the culinary world. Fairly easy to follow even if you don’t know any Japanese at all yet. This series made me realize how much I love the Food genre for J-Dramas, and how it doesn’t really exist specifically in English. Another interesting part of Japanese pop culture!

2 Responses to “Extensive Reading + Intensive Reading, The Ultimate Combo!”
Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] reading for pleasure) and deepening your knowledge of words and structures you already know. But you should also try to balance that with some intensive reading of materials that are challenging but not so much that you get […]

  2. […] it can be tricky, when reading, to figure out how these syllables combine to form words. Often when intensively reading something, you will find three or four new words all in a row. But are they four new words, or two […]

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  • Read More or Die! 2011

    _2011 End Results_
    Total read for Tadoku:
    __433.3 pages!__
    Placement: 115/188
    October 2011 Contest:
    Placement: 97/120
    End Tally: 59.2
    July 2011 Contest:
    Placement: 86/142
    End Tally: 195.6
    April 2011 Contest:
    Placement: 62/106
    End Tally: 154.5
    January 2011 Contest:
    Placement: 84/99
    End Tally: 24
    August 2010 Contest:
    Placement: 20/41
    End Tally: 160

  • Read Or Die 2013

    Goal: 600
    Total: 906.26
    blew my goal outta the water!

    March 2-Week:
    Goal: 125

    Goal: 250
    Total: 314

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