The first moment I understood Japanese from Anime

By ken cannon - 1:32 PM

Understand Anime heaven

It was a heavenly, glorious moment!

This was the moment I knew all my hard work had finally paid off. And I wasn’t crazy for trying to learn this crazy language. (I was crazy for other reasons)

I still remember it like it was yesterday, I was 16 years old in my mom’s dark messy apartment, with a giant blue tarp covering up the only window so I could sleep during the daytime. (it was a glamorous life, let me tell you)

And I was watching Ranma ½, Episode 15. In fact, here it is…

Understand Ranma Japanese

It had been about 15 months since I had seen the light of day. Not kidding, this was the year my social anxiety was in full swing and I hadn’t gone to school for about a year. So how did I fill my time?

A YEAR LONG Anime marathon. (hence the tarp, can’t watch anime when you’re sleeping)

I had also just started studying Japanese about 3 months earlier.

So, on this lovely quiet morning, around 9 am… after bingeing Ranma ½ like a heroin addict for the past 21 hours.

I decided to test my Japanese skills by covering up the subtitles with a torn piece of notebook paper taped to my screen. (Yeah, I know, I’m a genius)

And that’s when I experienced the strangest phenomenon I’d ever felt in my life.

Now granted I was also probably slightly delusional from the lack of sleep, but at the time it was rarer for that NOT to be the case.


It was the weirdest thing,

Without understanding any of the actual words of the language,

I understood everything the characters were saying!

Almost like telepathy, my brain just understood the meaning.

Like, I still had no idea where one Japanese word started and the next ended. It was all still this big mess of sounds. But it didn’t matter.

It was like my brain was automatically decoding a secret code for me.

decode Japanese language

Like to everyone else it was all just gibberish, but to me... no I knew… I knew Akane was Ranma’s fiancé.

It was SO COOL!

So, after that I began testing taking the subtitles off full time, and I realized, the weird phenomenon I experienced wasn’t magical telepathy, but simply a result of 2 factors.

One, my crazy 21-hour binge of that same show allowed my brain to become extra sensitive to the speech patterns of it. Since manga is typically written by a single person, a single person’s common usage vocabulary is relatively small. This is also why students learn to speak Japanese better and faster from watching the same show rather than watching a bunch of different anime.

And two, I had just watched the exact same episode immediately before, so all the dialog was still fresh in my mind.

And that was the beginning of the end!

After that my Japanese studies took off, and before I realized it, by the end of that year I was able to understand ANY show without the subtitles on.


Note1: The technique described in this letter soon become famous as the The Subtitle Tutor 

  • Share:

You Might Also Like