Learning a foreign language as an adult is not impossible. However, it can be quite daunting especially because during your 20s or even during your teens, your brain may not be as efficient in soaking up knowledge as it once was when you were a child. Also, if you’re in a country that does not speak the language you are learning, you don’t get to practice the language as much because you tend to go back to your first language.
Because of the challenges of language learning, it is important for you to find ways in which you can still practice and have some semblance of an environment wherein you are immersed in the foreign language. The key to that is to find something you enjoy and try to incorporate it to your language studying. For example, musically-inclined people find it easier to learn a language by listening to the lyrics of songs or putting a melody or a tune to the things they are learning about. As for me, I love watching dramas. Because of that, most of the Japanese expressions that I know, I learned from watching dramas. Also, dramas are a great way for you to learn Japanese culture and the many sub-cultures under that even if you’re not actually in Japan.
With that said, let me recommend three dramas that you can watch in order for you to have a grasp on three different sectors of the Japanese language:
First in the list is ビューティフルレイン or “beautiful rain” in English. A 2012 Japanese television series, this drama is about a widower father named Keisuke (played by actor Etsushi Toyokawa) who found out he has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and how this affects his family life with his young daughter Miu (played by child star Mana Ashida). The episodes mostly deal with how Alzheimer’s disease is viewed in Japan, as well as the changes it brings to a person’s life. Fair warning, this drama lives up to its name when it comes to emotional impact. My tears were like rain while watching this. It was worth it though because this drama is really beautiful.
Because the story revolves around Keisuke and Miu, the conversations are mostly “child-speak,” simple, and easier to understand for Japanese language beginners except for some technical words about Alzheimer’s disease. That is why as your first foray to the drama-watching learning method, this is definitely something you should check out.
Learning formal Japanese language is well and good but that’s not the Japanese you need for everyday life in Japan. More often than not, there are connotations and different terms to words that are used outside. What better way to learn colloquial Japanese than to watch a school-based Japanese drama?
One such school-based series that I can recommend is 大切なことはすべて君が教えてくれた or “You Taught Me All the Precious Things.” The story is about Shuji Kashiwagi (played by actor Haruma Miura), a biology teacher at Meiryo High School, his girlfriend Natsumi Uemura (played by actress Erika Toda), and his student Hikari Saeki (played by actress Emi Takei). Story-wise, this drama is interesting to watch especially since you will be kept wondering throughout the episodes on who exactly will Shuji end up with.
There are several terms you can pick up from the students in the dramas that you might hear from real students in present day Japan. On the plus side, there are conversations between the teachers and other adults in the drama so you can also pick up some words and phrases from there as well.
We’ve covered the basic language and the student language. Naturally, it is time we head out to work territory. For work-based Japanese drama, I will recommend watching アテンションプリーズ or “Attention Please.”
The story of this particular drama revolves around Yoko Misaki (Aya Ueto), a rock band member. Misaki applied to be a flight attendant to impress her crush (a fellow band member) after she overheard that guys like flight attendants. The story then proceeds to show Misaki’s journey towards becoming a real flight attendant and the people she meets along the way.
The Japanese style of speaking in this particular drama is commonly used in offices, so if you are planning to work in Japan or would just like to see an example of the language they use in a professional setting, this drama is for you. Aside from the formal Japanese, there are also insights on the Japanese flight attendants industry so you will be able to learn that sub-culture as well.
Learning a language through watching dramas is fun and efficient, but always keep in mind that this is just a supplement to your studies. It is still important for you to have a strong foundation of grammar and vocabulary in order for you to make sense of what you are watching in the first place and for you to use it in real life. Also, that way, you can double-check what you already learned. So keep on studying even as you delve into the dramas, fellow Japanese language learners!