Improve your Japanese at home: How to study Japanese using TV shows and movies!

Immersion is without a doubt one of the best ways to improve language skills. However, with Covid-19 stopping you actually going to Japan, it brings up the question of what you can actually do to immerse yourself. Which is where watching different shows and movies come in to play. They can not only act as a great way to add that something extra to your Japanese study but can also be a great way to learn cultural differences. Fortunately, there are many amazing resources online to help you improve your language skills. This article will be sharing some of the best strategies to improve your listening skills and get used to conversational Japanese, all from the comfort of your home.

1. Use Subtitles

If you feel confident that you can understand shows and movies with only Japanese subtitles, I highly recommend that you do so as this creates an immersive environment that forces you to focus more on the content. However, if you are not ready for that yet, try using a Chrome extension for language learning. Extensions are extremely useful tools for learning new vocabulary and practicing your reading (and kanji) skills. If you don’t want to use an extension, you can also start off with English subtitles and then switch to Japanese subtitles once you have watched the film or episode enough times to understand what is going on!

2. Take Notes

Any time you come across a new word or phrase, pause the video and make a note of it. At the end of the episode, make sure you have written down all the words you don’t know. From there, select around ten to twenty words that you want to learn and create a simple vocabulary list (see example below). Keep this list somewhere you can easily see it, such as your bedroom wall or fridge. Revise the words until they are in your long-term memory. Once you feel confident about all the words on your list, start the process again and repeat with new vocabulary until you run out of episodes. In the end, you will have your own unique dictionary of words and phrases.

Example of a vocabulary list ^

3. Practice Speaking

Although you are watching, there’s no reason you can’t practice your speaking skills as well! It may feel weird to practice speaking on your own, but it is one of the best ways to increase your understanding of a foreign language. Shadowing is a common technique for language learning, which involves the exact copying of someone’s speech. One way to do this is to pause the movie or episode after each line of dialogue and repeat what was said, aiming to sound as close to the original as possible. This technique will not only help you practice speaking but can also improve your pronunciation. By copying native Japanese speakers (on the show), you are able to pick up on different inflections and tones that you are unlikely to notice otherwise.

Finally, don’t forget to have fun! The whole point of using shows and movies to study is making your learning more entertaining, so make sure to pick something that seems interesting to you. That way you can watch it again in a few years with fond memories and hopefully remember all the vocabulary as well!

To start you off, here are some Japanese TV shows I recommend for improving your Japanese:

(Available on Netflix)

Terrace House 〜 テラスハウス

‘Terrace House’ is a reality television franchise that follows the lives of six strangers, three men and three women with different goals and backgrounds, as they live together and get to know each other.

(Available on YouTube)

The Japanese The Japanese Don’t Know 〜 日本人の知らない日本語

‘The Japanese The Japanese Don’t Know’ (or ‘Nihonjin no Shiranai Nihongo’) is a comedy television series about a Japanese language teacher and her students, involving a lot of jokes and discussion about the Japanese language.

(Available on Netflix)

Aggretsuko 〜 アグレッシブ烈子

‘Aggretsuko’ follows Retsuko, a red panda and OL (office lady), who struggles with a hectic work life and expectations from her family, leading her to use death metal to cope with her stress.

(Available on YouTube or Crunchyroll)

Why did you come to Japan? 〜 YOUは何しに日本へ?

‘Why did you come to Japan?’ is a regular programme on TV Tokyo, where visitors to Japan are interviewed about their reasons for coming to Japan and may also have their subsequent journey filmed and shared.

(Available on Netflix)

Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories 〜 深夜食堂: Tokyo Stories

‘Midnight Diner’ is an anthology television series that focuses on a late-night diner in Shinjuku named Meshiya that is open from midnight to 7 am. Each episode focuses on a particular customer of the diner and their story.

For more information about how to study Japanese, check out the following articles:

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Yasmin McGarva

Yasmin is in her final year of a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne, majoring in Japanese and Media and Communications. She has undertaken a semester exchange at Hokkaido University and volunteered with ISA Australia as a group leader teaching English in schools throughout Japan. With a deep interest in cultural exchange, Yasmin aspires to work connecting Australia with Japan and the Indo-Pacific region.

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