Music is a form of entertainment, but it can also be a language learning tool. Yes, that’s right — a tool for learning languages. Focus on fun rather than formal ways of studying. Switch your Japanese flashcards with some J-pop music downloaded on your phone. These J-pop artists singing harmoniously into your ears is a definite way of boosting your Japanese language ability.
Don’t believe us? Read on and your doubts will all be resolved!
What is J-Pop?
J-pop is short for Japanese pop. Natively, it’s known as simply pop. J-pop is a music genre that is considered the musical mainstream in Japan. It’s an essential part of the Japanese culture as well as a lot of other people all around the world.
While the music of Japan has been around for centuries, J-pop only entered the scene in the 1990s. Even though it was influenced by Western culture and artists like The Beatles, today’s J-pop doesn’t resemble its original influence at all. J-pop has morphed into something quite unique and special. No other genre can quite resemble the essence of Japanese pop — be it in the sense of tune or aesthetics.
Music’s Influence in Japan
Japan is all about their music. A day out in the country brings about konbini (コンビニ) tunes, restaurant playlists and even chimes before the shut of the train doors. It’s safe to say that music takes up an enormous part of the Japanese people’s life. It is in their culture, after all.
There is much evidence to support this claim, but there’s one major one that no one can deny: karaoke (カラオケ). Japan has had a massive karaoke market — ever since the 1970s. The Japanese cannot resist the urge to sing their hearts out into a mic in front of a screen with lyrics. It just goes to show that music isn’t only significant to music artists, but generally the whole mainstream population.
Why Should I Use J-Pop to Boost My Japanese Ability?
Isn’t it already a given? Music is fun! Take advantage of this form of entertainment as a means to learn and boost your Japanese ability. Why pick the traditional method of book and pencil to practice Japanese when you can have a poppy, upbeat Japanese tunes to guide you to better understanding the language!
Don’t you think it’s easier to memorise a lyric than a vocabulary word? Well, if a vocabulary word is in a J-pop song, you’ll memorise it in no time! That’s because J-pop songs are made to be easily comprehensible for everyone, locals and non-locals alike. The lyrics are never too complicated to understand or decipher. Plus, there’s always English translations readily available for your reference.
On top of it all, J-pop introduces slang and casual language — stuff that doesn’t often appear in Japanese textbooks! This is especially great for Japanese language learners because you would want to be able to hold a conversation in Japanese naturally rather than rigidly.
Ways that J-Pop Boost Your Japanese Ability
If you’re thinking there’s no way something as enjoyable as J-pop can be of help to your Japanese language learning, you’re wrong. And we’re here to prove that it can! Here are some ways J-pop boost your Japanese ability:
When learning a language, the best way to remember it is to do it over and over again until it’s stuck in your head. From reading and writing to speaking and listening, this method works for all.
J-pop automatically does the repetition for you. Pre-choruses and choruses often repeated multiple times in a song. Sometimes, a single word is repeated throughout! By the end of it, you’ll be able to sing along the next time without having any referencing.
Whether it is singing along to the lyrics on the screen during karaoke or following the words of a web search of the lyrics to a J-pop song, this definitely triggers your Japanese reading abilities. Even if a kanji (漢字, which are Chinese characters that appear in Japanese text) pops up, there’s almost always furigana (ふりがな) that comes to the rescue, which is the hiragana pronunciation for the character. J-pop songs act as a reading practice in disguise!
On top of it all, because you’ll be exposed to the same kanji over and over again, you’ll be able to recognise it far more easily in the future!
It’s a given that you listen to a tune, but when you listen to J-pop, you’re subconsciously practicing your listening skills of Japanese. After a few repeats of the same song or a whole playlist of J-pop, you’re bound to pick up the essence of the lyrics.
A textbook can’t teach you exactly how to pronounce certain words, but J-pop songs can. Singing along to a J-pop tune is bound to improve your Japanese speech and pronunciation. As you’re more exposed to the sounds of the Japanese language, you’ll have a good sense of how Japanese words sound like, as well as any future ones you may learn.
More often than not, J-pop songs use metaphors in their songs. It’s a way of flowering their lyrics — it can get silly at times.
Nonetheless, these metaphors are great learning tools to bump up your Japanese language skills another level or two. For example, a line “umi ga oshaberi wo yameru” (海がおしゃべりをやめる) literally translates to “the sea stops talking.” But when you decipher it, it actually means “the sea waves are silenced.”
Just like how phrases in the English language levels up your fluency, metaphors in J-pop songs can boost your Japanese language ability.
J-Pop Artists That Can Help Your Japanese
Now that you know the ways J-pop can help your Japanese learning, you need to fill your music playlist with some J-pop songs. Here are the best J-pop artists with easily comprehensible songs to get you started:
Source: https://img.imageimg.net/artist/koda/img/product_1030884.jpg via https://rhythmzone.net/koda/discography/detail.php?id=1017194
Koda Kumi is one of Japan’s most popular J-pop artists. Her songs are often featured in Final Fantasy games — yes, that’s where you’ve heard of her before. She has a deep, husky voice that’s rather unique. This J-pop artist is recommended for those of lower-intermediate and upwards. Some songs to give a listen to are “Real Emotion” and “1000 Words”.
Need a little bit more of a beat to your J-pop tunes? AKB48 is just for you! This J-pop artist is a Japanese girl group with quite a large number of members. They’re extremely popular with super catchy tunes. Their songs are perfect for beginners as well! “Heavy Rotation” is a definite must-listen, and if you like that, you’ll like “Let’s Become Cherry Blossom Trees”.
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
A J-pop artist list is not complete without Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. She’s the very definition of J-pop. Because of her creative fashion aesthetics, she’s often referred to as “Harajuku Pop Princess”, “J-Pop Princess” and even “Japan’s Lady Gaga.” What grand titles, am I right? Don’t miss out on her top hit “PONPONPON”, as well as some other legendary ones like “Tsukematsukeru” and “Ninja Ri Bang Bang”.
Last but definitely not least, we have the legendary Arashi. This J-pop group can be considered one of the pioneer artists of the genre, being active since the 1990s. Their songs are easy to follow and catchy, so it’s definitely recommended for beginners. “Monster” and “Love So Sweet” are some of the top songs of this famous J-pop group.
The more you find fun and interesting ways to hone your Japanese language skills, the more motivated you are in learning the language. And J-pop is unquestionably an amusing way to get into the studying mood. So the next time you go to karaoke, don’t feel bad about not picking up a Japanese exercise sheet. You’re basically practicing your Japanese at karaoke anyway!