Japan is known worldwide for being one of the leaders in the video game industry. Companies such as Capcom and Nintendo are well-known brands. While video games like Mario and Final Fantasy are some of the biggest franchises in entertainment not just gaming. Reading manga and watching anime is a national pastime in Japan and many popular series such as Dragon Ball, Gundam and Naruto are mainstream outside of Japan as well. The real question though is; Can anime, manga and video games teach you Japanese? Are they a practical learning tool? The answer is yes but not on their own.
Learning a Language
Learning any language involves developing the ability to communicate in and understand said language. This can be speaking, writing, listening and reading. These 4 skills develop at different rates for different people and can go from understanding simple words and phrases to complicated essays, movies etc. Anime, manga and video games involve listening, speaking and reading – that’s three of the big four covered.
Word of the day? Hadouken!
Personally, I got used to the sound of Japanese from watching anime and playing video games – Hearing Ryu screaming “Hadouken” for the millionth time made sense when paired with learning Hiragana. Mimicking my favourite anime villain as I unsheathed my imaginary katana is not your typical phonics lesson but was helpful in hindsight. Reading the first chapter of the Dragon Ball manga in hiragana and Katakana was an interesting challenge that proved far more engaging to me than mundane text. Adding writing through the various free hiragana/katakana/kanji worksheets flooding the interwebs is super easy to do. I’ve met people who learned Hiragana in a few sittings but don’t be disheartened if it takes you longer. The genres and topics for anime, manga and video games are endless – you dont have to focus on action-packed stuff like I do – there is sci-fi, everyday life, history etc
In conclusion, if you are learning Japanese (or don’t want to forget what you learned) watch your favourite anime without subtitles, read an untranslated manga and check if any of your favourite games offer text/speech in Japanese (I’m currently playing Monster Hunter World with Japanese audio). Pair that with some books, worksheets and other traditional language learning efforts and you will see the difference.