3 Ways to Learn Japanese With YouTube
Wednesday, February 17th, 2010
I use YouTube to improve my Japanese in 3 simple ways: Listen and Learn, Watch and Read and finally – Watch, Listen and Learn.
A great way to improve your comprehension is by listening to native Japanese speakers rather than the dumbed down recordings you may get in a CD at the back of your textbook.
A lot of those audio files are spoken by non-natives and more often than not riddled with phrases that you would never hear anyone say in a real Japanese conversation.
Just ten years ago, you really had very little choice of learning materials. You either used what resources they had at the local bookstore and library or flew to Japan, the latter being an expensive way to master the language. ^_^
Fast forward to 2010 and one of the many resources brought to us via the rise of the interwebs is YouTube, which recently announced that they serve up a staggering 1 billion videos a day. Making up part of that incomprehensible figure is a huge array of Japanese videos covering everything from learning the language to anime, cooking, sports and news.
So to get started with learning Japanese on YouTube, I’ve listed several Japanese TV stations below that have a regularly updated YouTube channel. The quality isn’t perfect on some of these and none are streamed in high definition but the content is 100% genuine Japanese and served up (almost) daily for free.
The great thing about Japanese TV is that almost everything they broadcast has a boatload of onscreen graphics across it. This gives us an ideal opportunity to watch YouTube videos and study the language at the same time – win-win!
I use YouTube videos to learn Japanese in three simple ways.
Listen and Learn
Play the video online but don’t look at the actual visuals. Listen to just the audio and try to write down any of the words you recognise.
Of course, this can be either rewarding or somewhat demoralising depending on your level of Japanese but it gives you a good idea as to what you know and what you need to work on.
Even if you only recognise one word, it’s a start and after another week or two you may be able to pick out another few words. Stick with it and your listening comprehension will vastly improve.
Make sure you bookmark the video and then come back to it every month or two and see if you have improved.
Watch and Read
Watch the video without the audio and concentrate solely on reading the onscreen graphics.
Just as you did in the “Listen and Learn” section above, write down as many kanji, hiragana or katakana that you recognise. You’ll notice fairly quickly that most Japanese news videos look like CNN on steroids with graphics all over the screen.
I would suggest if you’re at the JLPT4/N5 level, then make liberal use of the pause and play buttons otherwise everything is going to be a blur.
If you know how to use the screenshot system on your OS or you are okay with using a program like Skitch or Jing then feel free to take screenshots of certain frames of the video and save them for later.
Here’s a screenshot below as an example.
In the top right hand corner you might recognise the kanji for Tokyo (東京) or 見, which means “see”.
At the bottom of the screen is a ton of hiragana mixed in with two kanji – 外 (outside) and 囲 (surround). There’s plenty of Japanese to learn even in a short video.
Watch, Listen and Learn
And of course the final step is to watch the video as you normally would and see what you can absorb in real-time.
My suggestion is to work on just one video at a time and use steps 1 and 2 over the course of a week or month and then come back to it again for step 3.
In one month, you may not make huge leaps in you listening comprehension but you will most certainly recognise more kanji onscreen and hopefully without the need to constantly pause.
If you’re stuck with any words or kanji, make sure you visit www.tangorin.com and use their excellent online dictionary and multi-radical kanji search.
There are literally tens of thousands of Japanese videos available on YouTube so there’s plenty of opportunity to increase your listening comprehension.
Good luck with your YouTube Japanese study and please leave a comment if you have any questions or feedback.