How To Learn Japanese with Anime (Yes, it can be done.)

by Anime Garden
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How To Learn Japanese with Anime (Yes, it can be done.)

Learning a new language takes major time—and a fair amount of stress.

There’s another problem, too. Flashcards, quizzes, online tests, and writing out the same words over and over again—it all gets boring eventually.

The trick to keeping yourself motivated to learn that language is threefold:

  1. Have a reason for learning the language
  2. Make time every single day to learn
  3. Find ways to make learning the language fun

Only you know if you’ve got a good enough reason for learning Japanese. But when it comes to the second and third keys to successfully learning a language—today’s format has you covered.

When new learners want to learn Japanese with anime, it’s easy to hit both these components: you’re making time to watch anime every day anyway, and it is 100% for fun already. Done!

If you’ve struggled to learn Japanese in the past—at school, in online classes, or just teaching yourself—finding a way to learn Japanese with anime might be the method that changes the game.

In this article, there are three factors to break down in the learning process.

First up: exploring the Japanese language.

Then: unpacking the tips and tricks to learn Japanese with anime.

Finally: discovering what kinds of anime are best when you’re trying to learn Japanese.

So how do you learn Japanese with anime? You read this guide! Let’s get started.

Japanese Language 101

Japanese is a difficult language to learn because of the writing system. Japanese writing is a combination of kanji, a variation on Chinese, kana, Latin script, and Arabic numerals. Phew.

For people planning on conversing in public, studying, or doing business in Japan, a formal, polite version of the language is spoken. Anime, on the other hand, uses a lot of slang and informal language—very different from how you would speak to your landlord, teachers, or boss.

In simple terms, as you go through the language learning journey, it’s important that you balance your anime teachings with some formal study. Unless you’re only learning Japanese in order to watch a wider library of anime. If that’s the case, please continue…

How To Learn Japanese with Anime: Step by Step

Japanese culture is pretty special. And it still preserves a lot of its historical traditions. Now, though, these traditions work alongside pop culture, making anime one of Japan’s most beloved international exports. Here’s how to use anime to learn Japanese.

Step 1. Study the subtitles

You might already be doing this part. A lot of language learning is done through osmosis—picking it up from our surroundings. It’s how babies learn to talk.

The trick here is to form links between the subtitles and the on-screen context. What words are used repeatedly in the subtitles—and how do they correspond with what the character is actually saying? Learning these links will help you to develop a vocabulary of Japanese words.

Step 2. Ditch the subtitles

The human brain will go with the easy option 99% of the time. When you remove the subtitles (it’s really easy to do on almost every major streaming platform) your brain is forced to listen to the words your characters are saying. This gives you a great opportunity to imitate the characters as they talk, and learn how to form the right sounds in Japanese. Many Japanese words use different sound techniques than English—there are rolled Rs, soft J/Z blends, and various inflections you can only learn through imitation.

Pro tip: Be sure you’re not just imitating one character. It can be difficult to tell if the character sounds “normal” for a Japanese person, or if the voice they use is intentionally creepy, weird, disturbed…you get the picture. By imitating several characters, you get a more well-rounded idea of how a word should be pronounced.

Step 3. Turn on Japanese subtitles

No, really. Alternating between steps 1, 2, and 3 will give you the widest exposure to the Japanese language. If you want to learn Japanese with anime, this is a vital step. As you become more comfortable with the language, using Japanese subtitles allows you to become comfortable with the characters used in Japanese writing.

Step 4. Get a Japanese to English dictionary

And write in it. When you come across a Japanese word that you think you know, test yourself. Say the word out loud. Then imagine how it would be spelled. Look it up in your dictionary, highlight it (or underline it) and move on. This level of focus and repetition works for any new skill we want to learn—and helps the topic sink deeper into our mind bank.

The Best Anime for Learning Japanese

Figuring out what to watch to help you learn Japanese with anime is simple: watch what you already watch. This way, you’re familiar with the storyline, the character voices, and you can more easily place certain words or phrases in context.

Generally speaking, all anime can help you uncover a little more about the Japanese language, although some categories are more helpful than others. The more conversation is involved in your chosen anime, the better you’ll be able to pick up the vocabulary and sentence structure.

On the other hand, anime like Angel’s Egg and Cencoroll have no dialogue, so they won’t help you learn Japanese with anime at all.

Where To Find Good Anime

There are a lot of platforms that offer paid or free anime streaming. Some of the most popular are:

  • Crunchyroll: This US based company streams paid and free Asian media content—anime, manga, Kpop, etc.
  • AnimeLab: Exclusive to the Pacific, this offers much the same type of content as Crunchyroll, with an ad-based service for free members.
  • Funimation: A global company that is currently one of the biggest anime distributors in the US.
  • Finally, you have Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu—all of which are adding more anime to their catalogues to cater to audience demand.

Ready to learn Japanese with anime? Comment below and tell us what you’re watching!

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