We always see this kind of advice on the Internet: “You should watch Japanese drama, it helped me to quickly progress” or “There is nothing better than anime without subtitles for learning Japanese”.
Can you really learn a language without much effort by watching anime?
Following this advice can bring many advantages:
At the end of the day, it seems like a great idea, but in reality it’s not totally true… Actually, it varies! We definitely recommend that you expose yourself to a lot of resources in their original language such as movies, drama, anime, music…for the reasons above. But you will never learn Japanese like that.
Anime as a complement to your learning tools
It’s best to see these videos as a Japanese learning complement. You need to acquire a certain amount of vocabulary and grammar in order to better comprehend a Japanese video or conversation.
This is our approach: JapanesePod101.com brings you tons of audio and video lessons, from songs to dialogues and cultural insights, and each of these lessons has a grammar focus, a vocabulary list, a lesson transcript and notes so that you don’t miss any points. We give you the foundation you need to be able to understand anime and benefit from watching it.
The myth of learning by only watching anime
The “watch anime and learn Japanese” concept is just a myth. A lot of high school students improve their English level by reading books and comics, or watching dramas and movies in English with subtitles in their own language. You, meanwhile, might watch all 700 episodes of One Piece or Dragon Ball in Japanese but still not make any progress!
The difference? Those foreign students are not starting from scratch when they use this method to learn Japanese. Even though they might still be at a low level, they were working on some solid foundations.
Basically, what you will hear after 6 months of watching anime in Japanese, while hiding the subtitles, would probably be something like:
bla bla bla bla bla Hello bla bla bla bla Thank you for this meal bla bla bla bla die A**hole bla bla bla Kawaiiii bla bla bla bla bla It hurts! bla bla bla bla I love you bla bla bla bla bla bla really!?
Still quite far from fluency, right?
The key to learning through anime
The key is the amount of passive vocabulary you already have. It’s all the vocabulary you understand when listening to or reading Japanese, without having the need to search in the dictionary. Our brain has limited capacity and if it doesn’t recognize 70-80% of the words in a sentence, it will be incapable of filling in the blanks to give a sense to the unknown words based on the context.
Let’s look at these two cases:
1. You are at a beginner level of Japanese
2. You are at an intermediate level of Japanese
In both cases, you must expose yourself to a lot of Japanese media: podcasts, videos and so on…
In the first case, your brain won’t be able to analyze what you hear when you’re watching anime because you miss too many words. Of course we don’t forbid you from watching anime, but be aware that you are only training your ears to become accustomed to the sounds of Japanese. This is a good start, though. But you will also need to start learning grammar basics and vocabulary. Our Japanese for Absolute Beginners series will offer you the resources you need to quickly understand the foundations of the Japanese language, through entertaining topics.
If you are at an intermediate level, you will need to acquire a lot of vocabulary covering a large range of topics. Challenge yourself with our Listening Comprehension series on YouTube, listen to our podcasts and verify through the lesson notes and transcripts that you understood everything, from the grammar point to the explanation of the kanji used in the lesson.
Anime can be a great learning tool because it’s fun and there is a lot of it around. Just make sure to do a little extra work to optimize its use! Don’t forget to sign up for your Free Lifetime Account to access all our resources and be able to watch anime without subtitles!