Japanese Language Blog

How to surround yourself with Japanese Posted by on Jan 22, 2014 in Culture

You are currently living in a country where Japanese is not the main language. Besides learning Japanese by traditional method such as reading text books, how can you effectively expose yourself to Japanese to learn more? In this article, I would like to share with you how you can surround yourself with Japanese when you live outside of Japan. This has been one of my challenges ever since my boys were born here in the U.S. Since my husband does not speak any Japanese, we have taken the approach of “one parent one language”. Basically, kids and I communicate only in Japanese. Kids will communicate in English with their father, and when we are all together, we use English. Between the boys, I have always emphasized to use only Japanese just because I realize that outside of home, their exposure to Japanese is limited.

Below are some of the tips that I can recommend for someone who is learning Japanese living outside of Japan. If you are not that serious learner, perhaps you could use some of these.

1. Take advantage of Podcast
These days, it is much easier to be exposed to your choice of spoken language. Podcast is a great tool to hear conversation of native speakers anytime anywhere whenever you would like. There is no reason not to take advantage of this great media available to us. I like listening to Podcast while chauffeuring kids from one place to another. As you know, there are variety of topics available to choose from. We often listen to radio that is suitable for children; however, when we don’t feel like listening to radio, we listen to Japanese folktales or simply pop music channels. You might be also interested in listening to Japanese news. As you listen to radio or news, I think it is totally fine if you don’t understand everything they say. The more you listen to the native conversation, the more exposure you will have to the language and that you will soon start to understand the words here and there.  Your ear will be used to hearing native pronunciation over time.

2. Watch Japanese animation or drama on the internet
Internet is another useful tool when learning language, particularly, these days, you can take advantage of it to watch animation or drama. There are many sites available for viewing, from paying site to free ones. Our favorite is the site called 気ままにYouTube. On this site, you can pretty much watch anything that is airing in Japan. You can choose a drama from the left column and animation from the right column. The latest episode is always listed on the top in the middle column. You can also find Japanese movies as well as comedy shows on this site as well. Look for the following words on this site for each category:

放送中のドラマ: current dramas

放送中のアニメ:current animation

ドラマSP: Japanese drama specials

邦画おすすめ: Recommended Japanese movies

バラエティ: Japanese comedy

最新アニメOVA&映画: recent animation-movies

When you are searching for one for the first time, it will be a hit and miss. But, some of these has English subtitles in the animation or movie itself.  That might be helpful at first for your Japanese learning.

3. Youtube
Although you don’t want to watch just about anything, by selecting the right videos, you can learn considerably from some of the informative videos on YouTube. When learning Japanese, I would like to advise you not to underestimate the kids language channels you might find on Youtube.  They might look childish, but these videos are organized and well constructed to teach you the basics.  In stead of jumping into a complicated sentences or conversations, children’s channels might become useful for you so you can get your basics down.

4. Online language programs
I have to say that this might cost you, but if you are a serious learner, it is totally worth it. These days, online programs are so much more sophisticated and that the program can even test your pronunciation to make sure you are learning how to speak correctly. I was amazed how effective this can be while you are trying to learn a foreign language at home on your own. As you all know, Transparent has a great program, if you have not tried the free trial on Japanese program, you might want to give it a try.

5. Try learning one new vocabulary a day
This is harder than it sounds, learning one new vocabulary a day is not as easy as it sounds. As hard as this might sound, I can’t imagine if you can do this, you will build your vocabulary so quickly. Perhaps, you don’t have to memorize them all, but even if you have a chance to “read” or “hear” a new word each day, this makes a big difference. You can try this however you like, but why not sign up for free Transparent.com Word of the Day service? You will receive an email that introduces you to a new word each day. You can even hear the native pronunciation and verify how to pronounce the word correctly. Not to mention, related sample sentence will give you an idea as to how you can use the word in the conversation. I utilize this service myself and share a new word everydaywith my boys.  It has been very helpful. Sometimes, a given word could be hard to understand for my 7 &9 year olds, but the important thing is that this gives them an opportunity to be exposed to a new word.

There are so many other ways to expose yourself to Japanese on a daily basis.  Don’t limit yourself and explore new possibilities of learning Japanese. Going to Japan will be definitely a great idea to immerse yourself into Japanese culture and language. However, even if you don’t travel all the way to Japan, you can try one of the above methods. Keep learning and don’t give up!

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About the Author: keiko

Born and raised in Japan. She currently lives in U.S. with her husband and two kids.


  1. Denna Vanhorn:

    I really got into this article. I found it to be interesting and loaded with unique points of interest. I like to read material that makes me think. Thank you for writing this great content.