The biggest advantage of studying Japanese through foreign dramas is that you can study while actually enjoying yourself.

Thankfully, nowadays, with the spread of DVDs, foreign drama channels, and video distribution services such as Netflix and Hulu, foreign dramas are readily available for viewing even while you live in Japan. And with hundreds or thousands of titles to choose from, you can select the show that best suits your tastes.

Some Japanese anime are available with Japanese audio and subtitles, or you can watch an English show with Japanese dubbing or subtitles. Once you get into the habit of studying Japanese through dramas and animations, you will look forward to starting your Japanese language study.

In this article, we will introduce how to study Japanese through TV.

1. You can study Japanese actually used by native speakers

One advantage of studying Japanese through foreign dramas is that you can listen to real life Japanese.

When studying Japanese, you may feel that you will never use such expressions or that learning such sentences will be of no use to you.
If you study Japanese through dramas, you can learn from each line how native speakers use them in situations and how they are pronounced.

Frequently used phrases are used in different episodes and other productions, so if you keep on watching, you will experience “Oh, I have heard this phrase before” many times.
Just by getting into the habit of watching dramas, you can increase your vocabulary and acquire natural Japanese.

2. Comedies are recommended to increase phrases that can be used in daily life

When considering dramas as a way to study Japanese, we recommend comedies that are set in everyday life. Comedies can be watched while laughing, and since the story progresses around a meal between friends, a date between lovers, or a dialogue between a parent and child, you can learn many phrases that can be used in real life.

3. If you don’t like comedies, watch your favorite kind of show

.So what if you are not that interested in comedies?
The answer is simple.
Watch what you like and what seems to interest you. If you like romance, watch romance, if you like detectives, watch detectives, if you like horror, watch horror. Many Japanese anime are highly rated, so this is a good opportunity to try watching anime. If you don’t have a special preference, you can try the works that come up in searches such as “recommended Japanese movies” or the top videos on Netflix.

Some genres are closer to everyday life, such as romance and comedy. Many people will probably never use expressions such as “He must’ve murdered my wife!” However, even watching these shows will help with pronunciation and intonation.

Anyway, this way of studying is actually fun.
Rather than continuing to watch a drama thinking, “This is boring and uninteresting,” you can say, “It’s fun! I wonder what they are saying! I want to understand more deeply and last much longer.” Find a show that makes you say, “I can’t wait to see the rest of the story, and I’m anxious to see how it ends.”

4. Netflix is the best way to learn about foreign dramas

As for how to watch Japanese dramas, Netflix is currently recommended for the following four reasons.

(1) It’s easy to find titles you like

As mentioned earlier, the most important thing in drama learning is to keep it enjoyable; if you buy or rent DVDs, it is difficult to change to another title if you are not interested. It is painful to keep watching boring stories, thinking, “I paid for this….
It is also unpleasant to move on to another title thinking, “I paid all that money for this….

On the other hand, Netflix, Hulu, and other online video delivery services offer unlimited viewing at a fixed price, so you can easily watch 10 minutes of a title you are interested in, or stop watching if you get bored.

(2) You can watch whenever you want.

Another advantage of online video services such as Netflix and Hulu is that you can watch them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, without the hassle of preparing DVDs or recording pay-per-view channels such as SkyPerfect.

If you are curious to see what happens next, you can watch 5 episodes as long as you have time. I want to see that scene again! You can watch past episodes anytime you want.
You can also watch episodes as long as you have a smartphone, so you can watch 10 minutes while doing housework, or watch 30 minutes every day on the train while wearing earphones.

If you download the episodes in advance, you don’t have to worry about the amount of data you will need (some titles are available, but others are not).

(3) Easy to switch between English and Japanese for audio and subtitles

You may hear people say, “Why don’t you just use another video delivery service such as Hulu or Amazon Prime Video? However, Netflix has an advantage that other services do not. That is, it is easy to switch audio and subtitles from English to Japanese. Amazon Prime Video does not offer Japanese subtitles in the first place. Hulu supports both English and Japanese for both audio and subtitles, but the English audio and Japanese audio are separate videos.

In other words, there are two videos for the first episode of a drama, one with English audio and one with Japanese audio, and to switch between them, you have to end playback once and then play the other video. Moreover, you even have to search for the scene you want to watch. On the other hand, Netflix allows you to freely change the English and Japanese audio, English subtitles, Japanese subtitles, and subtitles off within the same video. (There are some movies that do not support this feature.

It is very convenient to be able to easily try different steps, such as grasping the story with the English audio, watching while checking each line with the English subtitles displayed, or checking if you can hear the dialogue with the subtitles off.

(4) LLN is too convenient.

And the last and greatest benefit of Netflix is the availability of a tool called Language Learning with Netflix (LLN).
LLN is a Chrome extension; you can use it by using the Chrome browser.
LLN offers the following features

• English and Japanese subtitles can be displayed at the same time.
•The previous and next lines can be displayed at the edge of the screen in a list format (scrollable from the beginning to the end).
•When you hover the cursor over a list of lines, the corresponding Japanese subtitles are displayed.
•When you click on a word in the Japanese subtitle, the basic meaning of the word is displayed.
•Playback position can be specified for each line.
•Playback speed can be adjusted.
•You can adjust the playback speed.

Of course, unnecessary functions can be turned off.

Unfortunately, there are some weaknesses, such as the lack of support for idioms and the fact that the English subtitles do not always match the English translation, but with all these features, it is free to use.

There are paid options that are even more convenient, but for now, the free features should be enough.
Unfortunately, LLN is a PC-only tool and does not support smartphones or tablets, but you can get a cheap PC just for the LLN.

5. Aim for the plus-one of your ability!

Although this is a drama study method that is mostly positive, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, when studying Japanese through dramas, you should not be a perfectionist. When studying Japanese through drama, it is tempting to get all worked up and try to understand every line from beginning to end. However, this is overwork for most learners of Japanese, including myself.

First of all, the amount of material is simply too much. Imagine you buy a new book of Japanese language materials with audio CD. How many days do you think it would take you to finish it? You would probably spend at least a week, and standardly, a month or two trying to capture it. The standard length of a drama is about 50 minutes for a storyline and 25 minutes for a sitcom.

In theory, it would take the same amount of time to understand one episode of a drama as it would to study 45 minutes of Japanese language material with audio.
And I don’t need to tell you which one is more advanced. It is not uncommon for it to take a week or more to digest an episode if one tries to understand every line.

Then there is the question of whether you can tolerate repeated viewing. If you start learning drama with a perfectionist approach, you will inevitably watch the same story over and over again. Certainly there are people out there who say, “I have watched the same story more than 10 times before. I can watch it 100 times or even 1000 times from now on. If you are that type of person, it will not be hard for you to look up all the meanings of the lines and imitate them until you can speak exactly like the actors.
I envy them. I would love to see such a person strive for perfection. However, at least for me, it is painful to watch the same story over and over again. I simply get bored.

The greatest merit of drama study is that it is an interesting and enjoyable way to experience Japanese language. If it is not enjoyable, there is no point in learning drama.
Therefore, “If you can enjoy watching the episode, you have passed the minimum requirement. If you get one thing out of it, it is enough to pass the test.

6. Make the most of both subtitles and dubbing

The second problem is that Japanese-language dramas are made for native speakers. Therefore, the dialogues are lined with words and phrases that native speakers should know, even though they know very little about them.

The dialogue is lined with words and phrases that native speakers should know, even if they don’t use them that much. Words and phrases that native speakers would not need to explain are used frequently.

Also, while Japanese dramas generally use fictitious names of people, companies, and products, American dramas often use real names as they are.

If you try your best to understand these points, it will take you 10 to 20 minutes, or even days in some cases, just to look up one thing. For the parts that you think are beyond your current understanding, it is enough to check the meaning with Japanese dubbing or Japanese subtitles.

7. Focus on the target scene at the beginning

For this reason, it is difficult to understand and memorize a 45-minute story or even a 25-minute comedy (comedies, by the way, have fewer action scenes and more dialogue even if the time is shorter). Therefore, it is recommended that you first learn the story with Japanese dubbing or Japanese subtitles, and then choose a few one-minute scenes that you like and study them with Japanese audio and Japanese subtitles.

However, even within the same one-minute scene, there are scenes with only simple phrases and scenes that even native speakers of the language may have different interpretations. It would be better to study Japanese audio for 30 minutes per episode until you get used to it. You may want to be able to say the lines as fluently as the actors, but don’t be greedy. Again, if you can add one more word to your current level, you will be good.

At first, you should be able to confirm the meaning of the words used in the dialogue, understand the meaning of the English sentences in the subtitles, and be able to listen to the subtitles while watching them.

When you have more time, check to see if you can hear the confirmed lines without subtitles, and practice speaking like the actors.

Although it is good to memorize the meanings of words and phrases, there is no need to take the time to memorize them. Important words are used over and over again, so you will naturally learn them as you look them up over and over again. At first, it may take you 20 or 30 minutes just to understand a single one-minute scene. But if you keep at it, you will gradually learn more and more. As you do so, the time required for each scene will shorten, so try to increase the number of scenes you watch in Japanese.

8. When you get used to watching scenes, watch them in Japanese with Japanese audio and subtitles.

When you get used to picking out scenes, try watching an entire episode in Japanese with Japanese audio and subtitles. You can watch the story in Japanese first to make sure you understand the story, or you can watch it in Japanese without any hesitation. There is only one criterion. Whether you enjoy it or not. If you cannot understand the content when you watch it in Japanese, you should understand the story in Japanese first. If you think you can understand the story to some extent when you watch it in Japanese, don’t hesitate to watch it in Japanese only. Please watch the movie in Japanese only.

At this stage, there are two points you should pay attention to.

(1) Where you cannot follow the meaning even if you look at the subtitles.
If you are not able to follow the meaning of the dialog even after looking at the subtitles, it means that your Japanese processing speed is not fast enough, i.e., it is your weak point.
There are many possible reasons for this, such as not knowing the words, using a syntax you are not good at, not being able to grasp the indicative content of pronouns, etc. The only way to become an advanced learner is to overcome your weaknesses one by one.
And this is not a matter of ability, but of familiarity.
You may be thinking, “Huh? (1) Watch the scenes that you think, “What is he saying here?

(2) Areas where you cannot understand the words even though you know them.
Another area where you should put special effort is where you cannot understand the dialogue even though there are no unfamiliar words in the subtitles.
It is a common weakness of non-native speakers that they cannot hear even though there are no unfamiliar words. The reason for this is that they have not mastered the use of sound combinations and abbreviations.
If you find these areas, you have a great opportunity to improve your listening skills.
Try listening to the same line over and over again, and with LLN, you can do it again and again with a single click.
Then analyze how native speakers pronounce them, and try shadowing or repeating them out loud yourself.
You will learn as you hear it.
By continuing to do this, you will build up a database of Japanese audio in your head, and the number of sounds you can understand without subtitles will increase.

9. Points to note about Japanese subtitles

One thing to note is that Japanese subtitles do not always match the dialogue.
For example, the subtitles may say “We’re going to be OK.” but in reality, we’re is omitted and you may only hear “gonna be OK.”

If you cannot hear the subtitles as they are written, no matter how many times you repeat them or how fast you slow down the playback speed, please consider the possibility that the subtitles and the dialogues do not match.

Incidentally, if you search for the title of the film with “transcript” after it, you can find a page with a transcript of the dialogue for famous films. If you are not satisfied with the subtitles, please make use of them.

If you are enjoying watching shows in Japanese and want to discuss them with others, try our intermediate group classes where teachers are happy to integrate this kind of discussion into the class!

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