It’s already a challenge to learn the first two Japanese writing systems, hiragana and katakana, but almost everyone can agree that kanji is the real killer. There are literally thousands of them in the Japanese language — some of them even look extremely similar to each other with only a stroke to differentiate! — and for those of us who were never exposed to these Chinese characters before, it can be more time consuming than anything else in the Japanese learning journey.
There is a fun way to memorising these killer characters, and that’s through karaoke! This famous form of entertainment, especially in Japan itself, can double as a Japanese language guide by supporting your kanji learning. How, you ask? Read on to discover the learning aspect of karaoke when it comes to the all-challenging kanji.
Karaoke Culture in Japan
There’s no doubt that karaoke (カラオケ) is huge in Japan! It did originate from the Land of the Rising Sun, after all. Pretty much everyone in Japan does karaoke — from the kids in school to the working adults. There’s no age limit to this entertaining activity!
Why do the Japanese love karaoke so much? Well, what’s not to love? It’s pretty much a gathering of friends singing to their hearts’ content into a microphone to their favourite songs. That, in itself, sounds like extreme fun! While it’s more common to see a group of people in a karaoke room, it’s not unusual to have just one person singing alone. It’s such an effective method of stress relief that there’s no shame in screaming into the mic and getting out all that overwhelming emotion!
Karaoke is so greatly loved in Japan that almost every corner has at least one karaoke joint. Big karaoke companies have outlets scattered across the whole country — even in quiet neighbourhoods where you wouldn’t expect to find a karaoke joint.
Why Use Karaoke To Improve Kanji?
There’s a reason why karaoke is extremely enjoyable and stress-relieving, and that’s because it’s so easy and effortless. If it’s such a fun activity, why combine it with something serious like learning? Well, learning can be fun too, depending on the method you’re using to learn. Using karaoke to learn kanji not only improves your kanji ability but it also has various other positive gains!
Immerse in the Japanese culture
Everyone can agree that karaoke is ultimately part of the Japanese culture. “When in Rome, do what the Romans do,” they say. When in Japan, you do karaoke! Not only will regular karaoke help improve your kanji but it will also shed light on the cultural aspect of this activity. At the end of it all, you’ll definitely have a newfound appreciation for this form of entertainment.
Connect with people
While karaoke can be a solo activity, it’s arguable much more fun with a group of people! Karaoke is the bridge that brings people of the same mindset together. With a bunch of other people around, you might even be more motivated to improve your kanji. Sometimes, you can even make new friends through karaoke! This form of entertainment helps you to improve your kanji as well as expands your social circle! That’s killing two birds with one stone!
A fun alternative
Let’s face it — anything is more fun than facing a textbook to study. Who doesn’t like an alternative to the traditional methods of learning? Karaoke is the answer to all your prayers! With this, you get to sing along to your favourite tunes while still picking up a thing or two learning points. So don’t ever feel bad saying yes to a karaoke invite!
How Can Karaoke Help with Kanji?
Now that we got past the reasons to use this activity to improve your kanji, it’s time to look into the technical bits of the method. And that is how karaoke can actually help. It’s all about the combination of visual and listening aspects of learning that we don’t get from sitting down with our textbooks.
In a song, there’s often repetitive words and phrases. During karaoke, there’s a screen that shows the lyrics of the song. With songs that have kanji words in it, sometimes there is also the furigana, which is a Japanese reading aid written in the hiragana characters, on top of it. Because some kanji are bound to be repeated multiple times throughout a song, you’ll end up memorising the right pronunciation of the kanji. That’s because repetition helps our minds to remember things better. And in the future, you wouldn’t even need the furigana anymore!
On top of that, you’ll naturally be able to recognise the kanji outside of the karaoke room. As you’re more exposed to the same kanji over and over again, you’ll end up recognising the strokes and its patterns just by the visuals of the kanji.
Recommended Songs to Karaoke To
There are thousands of Japanese songs out there, how would you know which ones are the best for improving your kanji skills? Most Japanese songs go by the same style and that is repetition. But there are some that are more suited than others, especially with the kanji used in the song. You wouldn’t want to learn a kanji that no one actually uses. You would ideally want to be exposed to kanjis that are used on a daily basis. Here are some recommended songs to karaoke to that will be great for your kanji learning and improvement!
“Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana” by SMAP
One of the all-time bestselling songs in all of Japan is by a boy group called SNAP, and it’s the song called Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana (世界に一つだけの花). Despite being a 2004 release, it’s still extremely popular to this day, especially for karaoke! Because it’s such a big hit, everyone from children to older adults know this tune. The song describes people as flowers and how we have the potential to grow and blossom. Rest assured that the kanji used in these are extremely useful for your Japanese learning.
“Makenaide” by ZARD
What better way to motivate you to improve your kanji at karaoke than to sing along to an uplifting song? Makenaide (負けないで) is by a group called ZARD, and the song title translates to “please don’t lose”. Naturally, it became an anthem for sports, making it the Japanese equivalent of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. With such an upbeat tune and a memorable chorus, it’s definitely a fun karaoke song that features everyday words and kanji for you to pick up!
“Koi Suru Foochun Kukkie” by AKB48
Koi Suru Foochuun Kukkie (恋するフォーチュンクッキー) is an extremely popular Japanese song by the famous girl group AKB48. The beat to this song is super catchy and captivating, you won’t be able to stop dancing to it! The lyrics to this song features well-used kanji that are easy to follow, making it the perfect song to karaoke to while improving your kanji!
Karaoke is definitely the ultimate way to get you pumped up to improve your kanji reading and recognition. At the same time, this form of entertainment is supposed to be enjoyable. Hence, there should be a perfect balance between learning and fun so that you’ll be able to fully benefit from using karaoke as a kanji guide!