Intermediate learners

A Guide to the many “why” words in Japanese: どうして, なぜ and なんで

Japanese is so vocabulary rich that knowing when to use similar words and phrases can be a bit of a nightmare for language learners. どうして, なぜ and なんで can all be translated as ‘why’ in English but it is the level of formality which largely differentiates the three words.

なぜ Naze

なぜ orginated from the older term なにゆえ. It is the most formal of the three and is the word most often used in the written language rather than in speech.

なぜ日本語を勉強していますか?     naze nihongo wo benkyou shiteimasuka?

Why are you studying Japanese?

なぜ昨日のパーティーに来なかったの? naze pa-ti- ni konakatta no?

Why didn’t you come to the party yesterday?

 

どうして Doushite

In a lot of cases, どうして can be used interchangeably with なぜ, but is considered to feel less formal. The word is a contraction of an older term どのようにして, and therefore can sometimes be used to mean ‘how’ rather than why’ in English.

どうして知っているの? doushite shitteiru no?

How did you know?

どうして昨日そんなに早く帰ってしまったの? doushite kinou sonna ni hayaku kaette shimatta no?

Why did you go home so early yesterday?

 

なんで Nande

なんで is the most informal of the three terms. As you can imagine, this word tends to be used more by young people than other age groups.

なんで私が? nande watashi ga?

Why me?

なんでそんな所に行ったの? nande sonna tokoro ni itta no?

Why did you go to that place?

どうして is probably the word you’ll hear used the most and is therefore your safest bet for everyday use, but make sure to choose wisely depending on what setting you are in.

5 Quick Tips for Nailing the JLPT Listening Test

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Unfortunately, you don’t get these snazzy headphones in the real exam

So we are in the final days before the July sitting of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). The listening test is, of course, a big part of this, which can be tricky but at the same time is an area you can score pretty highly with a bit of practice.

Even if you haven’t spent much time preparing for this part of the JLPT so far, here are my last-minute tips for tackling the listening test:

 

1) Practice timings by doing a mock test in exam conditions

The exam has different types of listening questions, and depending on the level you are taking the composition of questions will be slightly different. It is important to practice the test under timed conditions to give yourself an idea of how long you have for each of the question types when sitting the real thing.

At the beginning of the test the questions are more straightforward, but at the same time, the thinking time for each question is pretty short. You do not want to be caught out early on in the exam where it is relatively easier to pick up marks.

You can find example question papers for each JLPT with answers and the transcript on the official website.

 

2) Listening to anything and everything in Japanese just before the exam

Especially when preparing for a language exam outside of Japan, you want to go into the test room having set your brain to Japanese mode.

 

3) Maximise use of the reading time by making notes

By preparing yourself for what you might hear, you can use the actual exam time for listening (instead of stressing about what is being asked of you in each section of the test).

The questions are written out in Japanese on the question paper, so use the reading time to make notes (if you have practised the exam previously, you shouldn’t have to spend too much time working out what each question is asking of you).

  • Highlight words on the question paper that give you an idea as to what type of information you are looking for, often indicated by question words like どこ, なに, どんな, いつ, どうして.
  • Make a mental note of what the differences are between the potential answers in the multiple choice sections, and for questions accompanied by a picture you could jot down the appropriate Japanese vocab for key items in the picture.

 

4) For the longer conversation questions, keep track of key points in the dialogue signposting the flow of the conversation

Listen out for conjunctions during dialogues. Words like でも, しかし, それから and その後 may precede essential information for answering the question correctly.

When I sat the N2 exam this was really helpful to bear in mind, as the conversations can lead you towards one answer and then indicate the correct answer mid-way or at the end of the dialogue.

 

5) Writing something is better than nothing!

These exams do require concentration for a long period of time, and if like me it has been a while since you last sat an exam the whole day can be pretty daunting. This may seem obvious, but if you find that you’ve missed a key bit of information on one question, put something down on the answer paper and move on to the next question.

 

If you are reading this and about to sit your exam, good luck!

More importantly, don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back once it is all over – whatever the outcome of the exam is, getting to the stage of sitting the exam at any level is an accomplishment.

Never heard of the JLPT? Check out my post about the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.

Have you sat the JLPT exam before? How did you find the listening portion? Let me know in the comments!

‘Appy Mondays: Mondo App Review

Welcome to my series of app reviews relating to Japanese language study. Today’s app review is of the Japanese reading app Mondo.

Have you been studying Japanese for a while but scared of reading articles in Japanese? Looking for a simple Japanese news aggregate app with dictionary lookup functionality? Then Mondo is definitely the app for you!

mondo_featuredimage-620x390

I have had this app installed for some time, but after playing around with the app to understand more fully all of the features it has I can definitely recommend this to intermediate learners looking to improve their article reading skills.

 

How Mondo works

I have reviewed other reading apps before as part of this series, but what sets this app aside from these others is that it offers a better reading experience for learners by including dictionary lookup and a flashcard feature amongst other things. I’ve outlined some of the app’s main features below:

 

  • Article reading. All articles have a word lookup function when you highlight a word or phrase and includes a recording of its pronunciation by a native speaker. You can toggle furigana on or off, and some articles have links to the English translation to check your understanding of the Japanese text.
  • Vocabulary lists. Words you come across in articles can be bookmarked, which then can be viewed later and added to a vocabulary list. There are also preset lists, with lists such as all levels of the JLPT, Joyo (general use) kanji and business-related language. You can then test yourself on this vocabulary in the form of electronic flashcards, Anki style. My only gripe with this is that with the preset lists testing from English to Japanese, the English terms can be so obtuse at times that coming up with the correct Japanese term can seem nearly impossible sometimes.

 

 

  • Handshake is a feature you can use to find Japanese language learning partners. You can choose a partner by swiping right on the people you are interested in chatting with – if you get a mutual handshake, you’ve just found a language exchange partner! The obvious similarities to Tinder here have put me off trying this feature out, but it could be a good alternative to a dedicated app like Hello Talk.
  • Study log. When reading articles, the app measures how long it takes you to read the article, and how long you have spent reading in total. It also measures Characters per Minute (CPM) which is used as a benchmark for what level the app considers your language learning level to be.

 

My thoughts on Mondo

I think that the above features packed into one app for free represents a really good deal. It is worth mentioning that there is a premium version of the app, which gives you access to audio recordings of each article (the free version lets you listen to one article every fortnight) as well as short dialogues by native speakers and costs 480 yen per month.

For 1800 yen per month, the premium membership also grants you access to Japanese language teachers who are there to help you out with any Japanese related questions you may have. Given the prices, I am not sure if the premium membership represents good value for money, but as a free app, I am impressed by its current offering.

If you are interested in checking the app out, it is available in the Apple store and Google Play storeYou can also find out more about the app on the official website.

 

PS. If you are on the lookout for a similar type of reading app, check my previous reviews:

‘Appy Mondays – TangoRisto

‘Appy Mondays – News Easy Japanese

‘Appy Mondays -NHK News Reader

 

Have you tried this app out? Are you aware of a better alternative? Let me know in the comments!

Tadoku – reading your way to Japanese fluency?

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Reading in Japanese is crucial for increasing your language skills. Especially if you are looking to study towards the JLPT, reading in Japanese on a regular basis is an essential habit. Reading speed for the JLPT becomes even more important at the higher levels, where being able to read quickly and pick out the key points is necessary to score highly.

Therefore as an avid reader, I was immediately drawn to the concept of tadoku (多読) when I happened across it some months ago. Developed in Japan as a way of improving English skills for non-native speakers, tadoku focuses on reading as much material as possible. Importantly, you read without getting hung up on unfamiliar words and phrases.

There are four golden rules for tadoku:

  1. Read something at your level
  2. Don’t use your dictionary
  3. Skip over the words and phrases you don’t understand
  4. If something is too difficult, stop reading it and read something else

 

Why is tadoku effective?

  • After a while, the context of the text you are reading helps to fill in the meaning of the words. Often we want to look up a word in a dictionary, and then work out what it means by reading the next sentence or two. Generally, 80% comprehension is enough to understand the remaining 20% through context.
  • You get a feel for what words and phrases appear more naturally in everyday language. Similarly, you learn common vocabulary when you read extensively in a specialist field.
  • Most importantly though, tadoku is supposed to be fun because you only read texts that you are motivated to finish.

Initially, I was skeptical of the idea of not needing to look up every word I did not know. However I decided to choose materials that were easy enough for me to follow but also things that I was genuinely interested in reading. That shift in thinking was enough for me to want to give tadoku a try.

Armed with a couple of really useful reading apps, I started looking for things to read. I mostly read novels, but I also enjoy reading manga from time to time. I often write about easy manga recommendations on the blog too.

Finding Japanese reading materials 

Free resources

My first thought was to look for reading materials where I already knew the story. Many people prefer translations of stories they are familiar with in English. With this in mind, I picked up translations of ‘Little Women’ and ‘The Great Gatsby’ from Aozora Bunko.

I recommend Aozora Bunko if you are looking for stories in Japanese to read for free, and I will be writing a follow-up post on how to make the most of this amazing resource. As great as Aozora Bunko is, the website is more than a little dauting for Japanese learners. I have written a few Author Spotlight posts which tend to feature authors whose works are on Aozora and are appropriate for Japanese learners.

However what has been most effective for me is to read books relating to films/ dramas I have watched. Examples of texts I have read include Nodame Cantabile, 1 Litre of Tears and A Silent Voice.

I’ve done a few posts on free online resources for Japanese reading which might help:

Buying physical books

The magic of tadoku is that you can read anything you want to read. If you want to read Harry Potter in Japanese, go ahead and order it!

Being in Japan certainly helps keep the costs down as second hand books can be bought online on from Book-Off very cheaply.

If you are outside of Japan like me, it’s a little bit more difficult. In terms of physical books, I normally look out for books on eBay or Amazon in my home country where possible for used books.

I know that CDJapanAmazon.jp and honto.jp ship internationally, although due to fairly high shipping costs it is advisable to buy in bulk to get the best value for money.

Buying digital books/ eBooks

If you prefer digital books, you have two book reading websites with companion apps at your disposal: ebookJapan and Bookwalker. I personally use both and can vouch for the convenience of being able to buy digital books and manga from outside Japan. You can pay with international cards on both websites, and with Bookwalker you can navigate both the website and the app in English.

If you are based in Japan, I would look into getting a Kindle ebook reader to read Japanese books digitally. I bought a Kobo reader in Japan and can buy ebooks for the device via the Rakuten Kobo store (I was living in Japan at the time, so I am not sure if this would work for others who are not in the country).

koboereader
My Kobo E-reader

The best thing about these two websites above is that you can try before you buy, by making use of the 立ち読み button. This allows you to read a sample of the book. I definitely recommend spending some time doing this before buying anything. You can save yourself a bit of money by first assessing the registers and the style of language used to see if it is appropriate for your language level.

Keep an eye out for my Manga Recommendation posts which may give you ideas of what you might like to read depending on your current level.

 

Tracking your reading in Japanese

If you are using an ebook reader, you will already be able to check your stats on how much you have read. However, if you are reading physical books, you may find using a website like Bookmeter helpful.

Bookmeter is basically the Japanese version of Goodreads. You can put together lists of books you are reading or would like to read and post reviews. As you register more books, you get recommendations on books based on what you have already read and enjoyed. The website is all in Japanese so I would recommend this website more for intermediate to advanced learners.

There are tadoku contests if you are planning on trying to read extensively and would like to compete against others.

 

How have I been getting on so far?

Initially my focus was to try and read as far as I could get on my train journey to work. At first, it was quite difficult, having started a new book (死神の制度 by Isaka Kotaro) and progress was slow. After a few days, I had sped up considerably. I felt like I was enjoying the book for its content rather than stressing about reading a book in Japanese!

For me, the best thing about trying this method has been to remind me of how far I’ve come with my language learning. Tadoku also gets you to enjoy native language materials without getting bogged down in the finer details of the language. After all, that’s why I started studying Japanese in the first place! My main goal in the short term is to keep reading regularly. Writing about what books I have read on the blog is also a good way to stay accountable.

Have you tried the tadoku technique? Are there any texts or resources you have found particularly useful for boosting your reading skills? Let me know in the comments.

Japanese Onomatopoeia: Giongo, Giseigo and Gitaigo

Both spoken and written forms of Japanese contain lots of onomatopoeia. Despite this, few textbooks spend much time explaining Japanese onomatopoeia in detail. I highly advise learners dedicate time to study this fascinating part of the language.

Using onomatopoeia helps to vividly describe an action or state. Take the verb 笑(わら)う warau for example; this can mean to smile or laugh depending on the context. By adding different onomatopoeia we can change the nuance of this verb:

ニヤニヤ笑う niyaniya warau to grin, smirk

クスクス笑うkusukusu warau to giggle, chuckle

ゲラゲラ笑う geragera warau to burst into laughter, crack up

We Japanese learners can often guess the meaning of some words in context. However Japanese people tend to use onomatopoeia in a much broader sense.

Types of Onomatopoeia in Japanese

There are three Japanese terms that fall under the umbrella of onomatopoeia (オノマトペ):

擬音語/ぎおんご Giongo

Giongo mimics a sound – think of ‘bang’ or ‘crash’ in English

ざあざあ (zaazaa) = sound of pouring rain/ rushing water

雨がざあざあ降っている ame ga zaazaa futteiru

The rain is pouring down

がちゃん (gachan) = slamming or clanging sound

花瓶が床に落ちてがちゃんと割った kabin ga yuka ni ochite gachan to watta

The vase crashed to the floor

 

擬声語/ぎせいご Giseigo

Giseigo mimics a voice (usually of an animal) – think of ‘woof’ or ‘meow’ in English

わんわん (wanwan) = a dog’s bark

犬がわんわん吠えている  inu ga wanwan hoeteiru

The dog is barking

おぎゃー(ogya) = a baby’s cry

赤ちゃんがおぎゃーおぎゃーと泣く akachan ga ogyaa ogyaa to naku

The baby is crying

 

擬態語/ぎたいご Gitaigo

Japanese uses gitaigo to mimic a state. This is pretty uncommon in English; there are terms like higgledy-piggledy (meaning ‘in a messy state’) which have a similar feel.

We can break gitaigo into three categories:

Firstly, words that indicate a state or condition, e.g.

きらきら (kirakira) = sparkling, glittering

星が空にきらきらと輝いている hoshi ga sora ni kirakira to kagayaiteiru

The stars are sparkling in the sky

つるつる (tsurutsuru) = smooth

ラーメンをつるつるとすする raamen wo tsurutsuru to susuru

I slurp the noodles

Secondly, words that describe how an action is being performed, e.g.

ぺらぺら (perapera) = fluently; thin/ flimsy (paper/ cloth)

姉は5年間スペインに住んでいましたので、スペイン語がぺらぺら

My older sister is fluent in Spanish because she lived in Spain for 5 years

のろのろ (noronoro) = slow, sluggish

彼は亀のようにのろのろ歩いた kare wa kame no you ni noronoro aruita

He walked as slow as a snail

Lastly, words that indicate feelings or emotions, e.g.

イライラする (iraira suru) = to be irritated

私は食事をしないとイライラする人だ watashi wa shokuji wo shinai to iraira suru hito da

I’m a person who gets annoyed when I haven’t eaten

びっくりする (bikkuri suru) = to be surprised

そのニュースを聞いてびっくりした sono nyuusu wo kiite bikkuri shita

I was shocked to hear the news

Slightly changing the sound of the onomatopoeia can also add further nuance, for example:

ドアをトントン叩(たた)く doa wo tonton tataku to knock/ tap on the door

ドアをドンドン叩(たた)く doa wo dondon tataku    to bang on the door

 

How I study Japanese onomatopoeia

If I come across a new onomatopoeia, I look it up in a dictionary or ask a friend to confirm the meaning. Then I make a note of it in my vocabulary notebook. When I do this, I always write it down as a phrase or in the context of a sentence rather than the word on its own.

Since these words are often hard to translate into English, having example sentences or phrases are essential. Studying them in the context of sentences will be helpful for not only memorising onomatopoeia but also using them naturally in conversation. This is especially true for gitaigo which is less intuitive to English speakers.

Onomatopoeia is very frequently used with specific verbs. Others are formed into verbs by adding する, so remembering the onomatopoeia as a verb means you will know the meaning of it even when it appears without する.

わんわん –> わんわん吠(ほ)える wanwan hoeru = to bark

にこにこ –> にこにこ笑( わら)う nikoniko warau = to smile

You’ll notice in some of the examples in this post that some onomatopoeia can take the particle と, often when with a verb. There isn’t a specific rule on when to use . My recoomendation is to make a note of which words use it in your example sentences or phrases.

Resources for learning Japanese onomatopoeia

Referring to a decent Japanese-English dictionary is fine for giving an idea of a rough meaning, although you may find that there is not a direct English translation.

I’ve listed a few sites below that might help your studies:

OnomatoProject

Onomatoproject page screenshot

There is a great website called the Onomato Project which lets you practice onomatopoeia in the form of online quizzes. Each word is accompanied by illustrations and example sentences. If you use Anki, you might find the shared Onomatoproject Anki deck a better choice for studying on the go.

Sura Sura

However, if you are an intermediate learner, then I fully recommend going straight to a Japanese resource called Sura Sura, which is an online Japanese onomatopoeia dictionary. It may not have every word you are looking for, but for the onomatopoeia that is on the site, you will find a simple explanation in Japanese, accompanied by a photo which helps illuminate the meaning.

sura sura japanese onomatopoeia screenshot

Each onomatopoeia also has example sentences and notes on things like the etymology of the word and how it differs to others with a similar meaning. Best of all, each page has a link to Twitter showing tweets from native speakers using the word you are looking up.

National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics (NINJAL) website

Screenshot showing japanese onomatopoeia

I also recommend the マンガを読もう section of the NINJAL website above which has some extremely helpful comic illustrations.

The above websites show just how useful it is to have visual context for learning how onomatopoeia is actually used. Therefore pictures, manga, and TV are especially good places to see these words in context. Sometimes I will draw a picture (despite being terrible at drawing!) alongside new onomatopoeia in my notebook.

PS. Think you’re pretty good with onomatopoeia in Japanese? Check out this video below and see if you can spot them all!

Do you have any special tricks for learning onomatopoeia? Let me know in the comments!

Top Youtube Channels for Learning Japanese

Youtube is an amazing resource for language learning, especially Japanese. So amazing, in fact, that it can be a bit difficult to know where to start.

Whether you are looking for another resource to help explain a tricky grammar point, or are looking for short clips of people speaking real Japanese, there should be something to help you learn you on Youtube. I’ve introduced four Youtube channels below that are great for Japanese language learners:

Bilingirl Chika/ Japanagos

Japanagos

Chika is a Japanese-American who produces Japanese and English language learning videos. Her main channel is aimed at Japanese speakers learning English, but I have found it to be a really good resource for picking up differences in language usage between English and Japanese. Chika is really engaging and I always find that I can learn something new from her videos.

She also has a separate channel for her Japanese language lessons and vlogs called Japanagos which is also a fun and educational channel. I recommend checking out Japanagos if you are new to Japanese, and moving on to her main Bilingirl channel if you are at intermediate level. She is often travelling so both channels are good if you would like to follow her vlogs.

 

Easy Languages – Japanese

Easy Lang Japanese

The Easy Languages Youtube channel covers a lot of different languages with a series of videos interviewing speakers of each language about different aspects of that language and the cultures connected to it. The Japanese series has 19 videos which are all about 5-6 minutes long.

I like this series as each video is fairly short, contains natural language and each video has Japanese (both kana and romaji) and English subtitles.

 

Japanese Ammo with Misa

Japanese Ammo with Misa

Misa has some really great videos on fundamental aspects of Japanese grammar and usage. This is my top recommendation for beginners to the language as she has a very good way of explaining things.

Misa has also done quite a few videos introducing different aspects of Japanese culture, in addition to has really useful videos on how to learn kana as well as Japanese study tips.

 

Nihongo no Mori

Nihongo no Mori

The Basic Japanese series is really helpful for clear and informative explanations of key grammar points for beginners.

If you are looking to take the JLPT N3 or above, this channel is full of great videos for you as well. There are videos aimed at the JLPT levels N3, N2 and N1 with each focusing on a different aspect of the JLPT test (reading, listening, grammar and vocabulary). A lot of the lessons cover differences between similar looking grammar points, which is particularly useful for those pesky multiple choice questions.

 

Looking for more Youtube channel recommendations? I’ve done a post on three more cool Youtube channels for learning Japanese that you may also enjoy.

If the above do not take your fancy, you may find that jumping into Japanese videos by searching the Japanese term for something that interests you is the way to go.

How has Youtube helped your language learning? Are there any channels that you think do a great job of promoting the Japanese language? Let me know in the comments!

Manga recommendation for Japanese learners: Usagi Drop うさぎドロップ

Today’s manga recommendation for Japanese learners is Usagi Drop (うさぎドロップ), a manga series created by Yumi Unita.

Quick Facts

Author: Yumi Unita (宇仁田ゆみ)

Genre: Slice of life

No. of volumes: 10

Recommended for: JLPT N3/ intermediate

Furigana: No

Anime/ drama/ film adaptations?: Yes, anime and live-action film adaptations

 

Usagi drop japanese manga cover
Source: ebookJapan website

 

Plot Overview

The main character is Daikichi Kawachi who, despite not knowing anything about raising a child, becomes the guardian of a 6-year-old girl called Rin. Rin is the illegitimate child of Daikichi’s late grandfather, who he meets for the first time at his grandfather’s funeral. Seeing that his other relatives want nothing to do with Rin, he takes it upon himself to look after her rather than have her adopted.

 

Why do I recommend Usagi drop for Japanese learners?

I really like this manga as it is packed with both funny and touching moments, and it is particularly heartwarming to watch the relationship between Daikichi and Rin develop. It is also interesting to see how Daikichi copes as a single parent, having to learn (with a bit of help from his friends) what it takes to be responsible for another person.

Not only has the manga has also been serialised in English but there is also an anime and a live action film that was released in 2011, so if you enjoy the story it may be worth checking these out as well.

 

Recommended Japanese language level

Whilst there is no furigana, the manga is not too difficult in terms of vocabulary used. Being a slice of life manga, the vocabulary is mostly related to everyday activities. It does, however, require knowledge of more casual speech, for example:

そっスカ? = そうですか?

終わんの早エなー = 終わるのが早いな

Aside from the above, I think it is an accessible manga for intermediate or JLPT N3 level learners.

You can read a sample of this manga on the EbookJapan website by clicking the blue ‘無料立ち読み’ button.

 

If you do try Usagi Drop (or any of my other manga recommendations), please let me know how you get on the comments.

I am always on the hunt for beginner friendly manga, so if you have any suggestions please let me know!

Learn Japanese with Netflix?

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What if you could make your Netflix sessions more effective by learning Japanese at the same time? I’ve recently joined Netflix and it is turning out to be a pretty good resource for studying Japanese, even though I am not in Japan currently.

It turns out that there are quite a few Japanese TV dramas, anime series and films available internationally, with the list of Japanese language content increasing every week – great news for language learners!

Image result for netflix

How can Netflix be used for Japanese study?

The Japanese content on Netflix is a good way of working on your Japanese comprehension, as you can choose whether to have the English language subtitles on or off.

Changing the subtitles for shows on Netflix is simple: just look for the speech bubble icon in the bottom right corner of the play menu which will allow you to change the language of the subtitles displayed, or change the language of the show if there is more than one available.

Screenshot 2018-09-16 at 14.02.12

As you can see from the above, my Netflix is in Japanese, so the list of languages under 音声 (おんせい) refers to the audio language and 字幕(じまく) shows the language subtitle options.

Setting your home country to Japan changes the language of the interface to Japanese, but also gives you access to a greater number of Western shows with Japanese subtitles too.

The best ones to watch in terms of Japanese study are the Netflix originals (known as Netflixオリジナル作品) as you more often than not have the option to choose Japanese subtitles or Japanese closed caption (CC).

Here are a couple of ideas on how you can incorporate watching Netflix into your study routine (depending on your language level of course!):

  • You could watch a series that you already have watched in English and then rewatch with the Japanese subtitles. This helps you focus on how much of the language you can understand without looking anything up, as you are already familiar with the characters and story. The main advantage of using Japanese subtitles is that it will be much easier to pause and look up new words or phrases in the dictionary as and when you encounter them.
  • Watch using Japanese subtitles only, or try watching without any subtitles to really test your listening comprehension skills. Whilst this seems the most difficult and scary to do, the nature of TV will help fill in a lot of the important context of what is happening. It is also the best way to get used to the language being spoken at a natural speed (rather than at a slow speed as it tends to be in most language study materials).
  • Watch with dual subtitles. Chrome Extensions such as LLN: Language Learning with Netflix allow you to watch Netflix with two lots of subtitles. This gives you the opportunity to compare the two languages as you watch – the best of both worlds!

There’s a lot more to be said about subtitles and language learning, which I decided to cover in a separate post.

Pros and cons of using Netflix to study languages

Whilst I don’t always watch things more than once, I find that rewatching a series allows you to more accurately identify what aspects of the language you need to focus on (ie. is it vocabulary that is hindering your comprehension or is it grammar?) as you do not need to pay attention to the storyline as much. If it is not vocabulary or grammar, then it is often your listening comprehension letting you down.

What I find most useful about Netflix is that some videos can now be downloaded for offline viewing on the app which now makes it much easier to study on the go. The main downside with Netflix at the moment, however, is that there is not much in the way of variety: rom-com and food lovers, in particular, are likely to find something to enjoy here, but others may struggle.

I hope that more Japanese language content is to be added in the future; fortunately, there has been a steady stream of new content over the last few months. Netflix will notify you when content that relates to your interests is added.

One thing I’ve noticed which I hope will get fixed is that the subtitles are in white, which can be a bit tricky to see depending on the scene.

List of Japanese language content currently streaming on Netflix UK

I’ve compiled a list of Japanese language TV shows, films and anime that I’ve found on Netflix UK below (those that have options for Japanese/English or no language subtitles are given in brackets). I try to update this on a weekly basis!

NB: this does not include content that has been dubbed into English (eg. Pokemon X & Y, Yugi-oh!).

Dramas & TV

Ainori (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Atelier (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Blazing Transfer Students (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Erased (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Final Fantasy XIV: Dad of Light (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Good Morning Call [Seasons 1 & 2] (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Hibana: Spark (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Japanese Style Originator (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Jimmy: The True Story of a True Idiot (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Kakegurui [Live Action] (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Love and Fortune (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Love and Hong Kong (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

My Little Lover (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Million Yen Women (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Mob Psycho 100 (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Playful Kiss Season 1 (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Playful Kiss Season 2 (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

REA(L) OVE (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Re:Mind (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Samurai Gourmet (Japanese/ Japanese audio description/ English/ no subs)

Saboriman Kantarou (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Smoking [Season 1] (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Spiritual House (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Switched (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Terrace House: Boys and Girls in the City (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Terrace House: Aloha State (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Terrace House: Opening New Doors (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

The Could’ve-Gone-All-the-Way Committee (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

The Many Faces of Ito (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Anime

009 RE: Cyborg (English/ no subs)

A.I.C.O Incarnation (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Aggretsuko Season 1 (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Aggrestsuko: We Wish You a Metal Christmas (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Ajin: Demi Human (English/ no subs)

Aldnoah Zero (English/ no subs)

Angel Beats (English/ no subs)

Attack on Titan (English/ no subs)

Back Street Girls Gokudols (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Baki (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Batman Ninja (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Black Butler [Season 3] (English/ no subs)

Black Lagoon (English/ no subs)

Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Blood Trail (English/ no subs)

Bleach [Seasons 1-3] (English/ no subs)

Blood Lad (English/ no subs)

Blue Exorcist (English/ no subs)

B: The Beginning (Japanese / English/ no subs)

Case Closed (English/ no subs)

Children of the Whales (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Code Geass : Lelouch of the Rebellion (English/ no subs)

Cowboy Bebop (English/ no subs)

Cyborg 009: Call of Justice (Japanese audio description/ English/ no subs)

Cyborg 009 vs Devil Man (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Death Note (English/ no subs)

Devilman Crybaby [Season 1] (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Dragon Pilot (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Durarara!! (English/ no subs)

Elfen Lied (English/ no subs)

Erased (English/ no subs)

Eureka Seven Seasons 1 & 2 (English/ no subs)

Fate/ Apocrypha (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Fate/ EXTRA Last Encore Season 1 (Japanese CC/ English /no subs)

Fate/ Stay Night (English/ no subs)

Fate/ Stay Night unlimited Blade Works (English/ no subs)

Forest of Piano (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Fullmetal Alchemist (English/ no subs)

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (English/ no subs)

Gunslinger Girl (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Gunslinger Girl –Il teatrino- (English/ no subs)

Gurren Lagann (English/ no subs)

Hero Mask (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Hi Score Girl (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Hunter X Hunter (English/ no subs)

ID-0 (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Kakegurui (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Kill la Kill (English/no subs)

Knights of Sidonia (English/ no subs)

Kuromukuro (Japanese/English/ no subs)

Last Hope [Parts 1 & 2] (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Little Witch Academia (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Lost Song (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Magi Adventure of Sinbad (Japanese/English/ no subs)

Mobile Suit Gundam UC (English/ no subs)

Mushi-shi (English/ no subs)

One Punch Man (English/ no subs)

Rurouni Kenshin (English/no subs)

Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Samurai Champloo (English/ no subs)

Samurai Flamenco (English/ no subs)

Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign (English/ no subs)

Sirius the Jaeger (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Space Dandy [Seasons 1 & 2] (English/ no subs)

Steins Gate [Season 1] (English/ no subs)

Sword Art Online (English/ no subs)

Sword Art Online II (English/ no subs)

Sword Gai (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Terror in Resonance (English/ no subs)

The Asterisk War Season 1 (English/ no subs)

The Disastrous Life of Saiki K Season 1 & 2 (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

The Seven Deadly Sins (English/ no subs)

Tokyo Ghoul (English/ no subs)

Trigun (English/ no subs)

Vampire Knight Season 1 & 2 (English/ no subs)

Violet Evergarden (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Your Lie in April (English/ no subs)

Yuki Yuna is a Hero (English/ no subs)

Films

A Silent Voice (English/ no subs)

Battle Royale (English/ no subs)

BLAME! (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Bleach [Live Action] (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Blue Exorcist: The Movie (English/ no subs)

Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods (English/ no subs)

Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F (English/ no subs)

Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry (English/ no subs)

Fairy Tail: Phoenix Priestess (English/ no subs)

Fate/ Grand Order (English/ no subs)

Flavors of Youth: International Version (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Full Metal Alchemist [live action] (English/ no subs)

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos (English/ no subs)

Garden of Words (English/ no subs)

Gantz: 0 (Japanese/English/ no subs)

Ghost Pain (English/ no subs)

Godzilla (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Godzilla The Planet Eater (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Halo Legends (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Harlock Space Pirate (English/ no subs)

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (English/ no subs)

Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Lupin III: The Castle of Caligostro (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Magi: The Labrinth of Magic (English/ no subs)

Manhunt (Japanese CC/ English/ no subs)

Persona 3 the Movie: #2 Midsummer Knights Dream (English/ no subs)

Steamboy (English/ no subs)

Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale (English/ no subs)

The Birth of Sake (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

The Eternal Zero (English/ no subs)

The Many Faces of Ito [Live Action Movie] (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

The Seven Deadly Sins the Movie (Japanese/ English/ no subs)

Tokyo Ghoul: Jack (English/ no subs)

Tokyo Ghoul: Pinto (English/ no subs)

So is Netflix worth it for Japanese learners?

At this stage, there is not quite enough content for me to recommend subscribing purely for learning Japanese (there appears to be a good selection of Korean and Taiwanese dramas compared to Japanese content), but if you already have a subscription I definitely recommend checking the Japanese language stuff out.

Of the content I’ve watched, some of my favourites from the above list are Midnight Diner, My Little Lover and Jiro Dreams of Sushi. If you are interested in reading more about Japanese content on Netflix, check out this post where I write in greater depth about my top 8 TV shows, anime and films.

However, my absolute favourite TV show on Netflix, especially in terms of learning about Japanese language and culture is Japanese Style Originator’ as each episode focuses on different aspects of traditional Japanese culture. There are 54 episodes, some of which are up to 2 hours long so there is plenty to get your teeth stuck into!

What would be your recommendation for something to watch on Netflix? Have I missed anything from the above list? Let me know in the comments!

‘Appy Mondays – NHK News Reader Review

Hello and Happy New Year! I hope 2017 will be a great year for all 🙂

Today’s post is the first of a new series called ‘Appy Mondays, where I will be reviewing some of the many Japanese language learning apps to see if they are worth using. This series will focus on apps available on Android as I do not own any Apple devices at present. I am also all about free or low cost apps whenever possible, and the cost will be factored into these reviews.

Today’s review is of NHK News Reader (AOVILL team, free)

 

How NHK News Reader works

This app provides access to the latest NHK articles, with additional functions suited for Japanese language learners. Articles are split by topic, but the main landing page will always show the main headlines.

Each article has the option to show furigana above kanji. Articles are accompanied by a video showing the corresponding item as read on Japanese TV, which is generally identical to the text (the text differs sometimes when people are interviewed and their speech has been paraphrased).

  NHK News Reader with Furigana- screenshot

As these videos are from Japanese TV, the speed is at a natural speed (ie. fast), so it is good for testing your comprehension of real Japanese. Article lengths do vary but the articles are for the most part not too long, and are best suited for a 15-30 minute reading session.

 

My thoughts on NHK News Reader

The option for furigana is always helpful for learners, but there is no integrated dictionary within the app. This would not be much of a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that the app does tend to freeze. I found that this always happened when I tried to switch apps to look a word up in the dictionary whilst in the middle of reading an article, the app screen would go blank when I returned to the app.

This is a shame because unless you have a physical dictionary to hand, you would, of course, be switching apps frequently. I often use my journey to work for studying Japanese for example and so this app would not be easy to use on my commute. Your device has to be connected to the internet to use the app, which makes sense as there are integrated videos, but it would have been nice to have the option to view the articles themselves offline.

I should say that the app is free, but there is a paid version for £3.99. However looking at the reviews for the paid version, the extra cost does not add functionality that I would be expecting, namely the ability to view articles offline and an integrated dictionary.

Overall, I think that as a free app it may be worth trying out if you are around JLPT N2 level and looking for authentic news articles and video to work on your newspaper reading comprehension. It is a decent free app, but I could not recommend it or its paid upgrade app as an essential resource for intermediate/ advanced learners with the bugs it currently has.

Update: if you are interested in other reading apps, I recommend TangoRisto or Mondo – both are free and improve upon a lot of the issues I had with this app!

Manga Recommendation: Cooking Papa

On the blog, I’m planning to introduce plenty of manga that Japanese learners may be interested in reading. The recommendations I make will usually be based on the difficulty of Japanese used, or the fact that it offers an interesting insight into Japanese culture. Generally, manga is best tackled when you reach about JLPT N3, although this can vary depending on the genre.

Today I would like to introduce Cooking Papa (クッキングパパ), a long-running manga series created by Tochi Ueyama.

Quick Facts

Author: Tochi Ueyama (うえやまとち)

Genre: Shounen, food

No. of volumes: 144

Recommended for: JLPT N3

Furigana: No

Anime/ drama/ film adaptations?: Yes, anime and drama adaptations

Plot Overview 

The main character is Kazumi Araiwa, a senior member of staff at a food business. At work he manages to strike a balance between getting work done and caring about the well-being of his colleagues, but what really catches his boss Higashiyama’s eye is his delicious homemade lunches, or bento (弁当)!

It turns out Kazumi’s wife is busy working as a journalist and is a terrible cook, so Kazumi is responsible for making his own bento. The manga spends a lot of time focusing on how Kazumi makes a series of amazing meals and lunches to treat his coworkers and family. 

Why do I recommend the manga?

Each volume contains a number of real-life recipes with hints and tips on how to bring out the best flavors. For example, the recipe for おにぎらず (Onigirazu, a kind of rice sandwich), has recently become a lunchtime favorite and there are plenty of videos on how to make it for yourself. This dish was first popularised in Japan after being published in Cooking Papa.

If you want to learn more about cooking in Japanese, this manga is a good way to familiarise yourself with relevant vocabulary such as:

煮る (にる/ niru) to boil, simmer

揚げる (あげる/ ageru) to deep fry

Handy recipes aside, I like how the manga has Kazumi (and his wife) somewhat breaking traditional gender stereotypes, whilst keeping a fun and lighthearted tone.  In addition, whilst there are over 130 volumes, each volume is episodic so you do not need to start from volume one. This also makes it a good choice for shorter reading sessions.

Recommended Japanese language level

 I would probably recommend this to someone about JLPT N3 or intermediate level. Having a fair bit of dialogue, it helps to be familiar with casual forms of Japanese. As the manga takes place both at Kazumi’s home and workplace, you get to learn more about the contrast in how Japanese is spoken in the office and when at home with family. 

The best way to get a feel for the manga is to try reading a sample. Fortunately, a lot of manga including Cooking Papa is available digitally.

You can read a sample of this manga on the EbookJapan website by clicking the blue ‘無料立ち読み’ button.

If you do try reading any of the recommendations, please let me know how you get on the comments. I am always on the hunt for beginner friendly manga, so if you have any suggestions please let me know!

If you like Cooking Papa, you might also like my other food-related manga recommendations:

Happy Reading!

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