Learning Japanese via anime/manga

There’s a fairly large thread about the merits (or lack thereof) of learning Japanese via anime on my main grammar guide page which I deleted primarily to keep the page clean (and it’s also off-topic). I will follow up with a more detailed post but to sum up my opinion on the matter, I would say anything that engages you and helps you spend more time using Japanese is a good thing. However, it also depends on what anime/manga you’re using. The important thing is that you’re using anime/manga to learn Japanese and not just trying to translate or learn Japanese to watch anime or read manga.

Here’s the full thread:

Hi i am from india
I am watcing the japanese anime last 1 year.But i learned basics of japanese language how to learn japanese language
Posted by Anonymous on Apr 22nd, 2010 at 1:44 am.


I think it’s great that you’re learning Japanese, for whatever reason.
Don’t listen to people that say anime/manga is not a good reason.

Good luck with your studies!


Don’t learn Japanese because of anime. The real Japan is completely different than what anime-fans think. You should work on learning English first if you’re going to consult in this language.


Why do you think so,..???
I think your argument is false…
Bacause javanese language is most popular in my country…


Trust me, it is not a great idea to learn Japanese just because of anime. It is a really shallow reason because the truth is, as any Japanese person would tell you, anime is just TV shows and does not bring insight to the culture. Learn Japanese if you intend to interact with Japanese people, which would broaden your world more than just an easy way to watch TV.


You should learn a language for the reason that you want to learn it. It’s annoying when people flank out or look down on anime or manga as an invalid reason or resource for language study – it just shows ignorance on the part of the person giving the opinion.

Denying anime as a resource or considering it ‘shallow’ is denying an element of Japanese culture. A lot of Japanese people would not consider it to be irrelevant or pointless, plus it’s a great way to improve listening and pronunciation without having to struggle through a news bulletin or a long documentary.

Japanese is the third foreign language I’ve studied to a post-school level and the advantage of it over others is the diversity of material available. I was taught to use all and every available resource when studying a foreign language because that’s the only way to learn it naturally as well as grammatically.

I didn’t start learning Japanese becuase of anime – I have an interest in the history and family connections to the country. On my bookshelf are copies of the Heike Monogatari in it’s original kobun, so I take studying Japanese very seriously. However, I have found anime extremely useful and educational along with several other resources. Plus, it’s fun. People seem to think if you have fun studying a language you’re doing something frivolous and wrong. Truth is it’s the opposite – you learn more if you learn from something you enjoy.

People also have this wrong idea that all anime is for children and involves the same stunted and repeated phrases through episode after episode. Doubtless these exist, but perhaps folk outside of Japan forget that anime is not the same as ‘cartoon’ and that it’s not always just for children. Imposing western ideas on learning an eastern language just makes learning it harder.


Does it really matter what the reason is? As long as there is a genuine will to learn I think it’s all right. I started out with Anime as well, and got interested in the culture later.
No offence, but there’s really no need to try to stop someone from learning a language they’re interested in just because you don’t like the reason as to why they’re interested.


Agreed. I don’t know why some people think their reason for learning something is more superior than others.


No, learning Japanese just to watch anime with is inane. Learning it to do business with is a superior reason.


No, it’s not. Learning because of anime and learning because of you want to do business are both extrinsic rewards and doesn’t help motivate you to continue studying the language as much as intrinsic rewards. For example, an intrinsic reward is wanting to expand your views of the world or because it’s a challenge for you to overcome.

So what if they want to learn the language because of anime? Maybe they start out that way but ended up continue learning because they genuinely want to learn about the culture. If to do business is your only reason to learn Japanese… then I want to ask you, that’s it? Only business? Kind of a waste if you ask me. You’re not going to make friends with the language? You’re not going to visit and learn more about their culture? But if that’s what you want. It’s all you.

Me, myself, and I

Does anybody else find there’s no good male word for “I”? 「私」 is too formal except for work (which I no longer do in Japanese). I was comfortable with 「俺」 for a while but now I’m too old and Mr. Rogers-ish. And I never liked 「僕」 as it feels a bit too much boy scout-ish. I wish there was something not as rough as 「俺」 but not so boyish as 「僕」. Maybe something new in that crazy slang young people are coming up with all the time?

In my inbox

I got the following email the other day. I thought it was interesting for a number of reasons and instead of replying, decided to share here instead.


You make a good grammar guide, but sadly few people will ever use it. It is foolish not to put the guide in romaji and have it help people that are tourists or beginners in Japanese. Japanese has all over 200 kana, with all the variations. A better approach is to have both the romaji and kana.

Not using romaji, which appears partially due to people being infected with Jim Breen’s madness, is doing more to hinder Japanese instruction than to help it. When a casual user needs to look up a word in Japanese or understand some pointers for speaking Japanese, hitting them over the head with kana and kanji is absurd. Even Google translate has a romanization option. Everybody looking to learn Japanese is not a full time student and many want to speak it and not learn kanji or kana. Furthermore, many Japanese know how to use romaji, because that is how they input Japanese on their keyboard or phones (before it is converted to kana or kanji).

I’m just letting you know, that not everybody agrees with Jim Breen’s ridiculous, elitist, and pompous anti-romaji crusade.

Feel free to discuss in the comments.

Tae Kim’s random tech news

I tried the new version of Chrome yesterday (see review). The Japanese font still looked crappy. However, I found out that if you change Chrome to the Japanese version, it magically fixes itself.

Chrome English version (Win XP):

Chrome Japanese version (Exact same machine):

I’m now considering switching to Chrome with this discovery. It’s much faster than Firefox and the themes look nicer than Firefox personas because it’s not scattered across all the UI elements. Still, with web development, you’ll have to pry Firebug from my cold dead fingers.

By the way, the images in this post were cropped and re-sized using the new image editing tool built in WordPress 2.9. It works but it’s still kind of buggy. For some reason, it won’t let me crop to a really small size. Also, you can’t crop it more than once without saving it first otherwise it crops a completely different area.

Speaking of CMS, I tried Drupal 7 on a demo site. It looks completely revamped. My biggest gripe looks fixed finally. You can actually navigate away from the page or lose your wireless connection and come back to the page without it going of of its way to erase all your content. Wow, that’s a low bar to clear. The book module navigation doesn’t look any better though. <sarcasm>Nobody write books online anyway, right?</sarcasm> Looking forward to what’s looking to be a painful upgrade process once it comes out.

So there you have it, my random tech news update. Nobody cares anyway, right? Apple’s releasing new shit today! If you ask me, an iPod touch with a bigger screen is lame, no matter what it does. It sucks that you have to hold it in one hand while using the other to interface with it. Your thumb will probably get in the way and your wrist won’t last for very long. In any case, I’m not keen on reverting to one-hand typing on a device that doesn’t even fit in my pocket.

Digital Divide

I’ve dealt with a mix of many different types of technologies in the process of building up this site: firebug, ssh/sftp, perl, HTML, DOM, css, javascript, Drupal, XeLaTeX, PHP, MySQL, akismet, and most recently jquery. Of course, the technology itself isn’t really that important compared to a solid understanding of core programming concepts (especially in procedure and functional languages) and basic networking concepts such as IP and nameservers. Lucky for me, I’ve had 4 years of college learning this stuff and 6 years of professional web development experience. But what if I knew nothing about computers and I wanted to build a site about learning Japanese on the internet? I would be stuck with some platform such as wikibooks or wordpress.com where I would lose a lot of control both in terms of my data and how it’s presented.

Considering how important the internet is becoming to our daily lives, don’t you think it’s ridiculous that I have to pay every year for my domain name and mostly likely for hosting if it wasn’t for ibiblio.org just to have my own website? I also think programming skills are becoming just as important as basic math and writing skills and should be part of every kid’s curriculum. What do you think?

Soul Eater

I’ve been watching Soul Eater on youtube the past few days. It’s pretty good and great for keeping up your Japanese. (The subtitled version of course!) But they stopped uploading new episodes in a かなり微妙なところ. Now I need to find more episodes somewhere else, I guess.

Google Wave

I got an account on Google Wave, which is still in limited preview. I watched the video and I get that it would be a nice tool for online and real-time collaboration. Problem is I don’t really have anything to collaborate on since I’ve mostly been working solo. One idea I did have was on compiling a lot of example problems and exercises for a workbook. Does anybody have any good ideas for an online collaboration project for helping people learn Japanese?

Though I don’t know what it does or how it differs from my email address but my wave address is taekim.japanese AT googlewave.com


なんのために使うか分かりませんが、一応私のウェーブアドレスは、taekim.japanese AT googlewave.comです。

ibiblio, you rock!

I didn’t notice this until today but the guide to Japanese grammar is featured on the front page of ibiblio! It has brought in about a 100 visitors a week for the past few weeks or about 0.5% of overall traffic with a bounce rate of 44%. 🙂

Well, that’s not bad considering a non-targeted audience from a online library archive site. I’m proud to be part of Ibiblio’s mission. They’ve been a truly great hosting provider kindly serving up www.guidetojapanese.org for free since the beginning with unlimited space! I did write this in Notepad++ though because the site was inaccessible due to DNS nameserver issues. Heh.

Anyway, this post is to thank the great folks at ibiblio, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, IBM, and AMD for having me on their servers. Thanks!

And thank YOU for all your kind comments, support, and interest in the Japanese language. I hope you enjoy the new site and the new content I’m trying to put out as fast as possible.



Memorable Moments in Language Acquisition

  1. When you aren’t sure what language a conversation was in. Oddly enough, you can recall it in both.
  2. When you have a dream in your target language.
  3. When you no longer remember what the language sounded like when you didn’t understand it. (Note: Learning a language because you like the way it sounds is a self-defeating goal.)
  4. When you realize how terrible most translations are for Japanese movies, animes, books, etc.
  5. When you inadvertently use the target language for reflex words such as, 「痛っ!」 or 「よいしょ」.
  6. When you use the body language of the target language, such as waving a hand to beckon someone over.
  7. When onomatopoeias actually start sounding like the sounds they’re supposed to represent. (Hint: They sound nothing like the actual sound, your brain has just been brain-washed.)
  8. When you somehow knew the meaning of a word without ever actually having learned it (my favorite and most baffling moment).

Feel free to share your own memorable moments.