learning Japanese for anime: A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE

LEARNING JAPANESE FOR ANIME: A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE

Language barrier. This is probably the major reason why you are interested in learning Japanese for anime. However, there’s more to it than what you think. 

The benefits of learning Japanese for anime include a greater understanding of your favorite anime, enjoying anime more and unlocking both personal and business opportunities with your improved language ability.

Excited to know what’s in store for you? Read this comprehensive guide about learning Japanese for anime! Iki mashoo! (Let’s start!)

Learning Japanese for Anime: Tips to Overcome the Challenges

Learning Japanese can sometimes be challenging due to the complexity of the language. But learning it doesn’t always have to be tedious and dull because watching anime can be an incredible tool for making your Japanese studies fun and interesting. Here are tips on how to learn Japanese while watching anime.

Tip #1. Listen! 

As babies, we first learn our mother tongue through listening. We listened to the conversations of the adults around us and picked up vocabulary from them. Listening is a fundamental aspect of learning a language. It’s important to practice active listening if you want to learn Japanese effectively. 

To utilize anime as an effective tool for learning the language, you must prioritize listening. Focus on the dialogue or conversation of the characters and try to pick up and recognize the words you know, the vocabulary you are unfamiliar with, and the overall grammar patterns. 

Surround yourself with the language as much as possible. Feel the music of the language and let your ears get used to it. This way, you will develop familiarity with the Japanese language’s phonetics, tones, rhythm, and fluency.

Tip #2. Write what you’ve heard.

After watching an episode of your favorite anime, make it a habit to take down notes. To retain the vocabulary and grammar patterns you heard, write them on paper or in your Japanese learning notebook. You can also do these for the new phrases and words you learned. Look for their meaning and context, then compile them in your notebook. This way, you will have a collection of vocabulary and phrases that you can review anytime.

Tip #3. Practice shadowing.

Shadowing is the act of mimicking or repeating another person’s speech. By shadowing a native Japanese speaker- in your case, the anime characters you watch- you can practice creating the right intonation and sounds. 

But of course, it’s important to be mindful of how you copy the way your idols speak. Not every character in the series you love speaks the way real people do. You have to be smart with the character you will imitate. Consider listening to radio shows or Japanese documentaries to know which characters in your favorite series sound natural.

Tip #4. Try translating some scenes.

Aside from active listening, writing, and speaking, another great tip for learning Japanese for anime is translating some scenes in your favorite series to test your Japanese language skills. Select a short scene you want to translate into English or your language. Turn off the subtitle first, then after you attempt a translation, turn the subtitle on again and see how accurate you are. 

Tip #5. Examine the Japanese way of writing.

Learning Japanese can only be taken to the next level by learning its way of writing. As a lover of anime, you must know the importance of Japanese writing systems in the shows you watch. The Japanese katakana, kanji, and hiragana were always used regardless of the series’ genre. 

Look out for different Japanese characters you’ll find in your favorite series and look for their meanings. You never know; maybe you’ll be able to use your learnings about them once you visit Japan. 

Tip #6. Read the accompanying manga of your favorite series.

Anime lovers often turn to mangas when they can’t get enough of the series or if they want to glimpse some spoilers while waiting for the next season. Reading the manga version of your favorite series is a great way to deepen your comprehension of the Japanese language. 

Tip #7. Choose the anime you’ll watch wisely.

You have a plethora of anime genres and series to watch. A crucial reminder to take note of is carefully choose what you will watch. High-quality anime is equivalent to high-quality learning. You have to filter out the shows that are not aligned with your Japanese learning goals. Examples of these shows are the ones that use uncommon and incorrect forms of the Japanese language. 

A tip for avoiding the wrong shows to learn from is steering clear of genres that involve magic powers, fantasy worlds, robots, and ghosts. While these are great genres, they may need to be more effective for you in learning Japanese. On the other hand, genres revolving around life, school, sports, and detective dramas are reliable in learning natural and casual Japanese. Don’t stick to one time period or genre. Try to experiment and explore others. More importantly, recognize how the use of Japanese changes from one genre to another. 

Following these tips in learning Japanese for anime is simple. All you need is the will to learn the language while enjoying your favorite series. Many non-native speakers of Japanese have learned the Japanese language through anime and were inspired to study the language further. If you want to try something new, we have compiled a list of the best animes for you!

Top 10 best Anime Series and Shows to Learn Japanese

Hyouka

Hyouka is based on the 2001 mystery Japanese novel written by Honobu Yonezawa. The series follows the life of Houtarou. A high school boy who chose to lead an ordinary and dull life. But then everything changed when he joined their high school literature club and solved the mysteries surrounding their campus. Houtarou and his clubmates investigate the old urban legend perplexing their school. Through their adventures, he learned that he could find wonder and mystery in everything. 

The language of the series can be a little complex since the story incorporates many thought-provoking ideas and theories. Despite this, each episode gives viewers a sense of intrigue and wonder.

Kiki’s Delivery Service

Another anime that will make learning the Japanese language fun and easier is the well-loved Kiki’s Delivery Service, released in 1989 by Studio Ghibli.  This film is about a girl named Kiki who had to leave her parent’s home as part of the rules for witches who had just turned 13. Kiki’s adventures with her cat as she starts a life of her own are filled with fun, lessons, and, most importantly, basic Japanese phrases that can add to your knowledge about the language. Kiki’s Delivery Service is a film recommended for anyone who wants to begin learning the Japanese language without slang.

 Detective Conan

Undoubtedly, Detective Conan is the most famous detective in Japan and is also known around the globe. Its series started in 1996, and it has aired over 900 episodes. With this number of episodes, you have many learning materials for learning Japanese. 

The series tells the adventure of Conan, a high school detective named after Arthur Conan Doyle- the writer of the famed Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Because of his enemies, Conan was transformed back into his child form, but this obstacle didn’t stop him from solving crimes and helping others. Detective Conan is great for strengthening your comprehension, as the series uses a mix of informal and formal languages and Japanese words related to history. 

Your Name

Whether you are an anime fan or not, you must have probably heard about the movie Your Name by Makoto Shinkai. This movie is one of the most successful anime films that garnered attention for its intriguing but lovely storyline. Your Name is famous for its accurate depiction of the lives of teenage Japanese. Even though its theme centers on fantasy, the film’s characters use realistic and normally-used Japanese words, which will be helpful for anyone wanting to learn the Japanese language. The flow of conversations might be challenging for beginners since the characters spoke quite fast, and the words they used were deep. But surely, if you mastered the language enough through this film, you can now identify as almost a native Japanese speaker.

Doraemon

This anime started airing in 2005 and aired in about 50 countries worldwide. The series centers on the adventures of a robot cat from the future named Doraemon- who was sent back to the 20th century to help his owner’s predecessor, Nobita Nobi. Each episode of this anime features Doraemon using cool and techy gadgets to help Nobita in his endeavors, but it usually makes things worse.

With this storyline, this anime has helped many people master basic  Japanese because of its simple-structured conversations. Doraemon is one of the few animes that appeals to all ages with its funny yet valuable stories per episode. This anime will be the best for beginners who want to test their basic knowledge of the Japanese language. It uses simple vocabulary and simple topics best for learning basic Japanese.

Fruits Basket

Fruits Baskets follows the story of Toru Honda; an orphan determined to live on her own in a tent. However, she didn’t know that the Souma family owned the estate she was camping on. After some encounters, the kind family took her in. Her days with the Soumas led to some discoveries, one of which is their secret. The Souma family members turn into the Chinese zodiac animals when the opposite sex hugs them. Fruits Basket got a reboot in 2019 and portrayed self-healing and acceptance. The characters have unique dialogue and speaking styles you can learn. 

Haikyuu!

This 2014-anime series was based on the manga of the same title, which Haruichi Furudate created. Haikyuu is a slice-of-life sports anime centering on Hinata Shouyou’s love and journey in volleyball.  Hinata’s fascination with the sport started when he watched a national volleyball match which led him to aspire to become a volleyball player and a champion. This anime shows Hinata’s growth in the sport he loves and how he overcame the challenge of being the shortest player on the court.

Haikyuu is a must-watch anime series for anyone who wants to be inspired. In addition, it will also help you learn the Japanese language, especially the types commonly used by teens, since this series’ characters are mostly high school students. This is the perfect series to binge-watch if you want an action-packed anime whose conversations are also easily understandable.

School Rumble 

School Rumble follows the story of Tenma Tsukamoto, a high school girl doing her all to receive the love of her school’s bad boy. The characters in the story have a medium pace of speech, and the story is great for those who want to learn about Japanese high school vocabulary. This can also help you learn how to socialize with Japan’s younger generation as the series teaches how to react to and understand casual talk among friends. 

K-On

Music lovers, this is the best anime for you! If you want a lively anime that will also help strengthen your skills in the Japanese language, K-On is the answer. This slice-of-life anime follows the story of four high school students and their love for music. Released in 2009, K-On is one of the most famous slice-of-life anime series, which many love for its playful yet determined girl characters. It is a story that is of dreams and self-discovery.

Since this is a music-themed anime, most of the vocabulary words in this series revolve around music. But the casual conversation between the girls will be enough to test and add to your knowledge of the Japanese language. Moreover, the songs that K-On features will be very helpful in learning not only the vocabulary but also the humor, the point-of-views, and the basic phrases of teenage Japanese.

Bakemonogatari

Learning Japanese for anime is more enjoyable if you watch quick-paced series with vocabulary and conversations that are deeper and more complex. Wouldn’t it feel more successful if we could understand advanced Japanese conversations in the anime we are watching? For this purpose, Bakemonogatari will be the best option for you.

If you are into more serious and witty character conversations, Bakemonogatari might be perfect for you. This anime series was adapted from the first season of the Monogatari light novels aired in 2009. It follows the story of Koyomi Araragi, who was cured after being bitten by a vampire. He discovers that some of the vampire abilities remain in his body. This anime series features Koyomi’s encounter with several girls. Bakemonogatari became very popular because of the witty and engaging conversations between the series’ characters. Koyomi specifically is very playful with his words and would often light the series with his unique remarks.

Bakemonogatari is perfect for advanced Japanese speakers and learners because it has a fast flow of conversation and deep vocabulary, which will be good for challenging your skills. If you can keep up with the unique conversations of the characters from this series, it wouldn’t hurt to say that you are already good at Japanese.

And for the love of anime, here’s a bonus for you!

Regardless of the anime’s genre, you’ll encounter phrases and words often used by the characters. These can be common everyday words, expressions, or greetings that you can easily remember. To relate to your anime idols on a higher level, here are some common words and phrases used in anime:

  • はい, Hai, Yes
  • いいえ, Īe, No
  • そうです, Sou desu, Yes [that’s true]
  • お元気ですか, Ogenki desu ka, How are you doing?
  • おはようございます, Ohayōgozaimasu, Good Morning!
  • こんにちわ, Konnichiwa, Hi/Hello/Good Afternoon!
  • こんばんわ, Konbanwa, Good Evening!
  • おやすみなさい, Oyasuminasai, Goodnight!
  • さよなら, Sayonara, Goodbye
  • ありがとうございます, Arigatōgozaimasu, Thank you very much!
  • どういたしまして, Dōitashimashite, You’re Welcome
  • すみません, Sumimasen, Excuse me
  • ごめんなさい, Gomen nasai, I’m sorry
  • 下さい, Kudasai, Please

Learning Japanese for Anime: Conclusion

Your motivation for learning Japanese for anime is valid and natural because we all have different reasons for learning a language. Your will to learn Japanese to establish a strong relationship with your idols proves how great of a person you are. It shows that you have an open mind and can go beyond your comfort zone. Learning Japanese has challenges, so having the right attitude, consistency, and belief in yourself is important. But of course, as anime lovers, even language barriers cannot stop us from connecting with our idols. 

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