Learn Japanese From Anime?

By ken cannon - 3:03 PM

Hey my name is Ken Cannon and  I want to talk today about the argument that says “you can’t learn Japanese from anime”. This argument is quickly becoming “the norm” within the learning Japanese community nowadays. As most of you might expect, I’m clearly against this argument, right? Actually! Not so, I in fact fully support all of this argument’s points, and have no intention of disputing them.
It is quite impossible to simply watch endless amounts of anime and one day just magically “pick up the language.”
You need a teacher, a guide, a learning method of some sort; whether that be a book, a class or even a website.
And in fact to use the Japanese you learned only from anime in Japan, would be to say the least quite comical.
All of these things being completely true, I have found something very interesting. From interacting with the “learning Japanese” and the” anime communities” for many years something caught my attention. A large majority of the staggeringly increasing Japanese learners are really not looking to learn Japanese for conventional or traditional purposes. Sure, going to Japan someday and or experiencing their rich culture is definitely a great benefit.
But what this new crowd of Japanese learners is really after is simply to understand the anime show they love so much, which makes sense. Therefore learning the Japanese spoken in anime is exactly what they need, and not something to be avoided.
An addition to this anime fans possess a number of great benefits that someone who doesn’t watch anime might not have…
Anime Benefit Number 1:
Obviously they hear the language on a regular basis, and some extreme fans hear enough of it a day to that it would equate even living in Japan. (This of course I don’t recommend for obvious social reasons) Now hearing the language is extremely important, because the only true way to become fluent in any language is to listen to thousands and even millions of sentences because that gives you a real feel for how the language is used. Of course this is useless if you don’t know a stitch of Japanese to begin with, but for an active learner, poses as something extremely valuable.
Anime Benefit Number 2:
Also because they hear the language very often, anime fans are exposed to the pronunciation of the words over and over again. This gives them an unparalleled advantage at minimizing their English accent.
Anime Benefit Number 3:
Equally important is that they subconsciously learn the rhythm and beat of Japanese. Which most people don’t know but is essential in really becoming fluent in the language.
Anime Benefit Number 4:
But perhaps the biggest benefit of being an anime fan is that it becomes a huge motivator in learning the language. Learning a new language is to say the least a huge undertaking! And I would be so bold as to propose that one of the biggest things that keep people from being successful in this endeavor is that they simply lose interest. They don’t get enough feedback out of their hours and hours of studying to convince themselves that it’s really worth it.
Anime Benefit Number 4… Part A…
With anime fans however, they have the initial motivation of being able to watch their favorite shows raw. Which I can tell you from experience is extremely rewarding. Even more so than most people already expect.
Anime Benefit Number 4… Part B…
Also is that when someone is learning Japanese, the right way. Meaning, learning words and vocabulary that are actually used in the anime show you’re watching. You get instantaneous feedback of how you’re doing! Once you learn a word and you actually hear it come out of your favorite characters mouth. It is an immediate success, which of course drives you to learn even more words and vocab, and form that you derive even more success! And on and on goes this vicious cycle until you literally learn the entire language faster than you could have ever imagined (for me it took only one year!)
So to close this post’s ideas, no! You can’t learn proper “business Japanese” from anime, but you can learn “Anime Japanese” with anime! Provided you have a proper learning method to guide you on your way.

Ken Cannon

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  1. I know exactly what you mean with benefit #4! Once I learned the word "kokoro" I am seeing and hearing it all of the time in the music that I am listening to! It makes thing a lot easier for me, you're totally right!

    1. OMG thats the one I noticed first haha they always say it in the opening songs

  2. It first happened to me with "shitsureishimasu". I read about this in a book, and then, while watching Full Metal Alchemist I heard "shitsureishimasu" being used a lot more that I could have imagined or remembered before. I felt so happy of being able to understand the meaning of this word while watching it being used in one of my favorites animes!!!!! Things like that are the ones that keep your motivation high ^-^

  3. Ahaha I once heard "bimbo" when I was watching kaichou wa maid sama. I was like bimboooo!! Oh i'n weied. ;P

  4. Yes! I'm not a retarded-big anime fan, but I'm kinda obsessed with Naruto, and it was really exciting once I started picking up words and senctences like (and I apologize if I'm butchering the spelling):

    Dai ju bu-are you okay (or I'm okay, I'm never super sure)

    But anyway, I'm really interested in being able to watch Naruto (and maybe other animes) in Japanese.

    1. kuso is shit
      daijoubu is alright; it's alraight; it's okay
      in it's question form it means are you okay

    2. kiso is on of the first words I learned because it was frequently used in the anime version of attack on titan

  5. I completely agree!! I've been obsessed with Naruto lately, though I also watch a lot of other anime, and I watch your Cuss Word videos and I already had a general idea of them because I hear them all the time in Naruto(and FROM Naruto's mouth ^.^), but now every time I hear them and notice them it just makes my day and i start laughing. And I also agree with the fact that when you're listening to Japanese all day from anime(and in my case, from my favorite anime opening and ending songs that I listen to with Youtube), it really helps your fluency and understanding of Japanese pronunciation. But I never really though about it until you pointed it out!! I'm super motivated now, thank you thank you thank you!!

  6. number 4 part B is really true for me. When I read it, Sasori was the first one to come into my mind when he said "shinu" (while he was fighting with his grandma and Sakura). Before I read this article, I was reading your post about "Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu", and it was explained that the ateji words has "shi" which means death. I was also reminded by Sasori ("shi"nu).
    And also the "kokoro". I think I heard it in Gokusen live action. And that was the time I realized it means the heart. I recalled the song "Kokoro no Koe" by AZU feat. SEAMO.
    Watching anime, and listening to Japanese songs really help in learning the language.
    (。◕‿◕。) gambatte!

  7. Ya, I only like two animes and I've seen the benefits already! Watching Japanese dramas is just as beneficial as well, if you like those. Actually, I have found the dramas help more. I've also directly learned words from it, like:


  8. @Xela, I totally agree, in some aspects dramas help more for learning Japanese, especially when you get more advanced.

  9. I have tried to learn French, but I really couldn't find a reason to do it. I couldn't see myself going to France anytime soon, so I got bored and quit. Before French, I wanted to learn Japanese. I actually learned some from watching Inuyasha with the subtitles. I couldn't learn much, but I know now with other ways to learn I will. I've always wanted to watch anime without subtitles, and I hope I will. Plus, it would be great to surprise my other anime/Japanese obsessed friend by randomly start talking Japanese out of the blue.

  10. The first words that I picked up on were otosan and okasan. I was amazed when I suddenly realized what those words mean because up to that point Japanese had just sounded like gibberish. Then the irony that the first words that I learned in Japanese are dad and mom hit me and I laughed until my sides hurt. Then I went back to my show.

  11. the first word i learned was arigato

  12. this sounds like a really great way for speaking but what about writing?

  13. the first words i learned were 'baka' and 'dobe' from naruto. i went around calling everyone that when i was pissed until they got annoyed because they didn't know what it meant and that pissed them off. it was still funny.

  14. You know what would be really helpful is to watch anime with romanized (Latinization) Japanese subtitles. Too bad those don't exist.