Anime has successfully brought the Japanese language to millions of people around the world who otherwise would have little to no contact with it. While there are roughly 122 million Japanese speakers worldwide, much of this is confined to Japan itself, with Japanese lacking the same reach as many other Asian languages (and indeed other languages from across the globe!)
Anime provides an easy access to the language, as well as great motivation to learn Japanese. The great thing about these distinctive animated productions is that it is a huge industry, with anime for every interest and age group. Just ask those young adults still hooked on Dragon Ball Z: anime is hugely addictive.
Turn your fun anime watching into something more productive. Anime can help you learn and improve your Japanese. Here’s how:
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Develop Your Japanese Listening Skills
The first step is to turn off the English subtitles. This works best if you’re already somewhat familiar with the language and with watching anime. Rather than trying to understand from scratch, switch on the Japanese subtitles (or jimaku) and start linking the sounds to the words. Start by using romaji subtitles – Japanese written in Latin letters. Once you get comfortable, switch to kana, the syllabic Japanese writing system. Check out the video below to see how you can move from English to the meaning in romaji and kana.
Use the Repetition to Practice Pronunciation
Japanese has a very specific rhythm. Anime is a particularly great medium for learning this rhythm, since it is often repetitive in its use of words, allowing you to hear the same patterns repeatedly.
Stop the episode of the anime you’re watching and try to repeat the sounds, imitating the rhythm and pronunciation, without worrying too much about meaning. Even when you aren’t actively practicing the pronunciation, just watching anime and getting familiar with the melody of the speech will help you to immerse yourself in Japanese, and, at the end of the day, improve your Japanese.
Take Advantage of the Animations
Unfortunately you’re not going to just absorb the words you learn as you watch. You need to actively participate in the learning process. This means you need to take note of (literally take notes of) the new words you hear.
Try not to rely on the subtitles for this. It is easy to infer the context and meaning from anime, thanks to the characters’ dramatic facial expressions. Use this to learn the vocabulary in a more memorable way.
To make it easier, pick an anime such as Nichijou (meaning Daily Life), where the context is very easy to deduce and full of useful everyday language.
Mimic Anime’s Informal Conversational Style
If you’re learnt some Japanese formally, you’ve probably already picked up on the big difference between the formal Japanese you learn in a classroom and the informal language you hear spoken in most anime.
This is because Japanese is an honorific language. That means that there are different ways of speaking to various people based on social hierarchy, intimacy, and other factors such as age. Make sure that you understand that the language you hear being used is related to the context. Don’t go repeating the casual slang you may pick up from anime to a Japanese elder!
That being said, being able to understand and speak in a more conversational tone will certainly help your ability to communicate more informally in Japanese. The simplicity and dialogue form of anime means you’ll quickly build up a useful repertoire of conversational Japanese.
Pick an interesting anime series to start with and get learning! It’s a good idea to start with a more basic anime, aimed at children, to ease yourself into Japanese. Some favourites for Japanese learners include Chi’s Sweet Home, Doraemon, Okaasan no Uchi, Sazae-san and Chobits. The most important thing is to pick something you’re interested in, and something that isn’t overly challenging as you build up your confidence in the language.
But remember – watching anime alone won’t teach the grammar and nuances of Japanese. Learning will be easier and quicker if you use anime in conjunction with language lessons. To kickstart your Japanese journey, contact us to find out about the right lesson option for you.