For the Japanese people in my generation, reading "real English" used to be something from another world for a long time. "Real English" means the one which the native speakers use. We knew all English sentences in our textbooks are not "real", because it was written only for students. And we did not have any access to the "real" English, except Hollywood movies. So, when I visited Canada thirty years ago, I was not sure if I can communicate with the "real" English speakers.
But thing are different now.
When a Japanese teenager takes his or her smartphone out of the pocket, the "real" English is just some taps away. Twitter is full of inspiring stories, jokes, or hoaxes. They are truly "real".
So, for the foreign language learners, I recommend to access those "real" language from the very beginning stage, instead of irrelevant sentences you find in the textbooks.
The easiest way is to search in Instagram. I advised you before to search with the Japanese keywords related to you, such as your nationality or profession to connect with Japanese people. But if you are not ready to connect with them and you are interested only in reading the "Real" Japanese, then, you can use any keywords. Rather, I recommend you to use something you love, even though you are not familiar with, such as names of Japanese towns you find in your favorite Anime.
The reason I recommend Instagram is, as I wrote it before, you can use the photos as visual aids. Even if you don't understand the Japanese sentences written as captions, you can estimate the meaning with the photos.
But, what if you haven't started learning Japanese yet?
No problem. You can use tons of reading assistance.
I will share with you just three examples of them below.
1. Google translationIf you are totally a beginner of Japanese language, I recommend to install the Google Translate extension into your Chrome.
Just highlight and right click the part of the web page you are reading, and you can get the result in another window. You don't have to even copy and paste the text.
The upside of this extension is you can translate a whole sentence, or even a paragraph if it is needed.
2. Google DictionaryThe downside of Google translate is that it opens in a new tab. Sometimes it takes half a second, which is too long in this digital era.
So, if you are looking for much faster extensions, I recommend Google Dictionary.
It opens in a small pop-up. You don't have to wait until a whole new tab opens.
3. RikaikunThe third option is Rikaikun. If you are a FireFox user, the extension is called Rikaichan. But they are basically same.
Once you install this extension, you don't have to even click the word you want to look up. Just place your mouse pointer over the word you want to look up, then you will see the blue pop-up window in which the meaning and pronunciation are displayed.
The upside is its speed. It's amazingly fast, comparing with google translation or Google Dictionary.
The downside of Rikaikun is that you cannot use this tool for any other language. It works only for Japanese language learning.
We, language educators, call these tools PLEs which stands for "Personal Learning Environments".
If you are equipped with these PLEs, you are ready to join in any Japanese groups in Social Media.
In my next post, I will share the simple and proper way to introduce yourself in the Japanese groups.