With the sudden rise in COVID-19 cases in Japan over the past few weeks, I have once again found myself harvesting news reports for any tidbit that would induce just the right combination of apprehension and relief. My nihongo listening comprehension is not good enough to sit in front of a TV newscast and get what I need, so I try to extract what I can from written online news articles.
My news website of choice is NHK News Web (https://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/). While perhaps not as in-depth as some of the other outlets in Japan, it does have the advantage of being highly repetitive when it comes to word usage. This is especially true of coronavirus reporting, where the editors of some articles appear to simply copy and paste the latest data from their spreadsheets into a ready-made article template. For someone like me who is still acquiring the language, parsing articles in a common, consistent format increases the chance that I will understand the world around me.
A good example is the daily roundup of infection statistics that comes out sometime after midnight each day. The post released this past Sunday morning, covering data from Saturday, November 21, starts out with this gloomy news.
This roughly translates into the following.
It was announced that for [November] 21st, as of right now, 2,596 people were infected across the entire country. It was also announced that there were a total of 12 deaths on that day: 5 in Osaka, 3 in Hokkaido, 1 in Saitama, 1 in Aichi, 1 in Tokyo, and 1 in Kumamoto.
It’s grim stuff, to be sure. But because NHK emits basically the same opening paragraphs every day, I’ve started to glean the basic facts via skimming instead of by plodding through each and every word. Later paragraphs are not as easy, as NHK changes up the supporting content regularly.
Here is a list of some common words that frequently show up in reports about the current pandemic.
- 新型コロナウイルス = novel coronavirus, sometimes abbreviated as コロナ
- 全国 = the whole country (referring to Japan in this case)
- 合わせて = taken all together, good for adding up numerical totals
- 発表 = announcement, often as 発表されています, “has been announced”
- 注意 = caution, warning
- 確認 = confirmation
- 過去最多 = highest ever recorded; the 過去 part means “the past”
- 10歳未満 = under age 10
- 年代別 = by (10-year) age groups, used for age-related charts
- 増加 = increase or growth
- 患者 = (medical) patient
- 無症状者 = a person showing no symptoms
- 軽症者 = person with minor illness
- 重症 = serious illness or symptoms
- 感染者数 = number of infected individuals
- 治療 = medical treatment
- 医療施設 = medical facility
- 入院 = admitted to the hospital
- 退院 = recovered or discharged from the hospital
- 死亡 = deaths
- 拡大防止 = preventing the spread, of the virus in this case
- マスク着用 = wearing a mask
- 自粛 = self-restraint
- 不要不急 = nonessential and non-urgent
If news about the virus is not your study material of choice, NHK covers all kinds of goings-on, and the opening paragraphs frequently offer that same level of straightforward structure that can make reading just a bit easier. The broadcaster also offers NHK News Web EASY, a selection of daily articles written in やさしい日本語 with foreigners and elementary school students in mind.
[Image Credits: イモ之助/photo-ac.com]