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Can You Learn Japanese from Watching Anime?

Can You Learn Japanese from Watching Anime?

So, you want to know if you can learn Japanese from watching anime.
With almost all answers from me, the response is it depends. Yes and no.

We’re in for a long read here, so just to start off, I’m going to shoot out a bunch of yes no answers real quick:

  • No, you can’t learn Japanese JUST from watching anime (unless you’re some kind of genius).
  • Yes, you can IMPROVE your Japanese from watching anime
  • No, you should not speak Japanese like how anime characters do
  • No, this doesn’t mean you can’t learn other things from anime such as vocabulary terms and grammar patterns
  • Yes, You can spend years studying Japanese formally at university or any other kind of institution, and still learn things from watching anime, even if it’s just a new vocabulary or common phrase here and there.
  • Yes, there are certain types or genres of anime much more suited to learning from (romantic comedies set in a school campus are much more friendly than science fiction mecha series with an overload of technical jargon).
  • Yes anime is cool as hell, no matter how old you become.
  • And lastly, but most relevantly now: No, watching anime is nowhere near the most efficient way to learn Japanese.

This is where my personal advice comes in:

If you intend to start studying Japanese seriously, as in you have a set goal to be this level within this amount of time or are going to be moving to Japan or anything like that, do not put hard time and effort into trying to learn Japanese from anime. Instead, put that time and effort into studying more educational resources, and the ability to understand the Japanese in anime will naturally come along with that.

This approach that we’re going to talk about should only really apply to people who love anime, watch a lot of it, and want to turn that enjoyable experience into the seeds of an educational opportunity too , even if just super casually at first. For example,  maybe you’re in high school right now and plan to take Japanese classes and study it seriously in college, but have a couple of years and a lot of anime you’ll be wanting to watch until then. For example, maybe you’re not invested in learning the language enough to study kanji 2 hours every single day or are too shy to practice speaking to a stranger online for practice. But what you do do is watch an episode of anime every day while eating dinner or something. Even with something as simple as that, that’s 2.333 hours of being exposed to Japanese speech a week. If you been a fan of anime for even just a year, that’s roughly 120 hours total. The idea here is to take advantage of that decent amount of exposure and turn it from Japanese just sounding like an alien language to Japanese being something you’re able to at least make a bit of sense of and in turn have an opportunity to learn some new-say a new word, or phrase, or grammar pattern, from each line of dialogue you hear.

So basically, what you want to do is introduce yourself to the absolute basics of the language and reach a bare minimum level.

And the good news is that if you watch enough anime, it’s already very likely that you’ve done this, just to a lesser degree. Lots of anime fans will know and are likely to never forget the definitions of words like (Ready? Anime word recognition test in 3,2,1…) kanojo, kokoro, suki, baka, kawaii, senpai, tsundere, bakemono, chikara, daijoubu, ganbaru, jigoku, kareshi, mochiron, sasuga, sugoi, tomodachi, etc. despite never having learned hiragana (the Japanese characters) or what sounds the Japanese language even uses. Why? Simply because those words are among the most commonly used words in anime and after you’ve heard them so many times, they’ve become ingrained in your memory. We’re going by the same principle here. We just have to establish the foundation for it to happen for a wider range of words-and even further, for grammar.

And so, the approach that we’re going to recommend for people interested in accomplishing this is to:

Spend a good week or two at least learning the absolute basics of the Japanese language:

  • The letters, or more correctly termed, characters it uses. While there are three different writing systems for the Japanese language, they all use the same pronunciation, so you theoretically could get by with just learning the first of the three, hiragana, in the beginning. (1-4 days)
  • After that, you learn the basic sentence structure to Japanese sentences. (1 day)
  • Then get introduced to word types, adjectives, nouns, verbs, particles, etc. and get an idea of how to distinguish a given word as one of those types. (1-5 days)

So now you might be going, whoa, whoa, whoa, 1-2 weeks to learn all that information? Just because you’re calling it the basics, doesn’t mean it takes that little time to learn.

Well, let’s see if we can boost your confidence a bit by doing a condensed, proportional example version right now and get a glimpse of the process. First, we’ll try to introduce you to the utmost introductory information about each of those subjects, then we’ll jump into an example line from an anime and break it down with just that information.

-We are going to skip hiragana/katakana/kanji because that simply cannot be taught in the span of a few minutes-

Basic Japanese Sentence Structure (loosely the opposite order of English sentence structure):

In English:
I ate a hamburger.”
(SUBJECT > VERB > OBJECT)

In Japanese:
“Watashi wa hamburger o tabemashita.”
私はハンバーガーを食べました。
(Literal English translation: “I hamburger ate.”)
(SUBJECT > OBJECT > VERB)
*plus particles after NOUN words to mark them as such, e.g. topic/subject marker particle wa after the noun watashi to mark it as the subject/topic and direct object marker o after the noun hamburger to mark it as the direct object

Japanese Word Types:

Adjectives: 2 Types. What we call i-adjectives (い) and na-adjectives (な). i-adjectives are called that because they end in the i-sound. On the other hand, na adjectives can end in anything and are called that because the character na appears after them when they modify nouns.

Nouns: The most vast word group, these words can end in essentially any character/sound.

Verbs: Also a very vast word group. Has the most forms of conjugation, which take a lot of time to learn but become easier to distinguish once done (e.g. words ending in (ました, ませんでした, etc. are obvious verb words). Generally divided into two sub-groups, ru-verbs and u-verbs, because they end in ru (る) and u (う) respectively. However, this only applies when they are in what is called the Dictionary Form, which is the superficial equivalent of the present/future tense in English.

です (desu) and だ (da): A copula, a word used to link subject and predicate. Usually marks the end of a clause or sentence.

Now, a short and simple line from one of my favorite anime series, One Piece.

ルフィは海賊王になる男だ!
“Luffy wa kaizokuou ni naru otoko da!”
(Literal translation: “Luffy is Pirate King become man!”)
(Proper translation: “Luffy is the man who will become Pirate King!”)

Of course, the English translation of the line right there is going to be something you’ll be given if you’re watching the show with subtitles. The Japanese line we have provided and written out is something you’d have to pick up yourself by ear. It goes without saying that this is why learning at least hiragana would be important.

Now for the analysis. How many of these words in this Japanese line, of the seven, do we recognize with our current knowledge?

  • (Luffy/ルフィ) = name of character = noun (also appears before subject/topic marker wa, which means it is a subject/topic/noun)
  • (wa/は) = particle/topic marker
  • (kaizokuou/海賊王) – one of the words we’re likely to not know as a complete beginner
  • (ni/に) = particle
  • (naru/なる) = another word we’re likely to not know as complete beginners, but from what we just learned, we could assume it’s a verb because the ru ending
  • (otoko/男) = the last of three words here that we’re likely to not know, but we might be able to presume that it’s maybe a noun based on the spelling
  • (da/だ) = copula to end the sentence.

So, four out of seven. Not bad. This gives us:

“Luffy is [UNKNOWN NOUN] [UNKNOWN VERB] [UNKNOWN NOUN].”

The only verb in the English translation we have available is “become”, so then we now have:

“Luffy is [UNKNOWN NOUN] become [UNKNOWN NOUN].”

We know from Japanese sentence structure that object type words such as direct objects, indirect objects, etc. are positioned before the verb action unlike in English where they appear after the verb.

So this means the word positioned before our verb, naru/なる, is connected to the action. We refer to the English translation and see that that word is “pirate king”. So then we confirm that kaizokuou/海賊王 means “pirate king.”

“Luffy is Pirate King become [UNKNOWN NOUN].”

Which leaves the last unknown word to become the last word left in our English translations, “man.” Thus, otoko/男 means “man.”

“Luffy is Pirate King become man.”

While this is our definitive answer when it comes to meaning, but we do need to naturalize it to make it sounds like proper English.

”Luffy is the man who will become Pirate King.”

In the end, if we didn’t take the time to learn about Japanese sentence structure, verb words, noun words, adjectives, particles, etc. we would not have had any means to engage in this process of elimination and potentially learn 3 new words from one line of dialogue: kaizokuou/海賊王 means “pirate king,” naru/なる means “to become,” otoko/男 means “man.”

Even if you’re not catching the Japanese lines by ear perfectly and are barely only making sense of two of the seven words-say you only heard the “ni naru” part of that sentence, that can still be good for you because it’s reaffirming for you various nuances about the language such as the fact that you use the particle ni with naru to make the grammar pattern that is “to become.” Admittedly, ni naru is perhaps an overly simple example, but there are in fact a lot of verbs out there wherein it’s hard to remember whether to use them with the particle ni/に or some other particle like o/を.

 

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White Family (SoftBank) CM #100. “Victory Interview” Japanese CM [with English subtitles]

White Family (SoftBank) CM #100. “Victory Interview” Japanese CM [with English subtitles]

#100.
「当選インタビュー」篇
“Victory Interview”

Script:

「あっ、白戸次郎さん当選確実が出ました!」
Ah. This just in, candidate Shirato Jirou has officially secured the election.
「やったね!」
I can’t believe it!
「本当か!?」
Is it true?!
「お父さん」
Dad!
「あなた…」
Dear!
「この日をどれだけ待っていたか」
Just how long have we been waiting for this day!
「白戸さん」
Shirato, sir.
「はいっ、はい」
Yes! Hello!
「国民が白戸さんを選びました。ズバリ勝因は」
The people of Japan have chosen you to represent them. Just what was it exactly that won them over?
「いまのりかえると、基本料が10ヶ月無料」
Transfer your family plan to SoftBank now and your first ten months of basic service are free of-
「浮かれない」
That’s not it.
「はい」
Yes.
「麦わら帽子です。頭ぶれちゃったけど」
It was all thanks to my trusty straw hat.
「なるほど。おめでとうございます!」
I see. Congratulations, sir!
「は~い」
Thank you.
「よかったよかった」
Isn’t this wonderful!
「のりかえたか、うん」
So he pulled it off, huh?


The White Family (白戸家) is an advertising campaign by the Japanese multinational telecommunications and Internet corporation SoftBank Group Corp. which features a white Hokkaido inu, Otou-san, as the father of a household.

More information about it can be read here:
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2012/04/29/general/otosan-japans-top-dog

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White Family (SoftBank) CM #099. “Secured Victory” Japanese CM [with English subtitles]

White Family (SoftBank) CM #099. “Secured Victory” Japanese CM [with English subtitles]

#99.
「当確」篇
“Secured Victory”

Script:

あ、はい。
Ah, yes.
白戸次郎さん当確出ました。
This just in, we have received the official tally for candidate Shirato Jirou.
白戸次郎無所属(新)。当選確実です。
The projections for the independent Shirato Jirou have all but secured his election odds.
白戸さんはホワイトジャパンを掲げていました。
Shirato of course has been running on his “White Japan” platform.
集計です。
We are live at the scene.
皆さん、ご唱和ください!
Everyone, let’s all give a cheer for this wonderful occasion!
万歳!万歳!万歳!
Hip, hip, hooray! Hip, hip, hooray! Hip, hip, hooray!
ありがとうございました。
Thank you very much!


The White Family (白戸家) is an advertising campaign by the Japanese multinational telecommunications and Internet corporation SoftBank Group Corp. which features a white Hokkaido inu, Otou-san, as the father of a household.

More information about it can be read here:
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2012/04/29/general/otosan-japans-top-dog

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White Family (SoftBank) CM #098. “Predominance” Japanese CM [with English subtitles]

White Family (SoftBank) CM #098. “Predominance” Japanese CM [with English subtitles]

#98.
「優勢」篇
“Predominance”

Script:

それでは、白戸次郎事務所と繋がっています
We now bring you live to the Shirato Jirou office.
白戸次郎さんの支持者が集まる会場です
We are here at the assembly hall where Shirato Jirou’s supporters have gathered.
白戸さんはこの会場から10分ほど離れた自宅で待機されていて当確の知らせを待っている模様です
From what it seems, candidate Shirato Jirou is currently standing by for the official tally at his own home roughly 10 minutes from here.
会場には百人近くの人が集まっています。
Gathered here now are about one-hundred supporters from the local neighborhood.
そして、出口調査で白戸さんやや優勢の情報が流れますと大きな拍手が上がり、いまかいまかと当確の知らせを待っています。
With rumors of exit poll results declaring candidate Shirato’s landslide victory floating about, those present are eagerly waiting for the official tally.


The White Family (白戸家) is an advertising campaign by the Japanese multinational telecommunications and Internet corporation SoftBank Group Corp. which features a white Hokkaido inu, Otou-san, as the father of a household.

More information about it can be read here:
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2012/04/29/general/otosan-japans-top-dog

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White Family (SoftBank) CM #097. “Soapbox Speech” Japanese CM [with English subtitles]

White Family (SoftBank) CM #097. “Soapbox Speech” Japanese CM [with English subtitles]

#97.
「街頭演説」篇
“Soapbox Speech”

Script:


The White Family (白戸家) is an advertising campaign by the Japanese multinational telecommunications and Internet corporation SoftBank Group Corp. which features a white Hokkaido inu, Otou-san, as the father of a household.

More information about it can be read here:
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2012/04/29/general/otosan-japans-top-dog

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White Family (SoftBank) CM #095. “Election Car” Japanese CM [with English subtitles]

White Family (SoftBank) CM #095. “Election Car” Japanese CM [with English subtitles]

#95.
「選挙カー」篇
“Election Car”

Script:

「いまの日本にいちばん必要な色は、ホワイトではないでしょうか? 白戸次郎は、ホワイトジャパンを目指します!」
The color that Japan needs right now is white, is it not? And it’s none other than candidate Shirato Jirou who is aiming for that White Japan!
「しがらみのない、真っ白な…」
A White Japan, unbound by-
「ワンワン吠えている奴がいるようですが」
Looks like there’s some newbie bow-wowing around about “White Japan” this, White Japan” that!
「ワンワン?」
Bow-wowing?
「ワンワンに日本を任せていいのでしょうか!」
But can we really leave the fate of Japan in the hands of some bow-wow?
「相手にするな!」
Ignore them.
「はい」
Yes!
「さっ、どんどんしゃべってこ」
Come! Let’s show everyone what we’re made of!
「いまのりかえますと、基本料が10ヶ月無料」
Transfer your family plan to SoftBank and your first ten months of basic service are free of charge!
「それじゃ宣伝だ!」
That’s just advertising!
「すみません」
I’m sorry.
「白戸次郎もよろしくお願いします」
Please look forward to also counting on Shirato Jirou!
「もじゃないだろう、もじゃ!」
Don’t say “also!”
「意外と細かいのね」
Someone’s being rather picky about such a small detail.
「すいませんね」
Well, excuse me.
「真っ白な画用紙に、一から新しい国を描いていきましょう!」
Let’s draw out a brand new Japan from scratch on a clean slate of pure white paper!


The White Family (白戸家) is an advertising campaign by the Japanese multinational telecommunications and Internet corporation SoftBank Group Corp. which features a white Hokkaido inu, Otou-san, as the father of a household.

More information about it can be read here:
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2012/04/29/general/otosan-japans-top-dog

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White Family (SoftBank) CM #094. “Grave Visit” Japanese CM [with English subtitles]

White Family (SoftBank) CM #094. “Grave Visit” Japanese CM [with English subtitles]

#94.
「墓参り」篇
“Grave Visit”

Script:

「次郎は決心しましたよ」
Your son has made up his mind, Dear.
「選挙に出ます!」
I’m going to run for election!
「このままじゃいけないって」
“We can’t just sit around with the way things are right now!” he said.
「みんなに知らせたいって」
“We have to let the people of this country know!” he said.
「ソフトバンクにのりかえると…」
If you transfer your family plan over to SoftBank, your-
「そんな小さなことじゃない!」
That’s not part of our platform!
「すみません」
My apologies.
「次郎は日本を変える、素敵なエベレストを考えました」
Jirou’s going to change the country, Dear. He’s got a wonderful everest all planned out.
「それ、マニフェスト」
You mean “manifest.”
「あ、それそれ」
Ah, yes, that, that.
「これでいいんですよね、父さん…」
Will you give me your blessing, Father?
「あっ!」
Ah!
「父さん!」
Father!
「誰?」
Who’s that?


The White Family (白戸家) is an advertising campaign by the Japanese multinational telecommunications and Internet corporation SoftBank Group Corp. which features a white Hokkaido inu, Otou-san, as the father of a household.

More information about it can be read here:
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2012/04/29/general/otosan-japans-top-dog

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White Family (SoftBank) CM #093. “Candidacy Request” Japanese CM [with English subtitles]

White Family (SoftBank) CM #093. “Candidacy Request” Japanese CM [with English subtitles]

#93.
「出馬依頼」篇
“Candidacy Request”

Script:

「ぜひご出馬を」
Please announce your candidacy!
「やめましょうよ。国の中で勝ったとか負けたとか」
Oh, stop that. Which parties win and lose, that has nothing to do with me.
「先生!」
Master!
「興味ない!」
I’m not interested.
「そこをなんとか!」
Isn’t there any way…
「テコでも動きません!」
Nothing’s going to change my mind!
「ご出馬を!」
Please reconsider!
「お引き取りください」
I’d like for you to leave now!
「このままでいいのでしょうか?」
Are you really okay with the way things are right now?
「ただともの国」
Let’s work together…
「ただともの国を一緒に…」
Let’s work together to build a country of Free Friends…
「私の気持ちは変わらない!」
You’re not going to convince me otherwise!
「う~ぅぅぅ…」
[Whimper]
「やっぱり出ましょう!」
Let’s do it after all!
「エッ!?」
Huh?
「選挙出るの?」
He’s going to run?
「出るって言っちゃった…」
I went and said I’d do it…\N
「このままじゃいけない」
We can’t just sit around with the way things are right now.

♪千住明「風林火山」


The White Family (白戸家) is an advertising campaign by the Japanese multinational telecommunications and Internet corporation SoftBank Group Corp. which features a white Hokkaido inu, Otou-san, as the father of a household.

More information about it can be read here:
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2012/04/29/general/otosan-japans-top-dog

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White Family (SoftBank) CM #092. “Oh Sadaharu Baseball Museum” Japanese CM [with English subtitles]

White Family (SoftBank) CM #092. “Oh Sadaharu Baseball Museum” Japanese CM [with English subtitles]

#92.
「王貞治ベースボールミュージアム」篇
“Oh Sadaharu Baseball Museum”

Script:

おい!少年!ドームに来たら見てけよ
Hey, you kids! If you’ve come all the way to the dome, you’ve got to check it out!
王さんのミュージアム
The king’s museum!
え?
Huh?
王さんだよ!王さん!
The king Sadaharu Oh!
ほら!
You know, like this!
君、上手だね
Hey you, you’re quite good at that.
あ!本人だ!
Ah! It’s the man himself!


The White Family (白戸家) is an advertising campaign by the Japanese multinational telecommunications and Internet corporation SoftBank Group Corp. which features a white Hokkaido inu, Otou-san, as the father of a household.

More information about it can be read here:
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2012/04/29/general/otosan-japans-top-dog

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White Family (SoftBank) CM #091. “Photovision for Mother’s Day” Japanese CM [with English subtitles]

White Family (SoftBank) CM #091. “Photovision for Mother’s Day” Japanese CM [with English subtitles]

#91.
「母にフォトビジョン」篇
“Photovision for Mother’s Day”

Script:


The White Family (白戸家) is an advertising campaign by the Japanese multinational telecommunications and Internet corporation SoftBank Group Corp. which features a white Hokkaido inu, Otou-san, as the father of a household.

More information about it can be read here:
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2012/04/29/general/otosan-japans-top-dog