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Is anime an excellent place to start studying Japanese? Can anime be used as a tool for learning the language?
If you’ve ever studied Japanese, either by enrolling in a class or with some self-study book, chances are you were advised to avoid watching Japanese movies and TV shows.
Many textbooks will tell you that if you watch too much anime, you’ll lose the ability to speak proper Japanese.
But why is that? And what about anime made for young kids? Can they be helpful? Should they be used to study beginning Japanese? Let’s find out.
3 Main Reasons why you can’t learn Japanese from Anime
#1. Anime is not a typical Japanese lesson
Anime doesn’t have the same structure as a regular class. In most cases, you don’t have a teacher addressing his students with clear explanations on how certain things work; in fact, there are no explanations at all!
Watching anime won’t teach you much about grammar or using specific words, as the narration is fragmented and based on visual representation.
In this sense, anime can help you learn Japanese by ear, as it will improve your listening skills, making you understand Japanese dialogues more easily than before.
But if you want to master the language and truly understand all the hidden messages in an anime, you’ll have to study on your own.
#2. Anime won’t teach you how to write the language
Even if anime is very useful for listening comprehension, it won’t help with Kanji (Chinese characters used in Japanese writing). It may be fun, but there are no subtitles available, nor will they be added to the show anytime soon.
So you won’t learn Kanji from anime, but there are plenty of other ways to do so if you want to master written Japanese.
Why not try reading some manga comics?
The stories are shorter, the sentences are more straightforward, and the illustrations will help you understand what’s happening in the story. It’s a good way of learning new words and building your vocabulary.
#3. Anime can be fun, but use it for the right reasons
Anime is a great tool to listen to Japanese dialogues or even sing along with them!
But don’t make studying the language your only reason for watching anime. The distractions are endless!
Anime has become very popular in Japan, and the shows you’ll find won’t really help you learn a new language unless they were made for that specific purpose.
In this case, studying anime is excellent! You’ll have plenty of example sentences that you can use to build your own sentences and try to manipulate them yourself.
Conversely, if an anime does not teach Japanese through dialogue, don’t expect to learn much from it.
Anime can be a lot of fun! But you won’t learn Japanese by watching it.
If studying the language is your primary goal, try to find anime episodes with subtitles in English.
This way, you will avoid any distractions that may lead you astray and accomplish your study goals. And if you want to improve your listening skills, use anime as a supplementary tool, like it was meant to be.
Is there an anime that teaches you Japanese?
Doraemon was created with children and aimed to teach them the most basic Japanese words and phrases. The anime’s characters speak in Tokyo dialect, so learning this type of speech will help you familiarize yourself with informal Japanese.
Other titles will teach you Japanese too:
- Yondemasuyo, Azazel-san: this anime teaches you Japanese slang. The episodes are full of jokes, and the dialogue is very informal, making it easy to learn new expressions.
- Seiyu’s Life! : this show is about voice actors and actresses learning how to do their job. It brings you behind the scenes in an anime studio and features small dialogues between staff members. You won’t remember much, but it is fascinating to watch!
- Bakemonogatari: this anime is exciting to watch because of its animation style. Each episode has a different plot, and the conversations are simple but effective. The show teaches you about Japanese word order, and you’ll find some new vocabulary too.
- The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya: this is an exciting anime filled with many dialogues that will help you improve your level. You can get a lot out of listening to the characters’ conversations, as their tones vary depending on the subject.
- Steins; Gate: this science fiction anime is full of little details that make it enjoyable to watch, but you can also get great lessons out of it. Some episodes are pretty long and feature everyday conversations between the characters, making it easy for you to understand what’s going on.
How long does it take to learn Japanese from anime?
It’s a question I get asked regularly, so here’s my answer. This article is written for someone with little to no exposure to Japanese. It assumes that you live in (or are willing to move to) Japan and that you will learn through immersion (e.g., at school or work).
The best time frame depends on your level, but it is possible to become fluent in as little as 3-4 years. This assumes that you watch anime for at least 30 minutes a day and study Japanese for an hour a day.
3-4 Years seems like a long time? I can learn Spanish in 6 weeks! Sure, in 6 weeks, you can pick up a reasonable level in a language. But the keyword in that sentence is “pick up.”
You will be able to ask where things are and order food, but not much more. Even after half a year, you won’t have much through long-term memory, and your usage will still be minimal.
Japanese is one of the most challenging languages for an English speaker to learn.
It is not because grammar rules have no parallel in English or cases that don’t exist in English or other things people incorrectly think make it hard.
Japanese is so hard because of the lack of cognates, similar to English, and identical meanings. Because of this lack, you spend a lot of time looking up words in the dictionary.
How can I learn Japanese fast?
Basics first: When trying to learn Japanese fast, you should understand why it’s so hard. Despite being one of the more accessible languages for English speakers to pick up, Japanese is still a harsh language to learn with straightforward grammar and pronunciation.
So, if you’re planning to learn Japanese, you should always keep in mind that it can’t be compared with most European languages (especially not the ones based on the Latin alphabet).
Even though there are some similarities between English and Japanese, they are still far from the same. And if you hope to learn Japanese fast, you will need a lot of patience since it’s one of those very rare languages that according to some have no fast track whatsoever.
Learning Hiragana and Katakana can easily take months or even years for a beginner with a regular pace of study. And that’s just the beginning.
However, there are some ways to learn Japanese fast, at least a bit, and we’ll go through all of them below.
1) Find some Youtube channels that teach Japanese.
There are some great channels out there that can teach you basic Japanese in very little time. Some examples would be:
And so on and so forth. Just find one that works for you. There are a lot out there, and they would all be more than happy to help you learn as much as humanly possible about their language in very little time.
2) Take Private Lessons on Fiver.
This is a more expensive option, but it’s still very cheap. And if you need to learn Japanese fast anyway, this might be the best choice for you.
Many teachers on Fiver offer their classes for only $20 per hour (or something in that area), so we recommend going this route if your budget allows you to do so.
3) Use Memrise instead of Lingodeer after you learn Hiragana and Katakana.
Lingodeer is an excellent app that teaches Japanese using games, making it a lot more fun, but there are some problems with it since the ads never seem to disappear, and they might start distracting you from learning.
So if you want to avoid that, we recommend you switch to Memrise instead.
It might not be as much fun, but it’s still very efficient.
4) Read manga in Japanese.
An alternative for learning Japanese fast is reading manga. Even though Kanji has some challenging parts here and there, most things are written in kana, which is much easier to understand.
Also, most manga texts are straightforward, so this should help you learn Japanese fast anyway.
5) Join a community of other learners and discuss everything related to learning Japanese.
This might sound like an odd way of learning, but we believe it’s still very efficient.
There are many communities out there on Reddit, Facebook, and so forth that allow you to discuss with other learners about their ways of learning Japanese fast, or even grammar structure in general.
We feel this is one of the best ways to learn Japanese fast (and it’s also a lot of fun).
6) Stop studying when you start feeling frustrated.
No language can be learned without some frustration since that is a natural part of the process.
However, that frustration should never come with anger or regret. Negative feelings will only make it harder for you to learn Japanese, so if your motivation starts slipping away, just take a break and start studying again when you feel better.
7) Flight to Japan.
This doesn’t sound like an efficient way of learning Japanese fast, but there is some truth.
The best way of mastering any language is immersing yourself in the culture, and nothing can beat living in a country where they speak said language.
So if you have the opportunity to go to Japan for whatever reason, we recommend you do so.