Here’s How You Can Learn Japanese From Anime (Master Guide)

From Subtitles to Fluency Here's How You Can Learn Japanese From Anime. Picture of Naruto, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Singeki no Kyojin, One Piece, and Jujutsu Kaisen

Wouldn’t it be great if you could learn Japanese by watching anime all day long? I have exciting news for you my fellow anime lover: It is possible! You can learn Japanese with anime. Matt from Matt vs Japan and I are just two examples of many who learned Japanese from anime. So what’s our secret?

Anime are a fun and engaging way to learn Japanese and watching them regularly can improve your listening skills and teach you casual words and phrases. However, beginners should focus on intensive listening and go through anime sentence by sentence instead of watching a full episode all at once.

Now you probably think “Yatta٩(⌒‐⌒)۶ ! But… Sensei… People on the internet say that you can’t or shouldn’t learn Japanese from anime because…“. Don’t worry! I got you! There are a couple of things you need to be aware of and you should consider before you start learning Japanese with anime.

Here’s Why You Can Learn Japanese From Anime

The top 3 keys to successfully learning Japanese or any other language are motivation, consistency, and immersion. The more input and exposure to Japanese you have, the more you will learn.

Keys to successfully learning Japanese.
Motivation. Consistency. Immersion.

When you love anime, you will be extremely motivated to press play on a new episode, probably more so than opening a dry textbook.

You are also more likely to stick to anime and to keep watching the new episodes because you want to know what’s going to happen next. Hence, you automatically stay consistent with your Japanese study plan.

When immersing yourself in a language it is usually best to include a mix of resources and methods. So you should surround yourself with Japanese through music, movies (anime), games, books (manga), and actual conversations with native speakers.

However, by immersing yourself in anime all day long you can focus on and improve some of the most important language skills for beginners: comprehension, listening, pronunciation, and reading.

That’s exactly why you can learn Japanese with anime and why learning Japanese from anime is such a powerful, efficient, and, most importantly, interesting language-learning tool.

But there is one very important and crucial thing to keep in mind.

Step By Step Guide For Learning Japanese Through Anime

Even though binge-watching anime in Japanese all the time will help you pick up frequently used words and some common phrases, it is certainly not a very efficient way or method to learn Japanese. Especially when you are a beginner.

What you need is a strategy to learn Japanese through anime. A real language learning method that you can utilize while watching anime and doing what you like to do and enjoy doing the most.

Just binge-watching anime is not an efficient method.
You need a strategy to learn Japanese from anime.

So here is my step-by-step guide on how to learn Japanese through anime:

  1. Switch to Japanese dubs and subs (obviously)
  2. Go through the anime sentence by sentence
  3. Listen to one complete sentence and press pause
  4. Repeat the sentence (say it out loud as well as you can)
  5. Read the Japanese subs (read out loud as much as you can)
  6. Check the English subs or use to get a translation
  7. Look up any new words with an online dictionary like
  8. Google grammar explanations if necessary, but prioritize basic comprehension
  9. Close your eyes and listen to the sentence one more time (repeat if necessary)
  10. Open your eyes and read the sentence one more time (read it out loud)
  11. Add the words, phrases, and sentences you want to remember to Anki (for regular exposure)

As a beginner, your goal shouldn’t be to understand all the bits and pieces and every little nuance of the sentence. It’s completely okay if you just have a basic understanding of what was said in Japanese and what each word means and move on to the next part.

Your focus and goals should be the following:

  • train your ear and get used to natural Japanese
  • adopt a good Japanese pronunciation
  • learn some basic and common phrases
  • understand basic sentence structure
  • memorize frequently used words
  • getting a feel for the language

Once you are more advanced you can switch from intensive listening (going through the anime sentence by sentence) to extensive listening and start looking up any new words and grammar explanations after watching half of the or even a complete episode.

Pros & Cons of Learning Japanese With Anime

As you can see learning Japanese with anime has a lot of benefits:

  • it’s fun and motivating
  • can help you form a consistent study habit
  • teaches you commonly used words and colloquial expressions
  • improves your listening skills and can also improve your reading skills
  • develop cultural awareness which is also really important in language learning

If you want to learn Japanese because you want to watch anime in Japanese without subtitles then this is by far the best way to study Japanese for you.

Learning Japanese from anime is the best way for you if you want to watch anime in Japanese without subtitles.

However, I also want you to understand the limitations and challenges of this approach.

1. Informal Language: Anime usually includes a lot of informal phrases or slang, which may not be suitable for formal or business situations. You might also encounter and learn some extremely rude phrases that you shouldn’t use in a real conversation.

2. Grammar Rules: Watching anime does not provide a structured approach to learning Japanese grammar. You will learn basic grammar but you will probably need additional resources to understand the rules and all nuances of the language.

3. Limited Vocabulary: While you can pick up a lot of basic words and Japanese phrases, anime may not cover all the vocabulary and expressions you need to communicate with a native speaker.

4. Exaggerated Pronunciation: You have to be aware that some anime characters have over-the-top accents or speech patterns that differ from standard or natural Japanese. If you speak in the same way you may come across as strange.

5. Patience You Must Have My Young Pada…Ninja: It can become tempting to just binge-watch the whole episode or season of an anime you like in one sitting. Since you want to know the end going through the anime sentence by sentence might be frustrating. So you need to be able to control your inner binge-watching anime demon and practice patience.

In my opinion, these cons are rather challenges, though, and they can be overcome with my anime learning pages and the following tips!

8 More Tips For Learning Japanese With Anime

With my step-by-step guide, you are actually already up and running and can start learning Japanese by watching anime. However, if you want to learn Japanese with anime even more efficiently and quickly, here are 8 more tips.

1. Choose The Right Anime

Select an anime that is not only in line with your interests but also matches your language proficiency level and what you want to be able to do or understand (formal Japanese vs. casual Japanese, daily conversation vs. fantasy and sci-fi).

The “best” anime is an anime that you want to watch but that’s not too difficult and not too easy for you.

And to be completely honest here, it’s extremely difficult to find that specific “best” anime.

So again, honestly, don’t bother too much!

Just choose something that you love and that will help maintain your motivation.

That’s the most important criterion!

2. Switch Subtitles

Depending on your personality and your control of the inner binge-watching demon it might be a good idea to initially watch the episode or anime with English subtitles. Like this, you can get an idea of the storyline and context.

After that first watch and satisfying your curiosity switch back to Japanese subtitles.

As you become more comfortable gradually push yourself to trust your listening skills and remove the subtitles altogether.

3. Focus on Active Listening

For a lot of people, it’s really hard to listen actively and to be focused for long periods of time and it’s not uncommon to zone out and let your mind wander for a bit. You might also get too caught up in the development of the story or the excitement of an action scene and lose focus.

That’s perfectly fine and normal! Don’t be upset about it and don’t get angry at yourself.

Just be aware of it happening and try to be focused again after noticing that you switched to passive listening.

If necessary, take a short break before you come back to pay close attention to the spoken Japanese, pronunciation, and intonation of the characters.

4. Note Down Vocabulary

Writing down new words and phrases that you encounter in the anime you watch really helps you with memorizing them.

You can use a language learning app, a Godlist (source), or flashcards.
You could also just type them once on your phone or PC.

I personally use Anki and I can highly recommend it.

5. Pause, Rewind, and Rewatch

There’s no shame in using any of these features!

Press pause and rewind the dialogues as often as you want to or need to in order to understand and grasp the basic meaning and sentence structure.

Once you made it through a scene or a whole episode you can rewatch the same scene or episode over and over again.

This kind of repetition will really help you to internalize the Japanese language and what you have learned. You will be more likely to hear and understand the bits and pieces and nuances that you have missed the previous times you watched the anime.

6. Don’t Try Too Hard

But please don’t try too hard to understand everything and don’t expect or demand perfect comprehension.

For most language learners, especially beginners the desire to fully understand every little thing becomes actually a major obstacle to comprehension and improvement.

It’s crucial that you accept the fact that there will be times when you don’t understand something or when you will make mistakes. That’s completely okay and you just have to keep going.

It’s perfectly fine if you only understand 40-60% or even just 20-40% at times.

You don’t have to nail it down on your first try. You can always come back and next time you will have reached a higher level and you will be able to understand even more.

Embrace the uncertainty and have the confidence that you are like Conan and will be able to figure it out eventually.

Remember that learning Japanese is a gradual process and a journey or rather a roller coaster ride, but certainly not a race.

7. Try Shadowing

After subvocalizing and reading out loud the Japanese subtitles, shadowing is the perfect next step to get you in the right direction to being able to speak Japanese fluently.

Repeat the sentence as closely as possible in real-time and try to mimic the way the characters speak to improve your speaking skills and pronunciation.

Like this, you are also training your ear and you will be able to recognize mistakes and self-correct yourself more easily when speaking Japanese later on.

8. Switch It Up

While any type of anime can be a valuable resource, it is important to switch it up and try out other resources and new stuff.

When you notice for example that you can understand every magic item and spell that’s being used in fantasy anime, but you have trouble understanding conversations about foods and drinks, it might be a good idea to watch an anime that’s related to cooking or becoming a chef.

It’s always a good idea to supplement your preferred language learning tool with others and to diversify your learning sources. So consider learning Japanese with manga and include speaking and writing exercises for a well-rounded study routine and learning strategy.

Everyone can learn Japanese! You can learn Japanese ♡
So enjoy learning Japanese from anime.
頑張ってね ٩(⌒ω⌒)੭⁾⁾

Alex (⌒‐⌒)♡


おはよう. I'm Alex. I have started studying Japanese when I was still a high school student and I have been living and working in Japan since 2015. I'm still learning new Japanese phrases and words every day and I thought that publishing them online will be useful for you, too. Hopefully, my study notes and free Japanese lessons will help you to reach the Japanese level you want to have! If you want to practice your Japanese for free follow me on Twitter and/or Instagram.

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