Learning a new language, especially the Japanese language, doesn’t have to be all work and no play. It doesn’t have to be boring and dry at all! Professionals everywhere agreed that using other forms of media like animation and graphic novels improves motivation for the learner to study the language. What’s more, it adds the cultural and artistic aspects of language learning.
Japan is full of popular culture entertainment that is taking over the world by storm — one of the biggest ones being anime. This Japanese animated media has reached whole new levels of heights in terms of entertainment as well as education. Why not make use of it yourself?
Don’t believe you can use such a fun and leisurely activity for learning Japanese? Well, read on to be convinced — everything from the ways you can use anime for language learning as well as the best ones to get you on your merry way.
How To Use Anime To Learn Japanese?
It’s actually not that hard to use anime to learn Japanese — it’s quite similar to using Netflix for language learning!
The first and foremost tip is to not be too hard on yourself. It’s completely normal to have things you wouldn’t know in the shows. After all, you are still learning the language — it’s only natural to have some gaps in your knowledge and understanding. Take these gaps as learning opportunities instead; rewind and figure out what part was getting you off your game, then look it up.
It’s also good to know that some animes can have quite an unusual language. The way the characters speak in anime might not be like how native Japanese people do. So, if you’re having trouble understanding, chances are it’s not your fault — it’s just the anime and you probably won’t need to know it for conversation, anyway.
Another tip is to have your subtitles on. It’s best to have it on in Japanese so you’re able to test your kanji comprehension ability as well. Don’t worry if you need to switch to English subtitles once in a while — especially when the audio and subtitle doesn’t make sense to you. At least with the English subtitles, you have a chance at deciphering them.
Have a notebook with you, too! Take notes as you watch — whether it is new words or grammar points. You’ll be surprised at how many new things you have at the end of each episode! Be sure to look them up and revise them; if you don’t, it’s pretty pointless.
Last but definitely not least, pick a genre of anime that you enjoy. What’s the point of using an anime to improve your Japanese when the anime doesn’t even interest you? The anime should be a motivator for you, not bore you to death and stress you out even more.
Now that you’ve got the tips on how to use anime to learn Japanese, let’s take a look at the top 5 animes that are best at helping with Japanese learning!
1. Shirokuma Cafe (しろくまカフェ)
At the top of the list is Shirokuma Cafe! This is, without a doubt, one of the most popular anime series to learn Japanese! This anime, made into animation from a manga, is about a few different animals living peacefully with normal humans in the society — they have jobs, use public transportation, wear clothes and makeup, and have their own houses.
Shirokuma Cafe is great for Japanese language learners because the language used in the anime is designed for a younger audience and also has language that is used in everyday conversations in Japan. There are so many learning opportunities in this anime — the characters are really fond of puns and gags that will always have visual accompaniments; the anime has different settings like at work or at home and introduces vocabulary and phrases related to that.
If you’re not convinced by the learning aspects, wouldn’t cutely drawn animals living day-to-day lives be reason enough to binge-watch this show?
2. Tsuritama (つり球)
Tsuritama is an anime with a great mix of action, drama, sports and slice of life — even with a tad bit of sci-fi. What’s not to like about it? The main theme of the anime is about fishing, which brought about four extremely different young guys together. Throughout the series, you’ll follow the adventures of this group of guys conquering bigger problems like moving to a new town, making friends and even saving the fate of the world!
What makes Tsuritama a great anime to learn Japanese is because of its use of simple Japanese language. There’s an introduction to the different levels of politeness, usage of everyday grammar as well as slang and irregular terms. You’ll pick up more than what you can from a Japanese learning textbook! Even though the scenes are wrapped around the fishing theme, situations are explained straightforwardly and relatable for all.
If you’re not sure what genre of anime you like, give Tsuritama a try — it has a mix of different genres in one!
3. Pokemon (ポケモン)
If it didn’t occur to you to try watching Pokemon to help with your Japanese learning, then you ought to get right into it! Most people forget that Pokemon is actually a Japanese production and the original Japanese anime is an amazing series to use to learn Japanese! What’s more, for some of us, we are already familiar with the setting of the Pokemon world — and loved it!
There’s a perfect balance of work, adventure and play in this anime. On top of learning more than three hundred names of the Japanese Pokemon, you’ll also be able to easily comprehend most of what’s being said as the language used in this anime is designed for the youngins — so no big words (maybe stuff like “laboratory” but once you have that drilled in your head, it won’t be any problem).
Who can say no to Pokemon? It’s everyone’s all-time favourite! Be productive while binge-watching the series by using it for your language learning.
4. Detective Conan (名探偵コナン)
Go on mysterious adventures and thrilling quests with the most famous detective in Japan, all while improving your Japanese language ability. One of the most popular and well-loved anime in Japan is Detective Conan. This anime is based on the famous Sherlock Holmes, with one difference: the main character is a high school sleuth.
This anime is great for Japanese-learning beginners as there is quite a focus on vocabulary with repetition, so you’ll be able to remember the new words you heard by the end of the episode. Detective Conan has a mix of formal and informal language, giving you opportunities to practice both levels of conversation.
Don’t worry about running out of material to learn from — there are over 900 episodes to this day, with movies as well as live-action TV shows if you’re really into it.
5. Death Note (デスノート)
Last on the list, but don’t for a second it’s any less than the rest, is Death Note. This is a classic anime in general, language learning or not. This anime follows the story of a teenage genius who stumbles upon a dark notebook that has the power to eliminate anyone who has their name written in it. The teenager uses the notebook for good to change the world and rid it of dangerous and evil people.
Death Note is an anime that is best for intermediate to upper-level Japanese learners as there are bigger vocabulary words including those related to law enforcement and police work. It’s great for those who are looking to learn new kanji as well — just switch on the subtitles!
If you love the storyline, Death Note has a few live-action adaptations — they’re great for language learning too, packed with action scenes and amazing graphics!
Where To Watch Anime?
Now the question is: where can you watch the anime? There are a few websites out there but I would personally recommend Crunchy Roll and Kiss Anime. These two sites are reliable when it comes to anime streaming, especially being up-to-date with the newest anime episodes!
You can even create your own account and save the anime listing in your favourites section so you won’t forget about the other animes you’d like to watch. I have dozens of them already lined up in mine!
Put down your textbooks and exercise books — choose an anime from this list instead to improve your Japanese. It’s without a doubt one of the more effective ways to go about learning Japanese. Put it to the test and try it for yourself!