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Nov 28, 2010

Enjoying Japanese Media - Kana/Kanji Phase

Now that we have covered methods for learning the kana, we can move on to how to enjoy Japanese media. Because we're so early in the learning path, enjoying media will be quite slow and often difficult. The important thing to remember is that this is FUN. Learning Japanese is not about stressing over each unknown word or trying to get perfect translations or understandings of every sentence – learning Japanese is about enjoying the language as it gradually filters in and takes hold. With this in mind, let's begin talking about some things to do and some things to avoid when using Japanese media.

  • The first thing you should do is to use ONLY pure Japanese. Don't use Japanese made by foreigners or for foreigners, use the Japanese that is real and meant for consumption by Japanese people. Consuming Japanese meant for foreigners means it's probably overly polite and simplistic – and therefore won't help you with the real thing.
  • Don't use English subtitles for TV shows – you'll tune out the Japanese and “hear” only English then. Watching shows without English as a crutch will be really hard at first, but just keep listening and watching and trying to follow along. The change occurs at a deceptive pace, so one day you'll suddenly realize you don't have to strain to understand and follow along – it's a great feeling.
  • Try to begin reading some manga or magazines. At this point, novels are going to be completely overwhelming – but manga, magazines, and other materials with pictures are great. Manga in particular are a great source of new vocabulary and practice for reading with hiragana/katakana (as many manga feature furigana, or kana that appear alongside kanji as a reading aid). Another great thing about manga is that you can understand a lot of the story just by seeing the pictures, so you won't feel completely lost.
  • When reading or listening, look up words that you see/hear often and add them to your study program (in an example sentence). This is actually the main part of the Build Vocabulary step, but I'll mention it here as well. During the early phases most of your focus will be on learning the kana and kanji, but you may wish to go ahead and add some words to your SRS (See the article about Learning the Kana with Anki and the Building Vocabulary with an SRS article).
  • And finally, remember that you are just starting out at learning another language – it's going to be slow and difficult at first. During these early steps you are mainly just trying to get adjusted to seeing and hearing Japanese. Listening to Japanese will help you to start picking out words, while working at reading will provide you with more kana practice.

Finding media in another language can be tough, so check out the Introductions page for ideas. If you ever begin to feel bogged down by the studying or memorizing, just remember why you are learning Japanese. If you can, take a break and do exactly what it is that you're learning the language for – even if you can't understand it yet. Just remember that as long as you continue to move forward you'll eventually reach your destination. 

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  1. Right. I have a bunch of Japanese manga on my bookshelf that I use to practice. I'd recommend the よつばと! series. It's entertaining, uses very simple vocabulary, and helps you pick up on every day phrases because it's slice of life.

  2. I should really apply these lessons but I have a hard time just going through with learning Japanese.

  3. @Kirari Star: That's actually one of the series I was going to recommend. It's definitely a great series for starting out.

    @Jerry: Yeah, it's hard to get started, but if you just set a small goal for each day and slowly build it, you can achieve a lot.

  4. I really have been listening to an anime while browsing and practicing japanese but when I listen to it and concentrate on the words, I'm not sure what the words are still and how to spell them out. Something I mishear it and they say something else..:(

  5. Anon, that's a rather common issue with listening. Unlike with reading where you can see borders between words, listen can all run together. Take note of the main particles used in grammar (は、を、の、etc) and you can pick speech apart a bit better. As your vocabulary grows, you'll have a much easier time, as you'll recognize more and more of what is being said, making it easier to focus in on the part you don't know.

    Just repeat the part a few times and try to figure out what is being said, but don't fret too much if you can't quite figure it out.

    Also, when you're not sure what is being said, just sound it out with kana in a dictionary search and you'll probably be able to find the word you're looking for.