Studying Japanese through Anime: Effective or Not?

  • HOW TO
  • It may not hold true to all. But watching anime has undeniably become one of the reasons why many people came to appreciate and love Nihongo (Japanese language).

    But it’s a whole new different story when one watches anime shows as a sort of supplementary learning for studying the language. We call it ACTIVE watching. And contrary to the PASSIVE mode where you just let yourself be carried away by the story while allowing your brains to process the English subtitles without necessarily storing it for future reference, the active mode involves heightened listening and alertness.

    Yes you allow yourself to be entertained.

    But other than that, you become concerned with how words are pronounced and how sentences are constructed. In short, it’s a lot of mental work.

    Then we go back to the basic question: Can watching anime (actively or passively) help you learn the language?

    To answer this, we will need to look into 3 vital points.

    Level of Japanese speaking skills

    In as much as how you would like to learn by watching, there’s a limit to how much you can get from it. After all, it’s considered as a supplementary material. Ideally, you can use anime as a resource if you already have a foundation on how the Japanese language is spoken.

    You should already have a backbone knowledge on basic things like the subject-verb positioning, particle usage and honorifics. If not, then you will just end up watching a series for sheer entertainment and never for learning.

    Anime Genres

    To say that there are a few good anime for studying the language is a severe understatement for the industry’s prolific production. Any anime site you visit, whether it’s for video streaming like Crunchyroll or for reading manga like Kissmanga, you’ll see that there are a bunch of new releases per season.

    Browsing and watching everything would be unwise. You’ll never get through everything. Plus the fact that there could be some genres that may not appeal to you well.

    Mindful watching through careful selection is the key. While you may fancy watching fantasy and magic-themed stories, you surely will not find many of its invented and fancy words useful for daily conversation. For study purposes, anime series or movies belonging to the slice of life, school, and sports genre will be great.

    Personal Study Techniques

    There isn’t any surefire guarantee that a technique that worked for one could have the same effect on everyone else’s study. A person may find the handwritten note-taking method for Japanese phrases useful while others prefer the more digital method of keeping track with words through Japanese learning mobile apps.

    At the end of the day, it’s all about how much you retain from watching. Of course, you can be as creative as you want in keeping tabs of useful words and side notes.

    So is it effective or not?

    The answer is both. Many who have come to love the language by watching their favorite anime series has taken their interest a knot higher by making sure that they get something out of what they are watching. Of course, they are also the same group who buy Japanese learning resources like books, text exercises and audio-video guides. Some even take formal lessons in a language school to formalize their learning of Nihongo.

    On the other hand, there are those who make learning Japanese just as an excuse to watch more anime. Now, this is entirely a different thing.

    Whether or not it’s effective will all depend on your preferred study method as well as the commitment you put on the process. Studying the language through anime worked for me. How about you?

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    1. Nekopin says:

      For me, its effective. I always pay attention to how they speak and try to understand it without reading the subtitle (of course i already had a basic nihongo understanding). And sometimes, i find myself watching it and successfully understands what they are saying. That’s why i say it effective but its also true that it requires a lot of mental work. I also learned new phrases they commonly use and imitate the way they speak (≧∇≦)b

    2. Anonymous says:

      I watch it in “Active Mode”.

    3. Kaho says:

      I learned Japanese though anime too!! Because after Watching a lot of animes, i felt like being a voice actor too or an Utaite (歌い手 you know those NicoNico Utaite (´・ω・`)). After I’ve fully memorizing those hiragana and katakana I’ve bought Japanese ver manga to practice my pronunciations and practice kanji. ( Okay i have no idea what I’m trying to say so Ignore me XD)

    4. Kenty says:

      Well, for me, I test myself over and over again. I watch raw anime episodes (without subtitles), afterwards i rerun the episode (now with subtitles) to determine how much i understand. i only got 70% right though. and correct me if i’m wrong, i’m watching in “Active Mode” right?

      Sorry for the bad english. :D

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