Skip to content

Can You Learn Japanese from Anime?

Well, back to some posts about what this blog was originally about.  The last few were pretty personal, and I don’t mind that, but you gotta counter the carbs with some meat, I guess.  Don’t worry, the personal posts will be back, I just have some stuff to mull over and process on my own before posting it here.  This blog is a lot of things, but it’s not really therapy, and it shouldn’t be, either.

The question of the day:  Can you learn Japanese from anime?

My answer has always been a hard no.  The type of Japanese you’ll find in an anime is often, but not always, the kind of Japanese you won’t find in everyday life.  The danger there is, you never quite know what you’re getting.  You could be getting the kind of Japanese you’ll find in everyday life, like, maybe, in Sound! Euphonium.  But you could also be getting the kind of Japanese that will make you sound like a ninth century shogun, or just a particularly rude adolescent boy (like Hachiman in Oregairu).  I seem to remember one anime where the main male character constantly said “Kisama”, though I don’t remember which one offhand.  That’s a particularly rude word and you shouldn’t use it.

But I came to realize, that while you shouldn’t learn Japanese from anime, it does have a purpose, and anime (and other Japanese media) really should be a part of this complete breakfast.

What’s it useful for?

Well, for example.  I was watching Sound! Euphonium last night, and I kept hearing a sentence structure I didn’t understand, and hadn’t really encountered before.  Using “no” and “nda” at the end of a sentence, and not in a nominalizer way.  They used that a lot and I couldn’t figure out why.  So… I looked it up.  Turned out to be really interesting, and now that I (somewhat) understand it, it added a whole new dimension to both my studies and my understanding of the Japanese they were using.

So anime is useful for exposing you to new structures you may not have heard before, and as long as you look them up and understand them rather then just blindly repeating them, you might actually learn something really useful.  Or just something interesting, in some cases.

It’s also useful for getting you used to listening to spoken Japanese.  Japanese is a difficult language to understand because they seem to love leaving sounds out and morphing other sounds.  Like, for example, in Sound! Euphonium, it’s set in the Kansai region rather than the Tokyo region.  I still can’t tell the difference between Kansai and Tokyo Standard, but there are a few structures that seem to be mostly used in that region.  It’s an interesting thing to get some exposure to.

One interesting thing I’m really picking up from anime is how much the translations are either wrong, subtly wrong, or just not so much wrong as impossible to get right in the first place.  How many different ways I’ve seen “shikataganai” translated, and most of them are correct!  Japanese is such a contextual language, and English is not.  You could say “can’t be helped” for all of them, you’d be right, and it would still get really boring, or at least wouldn’t flow well, because English doesn’t work that way.

So am I going to say don’t learn Japanese from anime, still?  Yes.  But am I going to say there’s nothing useful at all in anime to a Japanese learner?  Not at all.  It’s like with everything – use it for what’s good, don’t use it for what’s not, and you’ll still learn a lot.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x