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Learning Japanese with Japanese TV Dramas

text: Cai Miao Miao

Have you watched a Japanese TV drama before?

Watching Japanese TV dramas is one of the ways to learn the language. However, merely watching them does not improve your Japanese. When we are studying Japanese using TV dramas, let us avoid the common pitfalls.

So, I would like to recommend some ways and methods to effectively learn Japanese.

First of all, as you must all know, learning Japanese using TV dramas can be effective in many ways, such as:

  • Improving your vocabulary
  • Improving you listening skills
  • Improving your speaking skills
  • Understanding Japanese culture and society

Now, I would like to introduce effective learning methods to achieve the above effects.

Write down the words or phrases you want to remember in your notepad.

I do not recommend you that you write down every expression you don't know in a notepad. It is very difficult to catch every single word, and I do not think it is necessary to do that. Instead, focus on writing down the expressions that you think you will use in the future, or those that you want to remember or find interesting. It is not easy to judge what kind of situations the expressions that appear in the drama can be used. Therefore, I recommend that you write down the expressions in your notepad along with the nature of the scene where they have been used and the personalities of the characters who have used them.

Making use of subtitles

For the beginners who find it difficult to understand what is going on without subtitles, I recommend the following:

The first time: Grasp the outline of a drama by using the subtitles of your native language together with the Japanese subtitles (understanding the content). The second time: Watch while taking notes using only the Japanese subtitles (listening exercise and vocabulary learning). The third time: Try and see if you can understand the drama without the subtitles.

That is the method I recommend.

For the intermediate and advanced learners who can understand most of the the drama even without subtitles, I recommend the following:

The first time: Try and see if you can understand a drama without subtitles (Understanding the content). The second time: Check the parts you did not understand with the Japanese subtitles (Listening exercise and vocabulary learning). The third time: Watch the drama without the subtitles again (Comprehension check).

You need to be able to watch a drama in a way where you can control the video easily as you may have to pause the video or replay a scene to look up words or to take notes when you come across something that you caught your attention.

Not only the input but the output is also important.

Repeating or shadowing

For beginners, pause the video after the actor has spoken the line and read the corresponding subtitle. For intermediate or advanced learners, repeat as quickly and as accurately as possible the Japanese phrase you have just heard , in a way where you are imitating the actor so that you will be able to say it the way the actor says it.

Talk about the drama and what you think about it with others in Japanese.

I suggest that you watch the same drama with your friends. Then, you can practice how to give a summary of the main plot. I think summarizing the story and writing it in a notebook is also good practice for expressing yourself in Japanese. I recommend the following dramas as study materials for learning Japanese.

Nigeru wa Haji daga Yaku ni Tatsu (Running away is shameful but useful) Nagi no oitoma (Nagi's Long Vacation) Karutetto (Quartet)

I have watched a lot of Japanese dram, and I have watched the three listed above which I recommended. Many of the scenes are similar to real life daily situations in Japan, and the expressions used in them are relatively easy to understand.

On the other hand, although it is interesting to watch dramas which are full of technical terms and clever expressions (e. g. "Legal High" and "Naoki Hanzawa") or those with many exaggerated expressions (e. g. "Kyokara Orewa (From today I am)!!"), I would not recommend them as learning materials for beginners.

Please let me know your thoughts.

As multimedia become increasingly developed, we find ourselves surrounded by all kinds of videos and images in our daily lives. It has become possible for us to watch a large number of Japanese videos through different platforms such as smartphones. Learn Japanese while enjoying Japanese dramas that suit your language level by referring to the methods I have introduced here.

Cai Miao Miao

Born in China, I am a first-year student in the Master's program at the Graduate School of Languages and Cultures, Osaka University. I love Japanese TV dramas and movies. Let's enjoy learning Japanese together with Japanese TV dramas.