What kind of teaching materials do you use to learn Japanese? Is it a textbook, a reference book, animation, drama, or movie? They are very good teaching materials, but some of the Japanese expressions that appear in them are not commonly used in daily life.
A great way for you to learn more natural Japanese is from Japanese TV shows. Especially in TV shows full of conversation, you can hear native speakers’ intonation and use of words. In this article, I will introduce TV programs available on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Youtube. Let’s learn real Japanese from the conversations of Japanese TV stars!
Japanese Daily Conversation Different From Anime and Manga.
Some of you who are interested in Japan might often watch and read Japanese anime and manga. Interesting stories motivate people to learn Japanese, right? However, some Japanese phrases in anime and manga are not often used in daily conversation. Not to mention the words used, the way they speak and their speech endings are pretty different between anime and real life!
What I find particularly different from real-life Japanese is the speech of the female characters. In Japan, there is a way of speaking to women called 「女言葉（おんなことば / onna-kotoba)」 (women’s language). You can see it in the ending phrase 「～だわ (dawa)」 or 「～なのよ(nanoyo)」. These phrases are often used in anime and manga but are rarely used by actual Japanese women. Also, even in the way of speaking used by male characters, the old Japanese ending phrases such as “~kai” and “~tamae” are still present in anime and manga.
Let’s Learn Real Japanese From a TV Show!
To learn real-life Japanese, I recommend watching Japanese TV shows. On reality and travel shows, you can hear the natural conversations of the cast.
Among them, I recommend programs with more cast members who speak standard Japanese. There are many comedians on Japanese TV programs, and many of them speak “Kansai-ben” (Kansai dialect). So when you watch Japanese TV Shows, you may feel that there are many people who speak with different intonation patterns from what you learn in the textbooks. That might be the “Kansai-ben”. It is used just a part of Japan. I recommend that you first study the standard Japanese language.
Recommended TV Shows.
I will introduce TV shows available on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Youtube.
Subtitles: English, Korean, Chinese, Portuguese, Arabic, etc.
1 episode time: about 40 min
It is a reality show in which men and women who have never met live together in a house. You can learn real conversations among young Japanese people. Particularly popular is TERRACE HOUSE OPENING NEW DOORS, which is set in Karuizawa. There are many beautiful scenes to look at, such as Japanese autumn leaves and Japanese-style houses, as well as love stories.
Also, for those who want to fall in love with a Japanese person, there are many tips on how to start a romantic relationship. You can learn about the ambiguous expressions unique to the Japanese and their culture of 「告白 (kokuhaku)」(love confession).
「水曜どうでしょう」(How do you like Wednesday?)
Subtitles: English, Chinese, Indonesian, Thai, Vietnamese
1 episode time: 22 min
It’s a travel program made by a TV station in Hokkaido. Although the cast members are from Hokkaido, the dialect of Hokkaido is close to standard Japanese, so this program is recommended for studying Japanese. It is a slightly different kind of travel show from the usual travel shows where people enjoy traveling. The reactions of the cast as they make tough journeys, such as riding around Vietnam on an old scooter and going to the Arctic Circle in just swimsuits, are very funny. There are also episodes of traveling around Japan on small motorcycles and late-night buses, which is a great way to learn about the towns and geography of Japan.
There are many episodes, but I recommend the one that canoes 160 kilometers down the Yukon River in Canada. Various troubles, such as a member of the cast being attacked by a large number of mosquitoes, are highlights of the program. And the slightly fast-talking of the cast members will help you improve your Japanese listening comprehension.
1 episode time: About 30 minutes to 1 hour
In this program, people discuss various issues in Japan and around the world with scholars, politicians, and entertainers. TV Tokyo and Nihon Keizai Shimbun are distributing them on Youtube. You can learn what issues are happening in Japan now, and it is also a good way to expand your vocabulary as it covers a wide range of topics, including economics, politics, and science.
I recommend the video featuring Hirotada Ototake, who was born without arms and legs(ep.1, ep. 2), and his personal stories about his disability are very interesting. He is a good storyteller, so even the normally heavier topics of disability are told with a laugh.
Points to Be Careful About Learning Japanese From TV Shows.
There are a few points you should be careful about learning Japanese through Japanese TV shows. After all, the most important thing to keep in mind is the dialect. As I wrote in Section 2, programs with many Kansai-ben performers are not well suited for learning Japanese. This is because not only intonation but also the use of words may be different from the standard language. A typical example is a use of “自分 (jibun)”. It is a word generally used to refer to oneself, such as myself or I. But in Kansai-ben, it can also be used to mean “you”.
“What do you think?”
Japanese standard language: 「あなたはどう思う？（あなたはどうおもう？）」
Such Kansai-ben differs in many ways from the Japanese you are studying, so it is best to avoid it as a beginner.
Another point when watching TV shows is that the performers call each other by their family names. In Japan, people often call each other by family name, especially if they have met each other as adults. It is possible that what you thought was a common Japanese first name is actually a family name. Knowing common Japanese names is very useful when in conversation or reading a text. When you are watching a TV show and think, “I hear this name often,” it is a good first step to check whether it is a first name or a family name.