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Natural-sounding Japanese: My non-textbook learning sources


Natural-sounding Japanese: My non-textbook learning sources

Textbooks are vital to studies, but they may be inaccurate when it comes to Japanese used in real-life. The following five online methods may help you immerse yourself in the language.

Audrey Ardisa

Audrey Ardisa

Published on 24 Apr 2021, 12:00

I have heard several times from different foreigners who lived in Japan, that one of the most important things when learning the language is immersion. Although the academic way of studying is highly essential, it is useless if you cannot apply what you have learned through speech and writing.

You should raise yourself as though you are a child born in that country. One becomes fluent when they begin to think in their targeted language as if it is their second nature.

Taking online classes in another country, it became difficult for me to do this sort of immersion. Out of fear of losing what I have learned, I have been trying to find free ways online to uphold and increase my vocabulary and speaking skills.

Here are some non-textbook sources I have been using to immerse myself in Japanese despite being kilometres away from Japan.

1) Youtube Channels

三本塾 - Sambon Juku

If you know the basic Japanese vocabulary and grammar but do not know how you can uphold your memory of them, this channel's podcast may be able to help you.

The podcast is spoken in a way that is easy to listen to, and I really felt like it raised my confidence in speaking as I came to understand what kind of Japanese way of speaking sounds normal.

あかね的日本語教室 - "An Akane-like Japanese Classroom"

This channel is perfect if you want to know more about Japanese that is spoken in daily life with different kinds of people and a variety of settings.

You can find videos to listen to real conversations in stores, ordering food, meeting with friends and colleagues and a variety of other situations. Her content consists of topics that a lot of foreigners living in Japan can relate to. She also does live-streams once in a while, which may help improve listening skills.

Japanese with Hanako

This channel is very useful if you want to study business-level Japanese.

Hanako-san mostly explains Japanese etiquette and the proper way of thinking to guide one's self when communicating within the context of a Japanese company, especially to higher-ups and customers.

2) News

A screenshot of the top page for Yahoo News Japan
A screenshot of the top page for Yahoo News Japan

Yahoo News

It may seem overwhelming at first if you consider yourself around N3-N4 level for Japanese. But even if you cannot fully understand the articles in Yahoo News, it is probably the fastest way for you to familiarize yourself with conjunction words, vocabulary and sentence structures often used in a formal context.

To make it easier to absorb the new kanji, you can install plugins on your browser to help you with onyomi and kunyomi, such as Rikaikun. It provides the reading and definitions of the kanji you select on any website you access.

The idea is to read one article after another, familiarize yourself with common and important kanji, and subconsciously remember its reading and definition as you continuously see it being used in different sentences and contexts.

3) Documentary

漫勉 - Manben

Manben is a documentary series led and hosted by the "God of Manga" himself, Naoki Urasawa.

The series features limited access recordings of the manga-making process by several of the most popular mangaka in Japan. Urasawa then watches and discusses, with the episode's guest mangaka, the secrets and personal thoughts that they went through while drawing.

This series has definitely enriched my vocabulary and grammar. The exquisite language used when explaining the mangaka's philosophy are not something you can find in other videos very easily. The friendly little nuances between the host and the guest are very refreshing and wholesome, and you get to listen to professionals speak to each other in a not-so-serious setting.

4) Twitter

The official accounts of some popular Japanese news agencies
The official accounts of some popular Japanese news agencies

If you do not want to log into official news websites, you can choose to follow their Twitter accounts to get your daily, bite-sized exposure to Japanese. BBC Japan, Yahoo News, NHK, along with many other Japanese brands and celebrities are mostly active on Twitter.

5) Music

Song lyrics can increase your vocabulary, though some of the literary words often used are not really found in daily conversations. However, they can be good immersion methods for when you want passive input or ways to appreciate the language.

Hopefully, this article provides a list to go back to when you want to find ways to immerse and get yourself used to natural Japanese used in different real-life contexts.

What are your personal ways of enforcing your Japanese skills? How do you immerse yourself in a Japanese environment?


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